India has reacted sharply to Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s invitation to Kashmiri separatist leaders on August 19 days, before the much-awaited foreign secretary-level talks between the two nations. The Centre said on Sunday that such a move will hamper the dialogue process.
“Yes, certainly,” Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla replied when asked whether the invitation to the separatists would hamper the dialogue process. She was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Srinagar.
She said that the ice between the two countries could be broken only if Pakistan was sincere. “There has been a forward movement from our side, but it takes two to tango… If their (Pakistan’s) intention is good, then it surely will (ice would be broken). Our intention is good.”
MoS in the PMO Jitendra Singh said that in case Pakistan sends out a signal that they are directly or indirectly trying to encourage separatism on Indian soil it will not only affect India adversely but also boomerang on Pakistan.
The ruling BJP at the Centre described the “gesture” of the Pakistani High Commissioner as “old tactics” of finding things to disagree about.
“It is most unfortunate that Pakistan chooses to dwell on creating impossible conditions when so much more beneficial things can happen between the neighbours if they concentrate on the possible,” BJP spokesperson M J Akbar said.
The Congress too found the move “strange and an ironical” saying Basit was “feting” the Kashmiri separatists.
The consultations will take place in Delhi for which invitations have gone out to Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief of its hardline faction Syed Ali Shah Geelani and senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, who floated the third faction of the amalgam last year.
Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan are due to meet in Islamabad on August 25. Though the Centre said that Basit’s invitation to separatists would affect the dialogue process, Kashmir Committee chairman Ram Jethmalani has welcomed the move.
“That is a good move,” Jethmalani said talking to reporters. “I happen to know the High Commissioner of Pakistan. He is on a mission of peace. That is my belief. Hope he wouldn’t prove me wrong. But, I am optimistic that something good will come out”.
WITH PTI, NEW DELHI
Sources said Ashish Khetan will be the vice-chairman of the commission.