India, Pakistan media continue blame game over talks

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Indian PM Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to attend a regional summit in Islamabad next year.Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Indian PM Narendra Modi (R) has accepted an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to attend a regional summit in Islamabad next year

Papers in both India and Pakistan have expressed disappointment with the "unfortunate" cancellation of high-level security talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Pakistan said that it could not accept India's "preconditions" for the talks, after India refused to allow Pakistan's ambassador to meet separatist leaders from Kashmir.

India had also said it was only willing to discuss "terrorism-related issues" at the talks and nothing else.

Pakistan argued that talks purely on this basis would be futile.

As the two countries continued to blame each other for the collapse of talks, a number of prominent newspapers from both countries argued that both sides should have shown more flexibility.

"The cancellation of talks between the National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan after a prolonged game of chicken to see who blinks first is unfortunate," said The Times of India.

The Indian Express said the two countries had "succeeded in making the worst of all possible choices".

In Pakistan, The Nation newspaper says the war of words between Delhi and Islamabad "has caused peace and better bilateral relations to suffer".

Echoing similar sentiments, The Dawn newspaper also criticised the two countries for not being flexible.

"Rarely, even by the tortured standards of the Pakistan-India relationship, has there been as much farce and confusion surrounding the now cancelled talks between the national security advisers of Pakistan and India," it said.

Blame game

But other newspapers in the two countries echoed the officials stances taken by both India and Pakistan.

In India, some dailies said Pakistan had reneged on the agenda of the talks by insisting that Kashmir should also be discussed along with terrorism.

Kashmir, claimed by both countries in its entirety, has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years. A ceasefire agreed in 2003 remains in place, but the neighbours often accuse each other of violating it.

The Asian Age newspaper said "India was acting in good faith, and intended to move into a composite or comprehensive dialogue process - that would necessarily mean talks on Kashmir - after the immediate menace of terrorism and cross-border firings and shelling had been disposed of by security officials".

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Kashmir, claimed by both countries in its entirety, has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years

But Delhi "quite simply failed to gauge that Pakistan was playing to its own well-crafted script", it added.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper meanwhile, cast doubt over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intention of holding peace talks.

"He [Mr Modi] does not really want dialogue with Pakistan, but does not want to be seen rejecting talks outright in front of the international community," it said.

At the heart of the problem seems to be Pakistani officials' insistence on holding a meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders in Delhi.

Mr Modi's administration said it could not allow such meetings because the scheduled talks were due to focus only on terrorism related issues.

"The problems of terrorism and the cross-border skirmishes can be solved only through dialogue. It is difficult to understand precisely what India intends to do about them if it is not willing to talk to its neighbour," Pakistan's The News said.

'No alternative to talks'

Despite the ongoing blame game, some papers in the two countries have also laid some blame at the feet of their own governments.

In India, the Deccan Herald said Delhi mishandled and messed up the talks plan with unreasonable demands.

"It was unwise to insist that there should be no meeting between the Pakistani side and the Hurriyat [Kashmiri separatist] leaders, or that only should terror should be discussed during the talks," it said.

In Pakistan, the Dawn said PM Nawaz Sharif "made an error" by making terrorism the main agenda of the talks "without any mention of the broader Kashmir issue".

"At very least, the government should have expected the domestic backlash and prepared for it. Instead, the government seemed to have been caught unawares and quickly found itself under intolerable pressure," it says.

The Indian Express said Delhi "needs to ask if it has handled the confrontation in a manner that most serves India's best interests".

India's The Hindu argues that India's "tough stand" may have the "unintended effect of making the outfit [Hurriyat] larger-than-life - which is an avoidable prospect".

And finally, some papers have urged the two countries to find ways to resume dialogue despite the disappointment.

The Hindu adds that "there is simply no alternative to talks".

"It is best at this point to open a discreet back channel that ensures better bilateral deliverables than has been the case over the last year and a half," it adds.

Agreeing with the thought, Pakistan's The News says the attempts to revive peace talks must continue given that "there is really no other choice for the two nations and their people".

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