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Congress: Government fell prey to Pakistan’s designs on NSA talks

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New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday accused the government of not preparing adequately on the issue of the NSA talks and falling prey to Pakistan’s designs. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters here that the Narendra Modi government had not done proper hard-nosed groundwork and its approach lacked focus. He said Pakistan was provided an opportunity to wriggle out of discussing the serious issue of terrorism. “It is unfortunate that the government, due to its less preparation and its not taking concrete steps, allowed Pakistan to act on its designs and fell prey. It (the government) should have been alert. They should have had prior information and should have prepared a plan so that Pakistan does not succeed,” Singhvi said. He said the vicissitudes of India’s domestic policy should not be allowed to make a mockery of India’s status in the world due to its proud democratic status and its humongous economic power.

“We deprecate the ham-handed way in which the several aspects have been handled by the government,” Singhvi said. The Congress leader said “people scoring debating points across the border” after the NSA-level talks were called off by Pakistan was “hardly a good sight for the solidity of Indian foreign policy, which is based on coherence, continuity and consistency”. “I think the government needs to get its house in order. It needs to make sure that either the multiplicity is eliminated or complete unity and coherence are introduced in all those multiple agencies to speak through one agency and in one voice,” he said. He also slammed Pakistan and said the country wants to run away from all issues relating to terrorism and does not want exchange of information particularly on those serious matters on which it can be cornered. He said Pakistan had in the past also tried to divert from the agenda by raising new issues. “Pakistan’s goal is very clear. We condemn it,” Singhvi said. Apparently referring to the government laying red lines including its advice against any meeting with Hurriyat leaders, Singhvi said such lines should be drawn with care and with clear understanding of the exit route if there is a violation. The August 23-24 NSA talks between India and Pakistan were finally called off on Saturday, with both sides sticking to their positions.

In a late night statement on Saturday, the Pakistan Foreign Office said it has “come to the conclusion that the NSA talks would not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the two conditions” laid down by India. Pakistan’s statement came in response to India asserting that Pakistani National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz was welcome for talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval but Islamabad must abide by the agenda agreed to at Ufa and only discuss terrorism. India also said there was no space for the Hurriyat in the talks, as per the Simla Agreement inked between both countries. The Pakistan High Commission had invited Hurriyat leaders for a reception on August 23 and Aziz had planned to separately meet Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

(IANS)

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US-Taliban Meeting Cancelled, 14 Members on “The US and UN Blacklist”

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

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US, Taliban, Pakistan
FILE - Taliban political chief Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, in the first row, second from left, Abdul Salam Hanafi and other Taliban officials pray during the intra-Afghan talks in Moscow, Feb. 6, 2019. VOA

An upcoming meeting in Pakistan between a delegation of the United States and Taliban representatives has been cancelled, according to information coming from both sides.

A Taliban leader confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting was cancelled, “by the Americans.” A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on “the US and UN blacklist.” Several of them are on the U.N. Security Council sanctions list which bars them from international travel.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Zalmay Khalilzad, who was supposed to lead the American delegation, is not planning to visit Islamabad this week.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, center, speaks during a roundtable discussion with Afghan media at the U.S Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The U.S. said it had not received an official invitation from the government of Pakistan for this meeting which was first announced by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid a couple of days ago.

Mujahid’s statement had set February 18 as the date of the talks and said a formal invitation had been issued by Pakistan. In addition, he said, the Taliban delegation would also meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

“The next round of negotiations with the Taliban will be in Pakistan, and as a result of these negotiations, there is a chance of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) speaks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (3rd L) during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this handout photo released Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to the announcement of a meeting in Islamabad, saying it was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“#Afghanistan complains to #UNSecurityCouncil on #Pakistan’s engagements with the Taliban on which #Afg Govenrment is not consulted,” Tweeted Sibghatullah Admadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign office.

Previously, Afghanistan launched a similar complaint against Russia for allowing Taliban members to travel to Moscow for a conference in which nearly 50 Afghans, including various political leaders, former jihadi commanders, and civil society activists were invited. However, the Afghan government was not invited to that conference because the Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Kabul administration despite pressure from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others.

President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at those attending the conference saying they had no “executive authority” to make any agreements.

“Let hundreds of such meetings be held,” he said.

Some analysts say Ghani’s statements indicated his frustration at being left out of the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban that first started last Summer. Since then, the two sides have held several rounds of talks.

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The last meeting in Doha early January lasted for six days and Khalilzad said the two sides had agreed “in principle” to a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that Afghan soil will not be used by any terrorist groups or individuals.

Speaking in a public event at Washington based United States Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said the Taliban do not want to “sit with the government alone” because they did not want to give President Ghani an advantage in the presidential elections scheduled in July.

“There are indications that they will be willing to sit with the government in a multi-party arrangement,” he said. (VOA)