Against the backdrop of two back-to-back attacks in Jammu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif that an atmosphere free of terror and violence is required for resolving all outstanding issues through a bilateral dialogue.
He underlined the message to Sharif on Pakistan’s National Day while greeting him in a letter. “I have written to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif, conveying my greetings on the National Day of Pakistan,” Modi tweeted. “It is my firm conviction that all outstanding issues can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror & violence,” he said in another tweet.
Hours after Modi greeted Sharif on Pakistan’s National Day, the two countries sparred over Islamabad’s continuing interactions with the Hurriyat, with India stressing that there was no place for a “third party” in the resolution of bilateral disputes.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit met several Kashmiri separatist leaders on Sunday night, and hosted them for dinner on Monday evening.
The Pakistan High Commission has been hosting Hurriyat leaders for the past 15 years, including at the celebration of National Day on March 23 every year. Last year, India objected, and called off foreign secretary-level talks after Basit insisted on meeting the separatists.
On Monday morning, the Prime Minister posted on his personal Twitter handle, “I have written to Pakistan PM Mr Nawaz Sharif, conveying my greetings on the National Day of Pakistan.” He then posted: “It is my firm conviction that all outstanding issues can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.”
On the sidelines of an event at the Pak High Commission, which included a flag-hoisting ceremony, Basit said of his meeting with Hurriyat leaders: “I don’t think Indian government is objecting. I would rather suggest to my media friends not to make an issue out of a non-issue.”
The Ministry of External Affairs responded that “the Government of India prefers to speak for itself”. Spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said, “There should be no scope for misunderstanding or misrepresenting India’s position on the role of the so-called Hurriyat. Let me reiterate there are only two parties and there is no place for a third party in resolution of India-Pakistan issues.”
Akbaruddin added that “the only way forward to proceed on all outstanding issues is a peaceful bilateral dialogue within the framework of Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration”.
Among the Hurriyat leaders who met Basit were Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Gani Lone. The Pak envoy had visited hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani at his Delhi residence earlier this month.
The Mirwaiz told PTI on Monday, “Hurriyat’s main agenda is that the stakeholders involved — India, Pakistan and Kashmiris — will have to move together to solve the problem… It is the only way out to avoid killing of innocent civilians and Army men and other destruction.”
(With inputs from PTI)