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NSA talks: Cautious Sharif takes military in confidence

ISLAMABAD: Taking independent foreign policy decision regarding ties with neighbouring India has always remained a difficult task for Pakistan’s civilian leadership.

Knowing repercussions of bold independent decisions, specifically in the 1999 aftermath of Lahore Declaration, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is extra careful this time. His close aides said that he wants the top military leadership on board before embarking on mending ways with rival India.

“Nawaz Sharif knows that improvement in strained relations with India is not possible without support and endorsement from military,” Sharif’s close aide told TOI on condition that his name should not be revealed.

While finalizing a strategy for the upcoming talks between national security advisers of both countries, Sharif, his aides and members of his kitchen cabinet had discussed with army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chiefs the upcoming visit of Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, to New Delhi.

According to sources and media reports, the civilian leadership agreed with Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Lt General Rizwan Akhtar to adopt an aggressive stance on terrorism related issues but a give-and-take approach on bilateral disputes. Top military leadership gave this proposal a day earlier at a meeting held at PM house. Sources said the decision of extending invitation to Kashmiri separatist leaders by Pakistan High Commission for meeting on August 23, the date for talks between national security advisers in New Delhi, was also taken at a meeting of civil-military leadership.

Media reports said that it was also proposed that Aziz should take up the issue of the release of Samjhauta Express incident’s mastermind, India’s involvement in Baluchistan province and Afghanistan and its violation of ceasefire at the Line of Control and the working boundary.

The civilian leadership agreed with army and ISI chiefs that unlike ambiguous meetings in past, the upcoming NSA’s meeting should send a clear message to all stakeholders.

The Express Tribune reported that prime minister was of the view that Aziz’s meeting should be taken as a prelude to resumption of composite dialogue between the two hyphenated but hostile neighbours.

PM Sharif, the report said, had expressed apprehension that if Pakistan adopted an aggressive approach on terrorism then the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi might cancel his upcoming visit to Pakistan. Modi in his last month’s meeting with Nawaz in Russia accepted his invitation to come to Islamabad to attend the 19th summit of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) in 2016.

During the meeting, some participants suggested to Aziz to adopt a strategy, keeping in view the situation in New Delhi.

The participants also agreed that Pakistan’s approach on international disputes with India should be reciprocal. They said Sir Creek, Siachen and Kashmir issues should be discussed on give-and-take basis.


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