The long awaited meeting of the two National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan is now scheduled for August 23 and 24 in New Delhi. The subject of the meeting, if one goes by the UFA joint statement, is terrorism with particular reference to the Mumbai mayhem.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz wants the agenda of the meeting expanded to include items relating to Indian terrorism in Pakistan and other issue hanging fire for a long time. Will his counterpart Ajit Doval accommodate Sartaj’s points? Mr. Doval is a tough nut having been chief of the Indian Bureau of Intelligence and later head of Vivekanada Foundation. He is close to Modi and enjoys his confidence. This is how a leading columnist of the Hindu newspaper (who is also a member of Track 2) looks at the forthcoming meeting: “that both Modi and Mr. Doval have moved from ‘No talks until terror stops’ to talk about terror’, is proof of the inevitability of engagement in any Indian government’s Pakistan policy”.

The post-UFA terrorist incidents in Udhampur and other places coupled with renewal of firing across the LoC and the Working Boundary have added grist to the mills of India’s grievances against Pakistan. India is of the firm view that terrorists in Udhampur police station attack came from Pakistan. While Pakistan government and people believe that India is the culprit in starting and sustaining cross border shellings and killings, the world at large appears to be thinking otherwise. As evidence, read New York Times, Thursday editorial titled The Need For Restraint in Kashmir: “Each side blames the other. Experts say Pakistan has been testing Prime Minister Marendar Modi who in a break with his predecessor has vowed not to ignore attacks by Pakistan-backed militants on Indian targets. On July 27, gunmen dressed in military fatigues attacked an Indian police station near the border with Pakistan and at least nine people were killed…… Mr. Modi’s wish to strike back is understandable after many years of Indian restraint”.

If this is the international view, surely there is something very wrong with our ability to educate and influence the world in matters where we believe we are the aggrieved party wrongfully accused by a hostile neighbour.

Mr. Doval is said to have prepared a dossier containing details of terrorism perpetrated by Pakistan in India while Sartaj Aziz too has claimed to have gathered evidence to prove that India has been spawning and sustaining terrorist activities in Pakistan. If this meeting is to result in mutual recriminations, one may no longer be optimistic about the renewal of talks between the two countries. Mr. Modi’s triumphant visit to Dubai/Abu Dhabi and his utterances there have added to the ill-will generated earlier by his blatant admission in Bangladesh of his joy in the breakup of Pakistan in which he had the honour of playing a role. This is what he inter-alia said in Dubai “we are strengthening connectivity in Saarc. Some have tried to block talks. But rest of Saarc will move ahead”. India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh signed a pact for building connectivity. A new life is said to have been infused in Saarc. The joint communiqué contains an oblique reference the Pakistan when it states: “condemns efforts including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries” (one may here notice Modi masterly move to exploit Gulf States’ discomfiture at Pakistan’s refusal to join the war in Yamen).

Mention may also be made of New Delhi’s flip-flop in arresting and then releasing the Hurriyyat leaders after they received invitation to meet Sartaj Aziz during his visit to New Delhi. Add to the unwholesome atmosphere Pakistan’s decision not to hold the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union meeting because of India’s insistence that the Speaker of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir must be invited. The meeting is now expected to be held elsewhere.

If one were to read between the lines of editorials and columns written in the Indian Press during the last few weeks, one is struck by a growing feeling in New Delhi to resume talks with Pakistan, for various reasons including pressure from USA, UN and other countries but primarily to somehow find a way to gain access to the Central Asian States through Pakistan and Afghanistan as cogently narrated by C Raja Mohan in a column last month.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz will be well advised in his meeting with Mr. Doval (a) to energetically counter the thrust of charges of terrorist activities pinned on Pakistan.

(b) effectively present Pakistan’s case of India’s substantive involvement in our internal affairs and how it organizes funds and training for sponsoring subversive activities in various parts of Pakistan by itself or through Afghanistan.

(c) to secure a specific date for the border commanders and senior military officers from both sides to meet with a view to finding a viable solution of the most disturbing intermitted firing across LoC and the Working Boundary.

(d) to refer to the Samjota Express massacre of dozens of Pakistanis and raise the point why after laps of so many years the case remains unsettled with bail granted recently to the established perpetrator of the carnage.

(e) to express urgency of initiating a dialogue to resolve the disputes relating to Siachen and Sir Creek as well as the use of waters flowing in rivers allotted to Pakistan by the Indus Basin Treaty.

(f) to highlight the urgency of addressing the mother of all disputes meaning Kashmir. If India is keen to invoke the Simla Agreement for settlement of disputes, why is it averse to holding a meeting with Pakistan to do the needful. Pakistan has every right to go back to the United Nations if India deliberately fails to abide by the provisions of the Simla Agreement.

Much of what the two Secretary Advisors will talk about may not go beyond specious rhetoric. Sartaj’s achievement would, however, be to secure dates for a restart of talks between the two foreign secretaries followed by dialogues on the composite agenda.