New Delhi: Pakistan continued its hobnobbing with Kashmiri separatists as its envoy yesterday 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 2.30pm.
Later, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Mohammad Yasin Malik and the Mirwaiz also met the Pakistani envoy. A handful of 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.
Ahead of meeting the Pakistani high commissioner, Geelani termed the Narendra Modi government’s decision to cancel the August 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 yesterday claimed that seven past 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 was “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.”
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.
“The attitude of Pakistan when it comes to bringing to justice the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack has not been encouraging. We want to know what assurances Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had given before the talks and whether those assurances were violated? What kind of understanding was reached,” he asked.
Sharma also said the meeting between the separatists and the Pakistani envoy was uncalled for as the former were not the elected representatives of the people of Kashmir.
On Monday, the Modi government called off the 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.