A year after New Delhi cancelled the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan for inviting separatists before the talks, Pakistan has once again invited the separatists to the Pakistan High Commission for a meeting with Sartaj Aziz on August 23, the day the NSA-level talks between the two countries are slated.
The separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani – who recently rejected an invite from the Pakistan High Commissioner for Eid Milan — have welcomed the invite and decided to join Aziz on Sunday.
It didn’t take much time or deliberations for the separatists to accept the invite. The separatists see themselves as the primary party to any dialogue between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and they welcome anything that reinforces their stand of being the principal party. That is why the separatists readily accepted the invite seeing it as the vindication of their stand.
After the cancellation of talks by New Delhi last year over a similar invitation, separatists see the repeat invite as “toughening” of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir which they welcome. At the same time, however, they are wary of its fallout especially with a BJP government in New Delhi.
For Pakistan, it is a tightrope walk. It cannot afford to annoy New Delhi ahead of the bilateral talks, especially as they have already witnessed repercussions of such an adventure. In fact, this year, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, had cancelled the customary Iftar party with the separatists ahead of the meeting of Indo-Pak prime ministers in Russia, a step that didn’t go well with the separatists.
At the same time, Pakistan can’t afford to annoy the separatists in the Valley whom they have groomed over the past two decades. Pakistan was taken aback when Geelani recently rejected its invitation to an Eid Milan reception at the Pakistan High Commission. Geelani and JKLF chief Yasin Malik rejected the invite as a mark of protest for not including Kashmir in the joint statement of the Indo-Pak prime ministers at Ufa, Russia.
Perhaps that is why the Pakistan High Commissioner has invited the separatist leaders to a “reception” for Sartaj Aziz on Sunday evening which is likely to take place soon after the talks between Aziz and India’s NSA Ajit Doval.