Allowing dialogue is a ‘diplomatic blunder,’ says BJP

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz held discussions on Kashmir-related political developments with four delegations of Kashmiri secessionist leaders at the Pakistani High Commission on Sunday—evoking a sharp response from the Opposition BJP, which said the Union government was committing a “diplomatic blunder” by allowing the dialogue.

The two factions of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, led by Srinagar cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Islamist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, participated in the meeting along with Yasin Malik’s Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front.

Islamist leader Asiya Andrabi of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat, which figures on the Union Home Ministry’s list of proscribed organisations, also met with Mr. Aziz — her first engagement with visiting Pakistani officials ever.

However, the Hurriyat’s other leaders have held several past rounds of meetings with high officials both in India and in Pakistan, as a result of a dialogue process initiated by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1998. Mr. Aziz had been a key figure in the process.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid offered little comment on the controversy, saying only that the Pakistani delegation had been invited for the ongoing Asia-Europe Meeting of Foreign Ministers. “If they have other meetings,” he added, “we do not interfere in that.”

BJP president Rajnath Singh, however, said “Kashmir issue is India’s internal matter and should be resolved through a home grown solution.”

Wide-ranging talks

Hurriyat sources present in the meetings told The Hindu that Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir and the Director-General of the South Asia Desk in Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rifat Masood, discussed a wide range of issues related to the conflict in Kashmir.

Mr. Farooq, who met Mr. Aziz along with his colleagues Abdul Gani Butt and Bilal Gani Lone, said his delegation told Mr. Aziz that the Kashmir conflict could be resolved either through the United Nations resolutions, or by consensus among all parties. “We made it clear,” he said, “that the Hurriyat believes in conciliation and cooperation, not confrontation.”

The Hurriyat leader also said he had called for peace on the Line of Control, saying “the Kashmiris do not want to see Indians and Pakistanis die.”

Mr. Aziz, Mr. Farooq said, responded that the peace process with India was starting afresh, after a long pause, and added that he was hopeful of positive results.

Ms. Andrabi said that the Dukhtaran delegation said the conflict could only be solved by referendum, and “emphasised the core issue should be addressed, rather than so-called confidence-building measures, trade or travel.”

“We emphasised that Kashmir’s relationship with Pakistan is based on religion,” she added.

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