The Narendra Modi government might have flexed its muscles on Pakistan High Commissioner’s scheduled meeting with Hurriyat leaders, but it has been a common practice for the Kashmiri separatists to meet leaders and officials from Pakistan at least twice a year.
Even during the previous BJP-led NDA government — under Atal Bihari Vajpayee — at least 12 such meetings were recorded to have taken place, The Indian Express has learnt. All these meetings were well-publicised, and the Indian government made its displeasure known to the Pakistan government each time.
A former Indian diplomat, on condition of anonymity, said that the Kashmiri separatists have been meeting Pakistani leaders and officials since 1999.
Pakistan diplomatic sources confirmed that the Hurriyat leaders have been invited every year for the Pakistan National Day reception on March 23 at the High Commission lawns in Chanakyapuri. These National Day receptions, in fact, have been attended by a minister from the Indian government, apart from senior Indian officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and political leaders.
Apart from meetings at these receptions, sources listed some other instances:
In February 2001, three senior separatist leaders — Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Abdul Gani Lone — met then Pakistan high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi and discussed their proposed visit to Islamabad as a sequel to peace initiatives launched by the two nations.
In September 2002, a Hurriyat delegation led by Abdul Gani Bhat visited the Pakistan High Commission to “seek its assistance” in arranging a meeting with Pakistan’s Kashmir Committee head Sardar Abdul Qayyum.
n In December 2002, senior Hurriyat leaders attended Iftar party by then Pakistan High Commissioner. They discussed how to finetune the Hurriyat response to the government’s offer of talks.
Former foreign secretary Salman Haider said, “The separatists have lost their strength, and Pakistan’s influence is zero. So, the substantive harm by Hurriyat leaders calling on the Pakistan High Commissioner is marginal… but intentions are unfriendly.”