India said on Friday it has urged Pakistan against meeting Hurriyat leaders ahead of rare weekend talks between the two countries’ top security advisers in New Delhi, hiking tensions between the arch rivals.
The foreign ministry said it would be inappropriate for Pakistan National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz to hold the meeting on Sunday in New Delhi just before scheduled talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
India cancelled talks with Pakistan last year between their foreign secretaries, outraged over a similar meeting that took place, a move that set back already tense relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The official spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Vikas Swarup in a series of tweets confirmed Pakistan has been advised against a meeting with Hurriyat leaders.
“India has advised Pakistan that it would not be appropriate for Mr Sartaj Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives in India,” Swarup said.
He added, “Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism.”
Swarup further said India has sought confirmation of the proposed agenda for the meeting conveyed to Pakistan on August 18.
Pakistan has said it plans to raise all important issues, including Kashmir, when Aziz meets his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on August 24. Aziz is expected to meet Hurriyat leaders shortly after he arrives in Delhi on August 23.
Earlier, the Pakistan High Commission had invited Hurriyat leaders to meet with Aziz during his stay in Delhi.
According to sources, invitations have been sent to key Hurriyat leaders, including chairperson Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, for a reception hosted by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
Pakistan on Thursday defended the move to invite Kashmiri leaders to a meeting with Aziz in New Delhi and announced it will raise the longstanding Kashmir dispute during the 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.
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, Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah 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.
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.