Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz to visit India August 23 for talks

Islamabad/New Delhi,  (IANS) Ending the suspense, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz confirmed on Thursday that he will visit India on August 23 for talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

“I can confirm I will proceed to India on August 23 for the NSA talks,” Aziz said while responding to a question at a joint press conference with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The NSA level talks are part of the agreement arrived at between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during their July 10 meeting in Ufa, Russia.

India said it had not yet received any “confirmation” from Islamabad on the talks. “On NSA talks, we have no confirmation (from Pakistan),” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters.

Aziz said: “Although the security talks are not the revival of the Composite Dialogue, the meeting would be ‘ice-breaking’ as we will hold discussions on some important issues.”

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes that dialogue is the only option to peacefully resolve issues,” he added.

India had proposed August 23-24 for the NSA talks about a month ago, but Pakistan declined to confirm the dates. Escalating tensions between the two neighbours since the Ufa meeting had put a big question mark on the talks.

The NSA talks are mandated to “discuss all issues connected to terrorism”, according to the Ufa joint statement.

India is expected to strongly voice its concerns regarding the recent Gurdaspur and Udhampur terror attacks by suspected Pakistani terrorists during the talks.

The two terror attacks and Pakistan refusing to invite the Jammu and Kashmir assembly speaker for a Commonwealth parliamentary meeting in Islamabad added to tension in bilateral ties, with speculation that the talks may be called off. However, India stuck to the dates it has proposed.

In the July 27 Gurdaspur attack, three armed terrorists sneaked across the border and killed seven people and also laid siege to the Dinanagar police station. The three terrorists were killed after an 11-hour gunfight.

On Aug 5, a Pakistani terrorist was killed and another caught alive after the two ambushed a Border Security Force vehicle in Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir and killed two security personnel. Pakistani authorities have denied that the nabbed terrorist, Usman, is from their country.

There have also been several instances of cross-border firing. On Thursday, armies of both countries exchanged heavy fire at three places on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and Jammu districts.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday said he was glad at the talks going ahead, but took a dig at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for its stand while in the opposition when it would say that violence and talks can’t go together.

“Violence and talks can’t go together’ BJP circa 2004-2014. This is one U turn I’m very glad to see,” Omar posted on Twitter.

“Hope NSA talks lay strong foundation,” he wrote.

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said his government was working on the agenda for the NSA talks.

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