Hurriyat talks or FS meet: Pak envoy got 20 mins to choose

Sources said the invitations for meetings between Basit and Hurriyat leaders went from August 11 onwards.

New Delhi | Published:August 27, 2014 2:31 am
Separatist leader Shabir Shah with Pak High Commissioner Abdul Basit in Delhi, Monday. The Pakistani diplomats recalled watching the visuals of his car approaching the High Commission on TV news channels.

By Shubhajit Roy

The BJP-led NDA government had given just about 20 minutes to Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on August 18 to cancel his meeting with Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah or else the Foreign Secretary-level talks will be cancelled, The Indian Express has learnt.

When the Ministry of External Affairs approached the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi around 2.30 pm last Monday, saying that Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh would like to speak with Basit, the Pakistan envoy was out of the mission premises for a meeting.

By the time he returned to the mission in Chanakyapuri and called back the Foreign Secretary around 3.40 pm, Shah was already on his way to the High Commission. The Pakistani diplomats recalled watching the visuals of his car approaching the High Commission on TV news channels.

Singh, during her short and curt phone conversation that lasted about seven minutes, conveyed the political decision — which had been taken around 1 pm by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — that if Basit’s meeting with Shah at 4 pm was not cancelled, she is not going to Islamabad for the talks with her counterpart.

After getting the terse message from Singh, the Pakistan High Commission immediately contacted their Foreign Office in Islamabad. In those tense 15 minutes, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary was out of office and could not be contacted — since cellphone lines were down in Islamabad due to the Imran Khan-Tahir ul-Qadri protests at Zero Point.

However, the Pakistan High Commission got a go-ahead from the Pakistan Foreign Office, and went ahead with the meeting with Shah.

A Pakistan government official told The Indian Express, “Look, these are principled positions (about meeting Hurriyat leaders). The government cannot deviate from these positions within minutes.”

He reiterated that these have been a practice for the past two decades, and the bilateral talks have never been held hostage to these meetings with the “Kashmiri stakeholders”.

What has surprised Islamabad is this last-minute warning that came from South Block despite the information available about their meeting for almost a week.

Sources said the invitations for meetings between Basit and Hurriyat leaders went from August 11 onwards. These invitations were conveyed to all the seperatist leaders through phone calls, as is the practice. Syed Ali Shah Geelani made it public on August 12, and Mirwaiz Omer Farooq and Yasin Malik also told the Kashmiri media through the week about their meetings with Basit.

“The Indian government had the information about these meetings between the Pakistan High Commissioner and the Hurriyat leaders for almost a week, but not a single official from the MEA said anything about the cancellation of FS-level talks in those 5-6 days,” the Pakistan government official said.

In fact, some Kashmiri leaders, including Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Bhat, had come for the Iftaar hosted by Basit on July 19, which happened around the time the two sides were discussing the scheduling of FS-level talks.

Sujatha Singh had called up the Pakistan Foreign Secretary on July 23 to schedule the meeting in Islamabad on August 23, and she had not said a word about the Iftaar meeting, Pakistan government sources said. The only thing she had raised were the ceasefire violations on the LoC.

The Indian side, however, maintained that while the meetings between the Pakistan envoy and the Hurriyat leaders were not new and have taken place in the past, but their “timing” this time —  held just ahead of the Foreign Secretary-level talks — was the “issue”. “So far as information available in the public domain, the meeting between a Pakistan envoy and the Hurriyat leaders have never taken place before a Foreign Secretary’s visit to Pakistan. That is the main issue,” Indian government sources said.

Also, South Block sources have raised eyebrows on Basit’s meeting since Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had not met any Hurriyat leader during his visit in May to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

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  1. B
    Aug 27, 2014 at 8:16 am
    This is correct way of talking to Pak. Otherwise we have talked to them for the last 67 years with no results.
  2. A
    Alok Asthana
    Aug 30, 2014 at 1:50 am
    And what excuse would you have for the Indian govt to give them only 20 minutes, when they had a week to decide? Pak diplomats should work hard but Indian ones should not! Isn't it clear that this short timing was intentional so that they may fail and we may have our excuse?
  3. A
    Alok Asthana
    Aug 27, 2014 at 2:55 am
    If this is true then it could be a sign that India has started paying for giving BJP the landslide victory it has. Many important elections are coming up and hence creating reasons to show off muscle seems inevitable.The 'tough' image has to be carefully nurtured. I must say that BJP can not be faulted since they are the winners and have a right to claim the prize. No one's fault --- just destiny of a nation. The only tragedy is that citizens who do not even take minor risks to help a women in distress (Mamta, Meerut) will now scream for others to 'go out and teach them a lesson'. Sad, indeed.
  4. A
    Alok Asthana
    Aug 29, 2014 at 7:55 am
    Indian Express is simply reporting news. It's a tragedy that Indians are not able to see how BJP is deliberately pushing the country towards a conflict, so that they appear as they guys who did something where UPA did not. I see this as a highly unpatriotic act - getting others killed so that you may gain political advantage. Deplorable. Neither will BJP/RSS chaps die nor will those who are cheering them here - only soldiers will.
  5. A
    Alok Asthana
    Aug 31, 2014 at 5:30 pm
    Mohan - In 20 minutes, you may not even be able to change your socks and you seriously expect a country to change its avowed policy? Don't blindly support anyone.
  6. A
    Alok Asthana
    Aug 30, 2014 at 1:55 am
    The 'spineless govt kept a country out of war on Indian borders for a period 1965 to 2000. The 'muscular' BJP plunged us in war in 2002, and is trying again. I wish the political parties were expected to send their partymen to war or go themselves then there would be no wars.
  7. A
    Alok Asthana
    Aug 28, 2014 at 4:41 am
    What is strange in it? Which country can take a decision which is contrary to existing policy, in 20 minutes? Doesn't it look like a ruse to ensure that they are not able to comply which will give an excuse to break off the talks. Good way for BJP govt to start looking 'muscular', before some important elections come up in next few months.
  8. K
    kris kumar
    Aug 27, 2014 at 7:27 am
    Pak has the habit of provoking India before any meeting. Separatists and other should be kept out of the discussion between Pak and India. have been talking to the terrorists for years and have not brought any results and the time has come to isolate these groups and decision must be taken by two elected governments.
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