The Pakistani government on Tuesday said while Kashmir is a disputed subject between both countries, India cannot set the agenda for talks, even as Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit went ahead meeting the separatist leaders, despite warnings by India.
“What is being said in Delhi gives the impression as if India was doing a favour to Pakistan by talking. This is not the case. For decades, meetings with Kashmiri leaders have been taking place for consultations and for taking their views on board in talks. They are a stakeholder. Just before talks, making unacceptable demands can only be construed as a pretext to call off talks,” Tasnim Aslam Khan, spokesperson, ministry of foreign affairs, Pakistan, told Business Standard.
Aslam said this practice of meeting the Kashmiri leadership before talks between both the countries had been a usual practice under previous governments. She also reiterated there were 20 United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Kashmir dispute and it is on the Council’s agenda. “There can’t be any dictation and preconditions. We have to engage as equal states, with equal stakes. Jammu and Kashmir is not part of India. It is a disputed territory, which needs a final settlement,” she said.
Aslam also said peace between both countries is the need of the hour for economic development of the region, since both countries have a large number of poor.
India on Monday cancelled the foreign secretary-level talks between both countries over Basit inviting the separatist leaders.Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry was scheduled to meet on August 25 to seek a way forward in bilateral ties. It was expected that the meeting will kick-start the dialogue that has been stalled for over two years now.
Singh had warned Pakistan that if it meets separatist leaders, then talks will be jeopardised. Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs, said the meeting would serve no useful purpose, thus the government had decided to cancel the talks. However, Basit went ahead and met the entire leadership of Kashmir over the span of two days. He met hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik. “We did meet the high commissioner. Kashmiri people have the right to talk. If India thinks both sides can talks without taking our views then it is not acceptable to people of Kashmir. This has been going on under all previous Indian prime ministers. Does that mean they were all wrong and Mr. Modi is only right,” asked Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik. Congress spokesperson and former commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma accused the government of pursuing an “inconsistent and incoherent foreign policy towards Pakistan” and questioned the rationale for taking the decision to hold the talks. It was under the previous UPA government that the Composite Dialogue got suspended over incidents of ceasefire violation. The US, on the other hand, termed the cancellation of the meeting as “unfortunate.” US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said the US will support efforts by both countries to improve their bilateral relations. It also asserted that US’ stance on the Kashmir issue remains unchanged.
Meanwhile, massive unrest prevailed in Pakistan with opposition party leader Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party threatening to march till Parliament, demanding the resignation of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in what many described as “beginning of civil disobedience” there.