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Hopeful of a way forward with India: Pak High Commissioner

Two days after India gave out a stern message to Pakistan cancelling the foreign secretary level talks, its High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said he is hopeful of moving a dialogue forward with India.

Basit, who came under scathing attack for meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders, said this has been the usual practice and that the chances of having such conversations might be continued.

“This (meeting Kashmiri leadership) has been a long standing practice by all previous High Commissioners. If we are serious in resolving the matter in a peaceful manner then we have to look at the larger picture. We do not see any problem in this. All stakeholders have to be involved if the Kashmir issue has to be solved in all its sincerity and seriousness,” Basit here today at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was supposed to travel to Islamabad on August 25 to have a meeting with her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry. It was expected that this is might herald a new beginning and resume the composite dialogue that had been suspended for over two years now.

Basit said although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan has called the cancellation of talks as a “setback” he is hopeful of a way forward. However, he reiterated that for a meaningful resolution to the Kashmir dispute issue, it is imperative for Pakistan to meet and understand the standpoint of the representatives of Kashmir.

“They (Kashmiri separatists) are dedicated stakeholders. We have been meeting for years and years. This is not a new phenomenon. We need to look at this (Kashmir) issue dispassionately. It is incumbent upon us. Pakistan is committed to find a peaceful solution to the problem. The setback will not discourage us,” he said.

Meanwhile, refuting the High Commissioner’s statements of Hurriyat leaders being representative of Kashmiri people, Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said there are only stakeholders in the Kashmir issue – India and Pakistan. This has been the case after 1972 and the signing of the Simla Agreement by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan.

“Pakistan assured us, at the highest level, that they were committed to a peaceful dialogue on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and would not allow Pakistan or territories under its control to be used for terrorism against us. We know now, particularly after the Mumbai terror attacks and the manner in which Pakistan has pursued subsequent investigations and trials, that this assurance had no meaning and that an approach that is different to the one laid down by the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration does not yield results,” Akbaruddin stated.

Despite repeated warnings by the government, Basit met Kashmiri separatists Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front’s Yasin Malik.

When Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi both sides had vowed to start a “new chapter” in the bilateral ties.

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