" Indo-Asian News Service"
New Delhi, Aug 20 - Pakistan continued its hobnobbing with Kashmiri separatists as its envoy Tuesday met hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and then moderate leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, a day after India called off foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan over the issue.

Geelani met Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit for two-and-half hours at the Pakistan High Commission, emerging from the talks at 2.30 p.m. Later, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Mohammad Yasin Malik and the Mirwaiz also met the Pakistani envoy.

Members of a group called the Hindu Sena raised slogans outside the Pakistan High Commission when Geelani arrived. They were detained by police.

Around 25-30 members of the RSS student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad arrived for a protest but they were not allowed near the high commission's gates. They were also detained by police.

In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said Pakistan is not subservient to India. It is a sovereign country and a legitimate stakeholder in the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

She said Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit did not interfere in India's internal affairs. That is just a pretext. It was not the first time that meetings with Hurriyat leaders took place. It is been happening for decades.

Aslam asserted that Kashmir is not part of India.It is a disputed territory. There are numerous UN resolutions, she said. India, while cancelling the talks, had said the envoys talking to separatists amounted to attempt to interfere in India's internal affairs.

Ahead of meeting the Pakistani high commissioner, Geelani termed the Narendra Modi government's decision to cancel the Aug 25 India-Pakistan foreign secretary level talks as unfortunate.

We have been visiting Pakistan embassy several times to hold talks. The decision to cancel foreign secretary-level talks is undemocratic, he said.

The issue of Jammu and Kashmir is an international issue and it should be solved. As long as promises made to us are not fulfilled, this issue will remain unsolved, said Geelani.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Basit, Geelani said that during talks with the Pakistani envoy, both had agreed that Kashmir is a fundamental issue (buniyadi masla) and without participation of Kashmiris, no lasting solution can be found.

He said he also raised the issue of sacrifices of the people of Jammu and Kashmir during talks. He said the sacrifices of the people should be taken into consideration, and cannot be ignored... houses have been razed, families destroyed, rapes... all this cannot be ignored.

Malik Tuesday claimed that seven former Indian prime ministers had facilitated meetings between Kashmiri separatists and visiting Pakistani leaders in India and asked if they were all wrong and the present government of Narendra Modi which called off talks with Pakistan is Mr Right.

Does it mean those prime ministers were wrong, that the previous seven were wrong when they facilitated such meetings; and Atal Bihari (Vajpayee) did this.. Does it mean that they were all wrong, and this is Mr Right?

Mirwaiz Umar said the Indian government has over-reacted. New Delhi over-reacted on the issue...There has to be a peaceful, political resolution to the Kashmir issue, Farooq said.

Kashmir is not an economic problem, of incentives, of a package, of change of guard. It is a political problem and can be addressed only by talks.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah said it is for the first time that the government has taken a firm stand on the issue and asked Pakistan to choose between dialogue with India and the separatists.

Whenever there were talks with India, Pakistan would also hold talks with separatists. But this time there is Aa BJP government. We are proud that the government immediately decided that either Pakistan should hold talks with India or the separatists, Shah said while addressing party workers in Lucknow.

Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, said that Pakistan should stop speaking in different voices. We hear different voices, let clarity emerge on the level of preparation and understanding on the part of Pakistan to have dialogue at the level of (foreign) secretary, said Prasad, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader.

Congress leader Manish Tewari said the Modi government is bereft of a Pakistan policy and has boxed itself in a corner.

His party colleague Anand Sharma asked the government whether any understanding had been reached with Pakistan before agreeing to hold the foreign secretaries' meeting.

On Monday, the Modi government called off the Aug 25 foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan terming as unacceptable the continued efforts to interfere in its internal affairs.

Pakistan described the decision to cancel the talks as a setback to its efforts to promote good neighbourly relations.

It maintained that it has been a long standing practice to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of bilateral talks in order to facilitate meaningful discussions on the issue of Kashmir.

Indo-Asian News Service


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