Kashmiri leaders meet Pakistani envoy in New Delhi despite tough Indian reaction

NEW DELHI – A day after India cancelled secretary-level talks with Pakistan, Kashmiri leaders Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Mallick on Tuesday met High Commissioner Abdul Basit at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

The Kashmiri leaders accused the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of breaking away from the legacy of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by deploying a hardline strategy towards the Kashmir issue, which could push the disputed state back into violence.

They said that India was being unrealistic and naive in expecting Pakistan to change its policy towards Kashmir. “It cannot just be wished away… by cancelling talks or isolating the pro-freedom leadership… when you talk about being a strong and powerful nation you also have to show a sense of responsibility,” said Mirwaiz who heads Hurriyat Conference as chairman.

“The present dispensation is only focused on development and economic incentives and packages… they are making the same mistakes as their predecessors from Congress did... the people in Kashmir predominantly want a political solution,” he said. Mirwaiz called the cancellation of the secretary-level talks a knee-jerk reaction.

He said that the Indian government has overreacted. “We have been talking to Pakistani leadership even during Vajpayee's government. It doesn't work well for a peace process between Pakistan and India,” he said. “New Delhi overreacted on the issue... There has to be a peaceful, political resolution to the Kashmir issue,” he said.

Talking to journalists, Geelani termed the Indian decision of cancelling the secretary-level talks as unfortunate. He opined that Kashmir was an international issue and peace cannot return to the disputed state until Pakistan and India resolve it amicably. On Indian decision to cancel the talks, he said that India reacted in a childish manner and the decision doesn’t hold importance.

“We have been visiting Pakistan’s High Commission regularly to hold talks. The decision to cancel secretary-level talks is undemocratic,” Geelani said. The Indian government had called off the August 25 secretary-level talks with Pakistan, terming unacceptable the interaction between Pakistan and Kashmir leadership.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and a legitimate stakeholder in the Jammu Kashmir dispute,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said, and argued that 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 Kashmiri leaders took place. It is been happening for decades.” She said that Kashmir was never part of India. “Jammu Kashmir is a disputed territory. There are numerous UN resolutions on this issue.”

Mallick who is chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front said that the decision to cancel secretary-level talks shows India doesn’t want to discuss Kashmir with Pakistan. “They (the Indian government) just want to discuss trade. Let them declare they only want to have trade ties,” he said. He ridiculed the Indian prime minister and said that it seems the present government does not want to hold dialogue with Pakistan.

On the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the disputed state, he clearly said that no one was opposed to the idea. “They (Kashmiri Hindus) have as much right to live in the state as I do,” he said. He also said that Kashmir was not an ordinary territorial dispute to be resolved between Pakistan and India. “Kahsmiri people have a legitimate, legal right to be a part of any kind of negotiating settlement between Pakistan and India,” he said.

National Conference – the ruling party in Indian-held Kashmir – also termed the decision to call off the talks with Pakistan strange while the People’s Democratic Party called it a negative development. India’s Law Affairs Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The point is very simple. Either Pakistan should talk to the government of India or they should talk to Kashmiri leaders.”

BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that Pakistan should understand that policies of India with regard to ‘terrorism’ and ‘separatism’ were same but there has been a change of government, leadership and intention here. He said that cancelling talks was some sort of message to Pakistan that both walking with ‘terrorism’ and ‘separatism’ and talk with government of India won't go simultaneously.

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