Pakistan on Thursday defended the move to invite Kashmiri leaders to a meeting with Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in New Delhi and announced it will raise the longstanding Kashmir dispute during the upcoming national security advisers’ (NSA) talks in the Indian capital.
The move is a clear signal that Pakistan will not bow to Indian pressure ahead of the much-talked about meeting scheduled for August 23 and 24.
“Inviting Kashmiri leaders for meetings and participation in various events hosted by our High Commission is a long-standing practice,” Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah told reporters at his weekly news briefing.
He dismissed the Indian media outcry over Islamabad’s move, insisting that “such meetings take place before talks between the senior officials of the two countries on various issues are held in Pakistan or India.”
“Kashmiris are important stakeholders in the context of Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” emphasized Qazi. He voiced hope that India would allow Hurriyat leaders to meet Sartaj Aziz during his stay in New Delhi.
The controversy has already cast a shadow on the NSA meeting. The state administration in Indian-administered Kashmir briefly detained Hurriyat leaders on Thursday; a move Indian media suggested was aimed at conveying to Islamabad New Delhi’s unhappiness at the invitation.
The meeting was supposed to focus on terrorism-related issues but will remain ‘open ended’ since the two neighbours failed to agree on the agenda. When asked, the FO spokesperson said both sides were in contact with regard to the finalisation of the agenda but added that Pakistan will raise all issues of importance, including Kashmir, in the meeting.
Answering a question about the tense atmosphere ahead of talks, the spokesperson said there had been occasions in the past, as well as when talks were held despite ‘very tense moments’ in the relationship.
“There are serious issues between India and Pakistan which need to be resolved peacefully through talks,” Qazi said.
On Thursday morning, hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and leaders of the moderate faction Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Moulvi Abbas Ansari and JKLF leader Yasin Malik were placed under house arrest.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2015.
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