The government of India on Monday ruled out a role for separatists in resolving the Kashmir issue, saying there was no place for a third party in Indo-Pak ties, as it tore into Islamabad on a day the Pakistani high commissioner met Hurriyat leaders in Delhi.
The ministry of external affairs (MEA) struck back after envoy Abdul Basit said India had no objections to Hurriyat representatives being invited to Pakistan’s National Day celebrations in New Delhi.
“Having repeated it on so many occasions, there should be no scope for misunderstanding or misrepresenting India’s position on the role of the so-called Hurriyat,” said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. “Let me reiterate there are only two parties and there is no place for a third party in the resolution of India-Pakistan issues.”
New Delhi had called off foreign secretary-level talks with Islamabad last year after Basit held consultations with Hurriyat leaders ahead of the official dialogue. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat’s moderate faction, expressed his disappointment on being denied a legitimate stake in the talks and accused India of treating the people of Kashmir like “cattle”.
“Don’t understand why there is so much resistance towards this dialogue involving the Kashmir residents on both sides,” he said. “Are the people of Kashmir some down-driven cattle that India and Pakistan will take decisions without involving them?”
Amid the cold vibes, India's minister of state for external affairs and former army chief general VK Singh represented the Indian government at the Pakistani National Day reception in Delhi, with Congress’ Mani Shankar Aiyer and Hurriyat leaders Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani as well as Yaseen Malik also present.
New Delhi accuses Pakistan of aiding and funding separatists as well as militants to stoke tensions in Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cricket diplomacy had signalled a thaw in relations between the two countries, when he telephoned Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif last month to convey his best wishes for the World Cup and announced he would send foreign secretary S Jaishankar to Islamabad as part of a trip to the SAARC nations.
Jaishankar met Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in Islamabad this month and the two sides agreed to find common ground and narrow differences following tensions at the border, triggering hopes of a resumption of bilateral talks.
Modi said on Monday he was of the firm belief that all outstanding issues with Islamabad can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence, as he greeted Sharif in a letter on Pakistan’s National Day.
Criticising the Prime Minister, the Congress said the government should adopt a coherent and consistent approach to engage in talks with Pakistan.
“Talking about our neighbours, with Pakistan or China, relationships which are sensitive, complex and sometimes there have been areas of concern, have to be integral to the foreign policy. That is why I said it has to be consistent; it has to have a roadmap,” party leader Anand Sharma said. “And the Prime Minister alone knows what assurances he has given. Our concerns are about continued terror attacks.”
The BJP sent out a strong message to Pakistan, saying Basit should ensure the Pakistan high commission does not become a hub of anti-India activities, though it added that India is a free country and people have the right to meet anyone.
“When the BJP came to power, it started a new chapter in India’s relationship with its neighbours. But, the response from Pakistan has been disappointing,” party leader Shrikant Sharma said.
Row over V K Singh attending Pak Day dinner
V K Singh stayed at Basit's dinner for 15 minutes. After media asked questions to the government regarding its stands on talks with Pakistan, Singh said that he was asked by the government to represent it at the Pakistan National Day reception at the Pakistani High Commission here.
"The Government of India has to sent an MoS. They sent me and I went there and came back," he said replying to a question about his presence at the reception.
Asked specifically whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked him to attend the event at the Pakistani High Commission, he said, "The Government of India asked me to go there, so I went there.” He also posted a series of tweets on call of 'duty' and 'disgust' at some of the reactions on his attending Pakistani envoy's dinner.