India-Pak NSA level talks – Opposition complains, US applauds
New Delhi : The recent NSA level talks between Ajit Doval and Nasser Khan, the national security advisors of neighboring countries India and Pakistan created rebel in the political galaxy of India as the talks were scheduled unannounced and took place at a distant destination – Bangkok, far from the home soil of either of the two participating countries. Annoyed by a post-meet disclosure made via joint statement, Congress and other opposition parties termed it as a meet of secretive intent, and demanded explanations from the NDA-led ruling government.
The meet had earned a go-ahead agreeance between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, when they met in Paris last week. Bangkok was chosen as an easy access point for the simple reason, as explained by the Ministry of External affairs (MEA), that it was a convenient location for both sides.
Apparently, the suddenness of disclosure post-meet brought the state of affairs of the meet under the category of a dramatic development, wherein, the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan held a [secret] meeting in Bangkok discussing a range of issues including peace and security, terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir. It was speculated that these cordial talks with Pakistan could lay the groundwork for PM Modi’s visit to Pakistan next year for SAARC summit.
A joint statement issued later by MEA stated the Foreign Secretaries of both countries had accompanied the NSAs, and the discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues like tranquility over the Line of Control. Talks which lasted for over four hours brought into discussion all subjects which connected well with security and dispute area of Jammu and Kashmir. PM Modi is being credited for taking initiative of such an NSA-level meeting, as a building base adding upon Ufa declaration on NSA-level dialogue. The Bangkok initiative is being viewed as an opening route for further meets between the NSAs paving way for carrying forward the constructive engagement to next successful stage. NSA-level talks were scheduled earlier this year when the two Prime Ministers had met for a bilateral summit in Russia’s Ufa on the sidelines of a convention. But the meeting fell through at the last minute over a proposed meeting between Pakistan’s then Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz and the Kashmiri separatists.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is all set to travel to Pakistan on Tuesday today for participating in an Afghan conference. There were difference of opinions regarding the agenda of the meeting too, with Pakistan pushing for an open agenda and India maintaining the talks should be confined to terrorism.
US has welcomed India-Pak talks in Bangkok. The US has shown appreciation for the initiative and welcomed the weekend NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan in Bangkok observing that ‘normalization’ of relations between the two South Asian neighbors is positive. A US state department spokesperson stated — We welcome reports of the meeting between Indian and Pakistani officials. We support any and all positive steps Indian and Pakistan can take to reduce tensions, engage in dialogue, and forge closer relations. The normalization of relations between India and Pakistan is vital to both countries and the region.
The State Department also encouraged Pakistan’s step of hosting the Heart of Asia Summit this week in Islamabad, which among others would be attended by the External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, and the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani. The US spokesperson added — We are pleased that Pakistan is hosting the Heart of Asia Summit. We are also encouraged that President Ghani, Indian Minister of External Affairs Swaraj, and other senior officials will be attending. The meeting is an opportunity for the United States and all participating countries to discuss our shared commitment to a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan. The Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson would represent the United States in the fifth meeting of the Heart of Asia process in Islamabad on Tuesday today.