ISLAMABAD - An overbearing India yesterday dashed hopes for peace in the region by virtually murdering planned talks with Pakistan by putting ‘unacceptable’ conditions, though none of the two sides officially declared the death of dialogue.

The proposed NSA level “talks will not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down by India”, Pakistan foreign office said Saturday night, referring to a press conference held by the Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Sawaraj.

A few hours before it, Sushma issued an ultimatum to Pakistan, giving it until (Saturday) midnight to agree to restrict high-level bilateral talks to militancy alone. Pakistan has to offer twin assurances without which the talks (scheduled for today) in New Delhi will not be held, she added.

Kashmir cannot be part of the agenda; nor can Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani National Security Adviser (NSA) meet Kashmiri leaders in Delhi, the minister said, reasserting that India will not accept a “third party” to the talks. Asked what would happen if Pakistan did not agree to India’s demands regarding the agenda of the talks, Swaraj replied: Then talks won’t happen.

Pakistan insists that Kashmir dispute is the core issue in the bilateral relations and any talks without putting this issue on table would be meaningless. It also says that Kashmiris are stakeholders and consulting APHC leaders, who are true voice of the Kashmiri people, is a must for any Pak-India engagement.

“While the Indian (external affairs) minister accepts that, to ensure durable peace..., there is a need to discuss all outstanding issues..., she then unilaterally restricts the agenda to only two items: creating an atmosphere free from terrorism and tranquillity on the Line of Control (LoC),” Pakistani Foreign Office statement said, adding that they had carefully analysed the contents of Sushma’s press conference.

Considering that many terror “incidents” blamed initially by India on Pakistan eventually turned out to be fake, it was not improbable that India can delay the resumed dialogue indefinitely by concocting one or two incidents and keeping the LoC hot, the statement said.

“It is equally important to recall that terrorism was always a part of the eight-point composite dialogue and it was always discussed simultaneously with other issues between the interior secretaries. It is not reasonable for India to now assume the right to decide unilaterally that from now onwards, other issues will be discussed after terrorism has been discussed and eliminated”.

Sushma’s tough talk was preceded by Sartaj Aziz insistence that he was “ready to go India” to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval despite the row over his planned meeting with All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders – who have been invited to a reception Pakistan High Commission was to host to Pakistan delegation.

“On my part, I am still prepared to go to New Delhi for NSA talks without any preconditions,” Aziz told a news conference in Islamabad, accusing the Indian media of creating a controversy out of nothing.

“No serious discussion with India is possible unless Kashmir is part of the agenda… India cannot wish away Kashmir… The word ‘K’ (for Kashmir) is a must for any agenda of bilateral talks,” the foreign minister said.

New Delhi was trying to restrict agenda of the talks to other issues although the Jammu and Kashmir dispute was the most outstanding issue between the two countries, Aziz said, claiming that India had ‘virtually cancelled’ Sunday’s talks, and, “as always, it has been conducting a part of its diplomacy through its media”.

He recalled that on August 17 last year, India had unilaterally cancelled the talks between the two foreign secretaries. “The reason for this regretful second cancellation, if it is happening, would be the same,” he added.

“Is this (inviting Kashmiri leaders) the reason behind cancellation of talks?” Aziz asked. “I expect that global think tanks and foreign policy experts will carefully ponder over this important question: Is it conceivable that a country like India will cancel the first ministerial interaction since Mr Modi’s take over, on such flimsy grounds?”

“In fact, I will also be carrying three dossiers on India’s spy agency RAW’s involvement in promoting terrorism in Pakistan. If I do not get this opportunity on 24 August, I hope I will get a chance to hand them over to Mr Doval in New York next month, if he accompanies Prime Minister Modi for the UN General Assembly,” Aziz said.

After handing over these dossiers to Mr Doval, he said he will share them with the UN Secretary General, Mr Aziz said, showing copies of the dossiers to the media.