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PM walked the extra mile, but Pakistan didn’t: Prasad

Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani inNew Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani inNew Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Under criticism from the US, J&K politicians, with allegations of a "knee-jerk reaction" from the opposition over its decision to cancel talks with Pakistan, the government today sought to explain its decision, saying the problem was not the talks themselves, but the sequencing of the talks.

“We have always said that you can change your friends but not your neighbours,” said senior minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. “They chose to talk to the separatists first in spite of clearly being told that if this persistence is there, it will be difficult to pursue the dialogue.”

To begin, sources say Foreign Secretaries were due to meet in Islamabad on August 25th, not to resume dialogue, but to "carry forward the PMs' directions from their meeting in New Delhi" in May this year. As a result, the government insists that Jammu and Kashmir was not on the formal agenda, and there was “no need” for High Commissioner Abdul Basit to speak to the Hurriyat leadership at this point.

The Hindu has learnt that India had proposed several “stand-alone” initiatives ahead of this meeting between the Foreign secretaries on trade facilitation as well as energy transfers. In that context, the decision by Pakistan to invite leaders of the Hurriyat came as a surprise to the government and the Prime Minister’s office.

“The fact that Mr. Basit showed disregard for Ms. Singh’s request to put off the separatist talks and went ahead in meeting them,” was the last straw said sources.

In their conversation on Monday afternoon, Mr. Basit went as far as to say that the separatist engagement was in “India’s interest” to which Ms. Singh reportedly replied “India will take care of our interests internally.”

In Islamabad, the government denied the explanations from New Delhi. Pakistan Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said that “all outstanding issues” were to be discussed between the Foreign Secretaries, and that, “It is a longstanding practice that, prior to Pakistan-India talks, meetings with Kashmiri leaders are held to facilitate meaningful discussions on the issue of Kashmir."

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 7:11:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/modi-walked-the-extra-mile-but-pakistan-didnt-prasad/article6332584.ece

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