Pakistan, India talks face new hurdles as expectations diverge


India plans to present Pakistan with a dossier of evidence of its involvement in militant attacks when officials from the two countries meet this month, which could jeopardise the rivals’ first attempt in months to restart talks.

Interviews with Indian and Pakistani officials show that the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947, are approaching the talks between top security officials on August 23 and August 24 in New Delhi with starkly different expectations.

While India sees the meeting as an opportunity for it to prove its long-held view that militants get support from over its western border, Pakistan wants the dialogue to be broader and form the basis for deeper engagement.

With just days to go, Pakistani officials said they were beginning to think the meeting may be pointless.

“There is no point if India is just using these talks to make any more unsubstantiated accusations. We want result-oriented dialogue,” said a close aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Why have talks when they will only set us further back because India has decided to sabotage the atmosphere and the goodwill?” said the aide, who declined to be identified, adding that Pakistan would make a decision soon on whether to attend.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to a new round of peace talks when they met in Russia last month.

As part of the rapprochement effort, the two sides agreed that Pakistan’s national security adviser, Sartaj Aziz, would hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval.

Since the prime ministers’ meeting, however, a series of militant attacks and border skirmishes have poisoned the atmosphere.

India blames Pakistan for instigating the attacks. Pakistan says India is accusing it without any evidence and blames India for firing on the border first.

Tension tends to increase ahead of attempts at dialogue, with analysts and diplomats on both sides saying the attacks are engineered by hardline elements within the two countries who oppose rapprochement.

In August last year, Modi abruptly cancelled a round of talks in Islamabad after border skirmishes and out of anger that Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi had hosted separatists from the Indian part of disputed Kashmir in preparation for the talks.

One senior bureaucrat in Modi’s office said India, however, planned to go ahead with the talks, despite its belief that Pakistan was behind the latest string of attacks.

The official said if Pakistan were to call off the talks, then India would take the dispute to international forums “and even get the US involved”.