NATIONAL

Discord over Hurriyat leaders meeting Hina

While read-outs by Foreign Ministers S.M. Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar did not give an inkling of divergence on issues discussed behind closed doors, Foreign Secretaries Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir revealed the discord over Kashmiri separatist leaders meeting the Pakistani Minister here on Tuesday and in Lahore a day earlier.

Asked about the meeting between Ms. Khar and the Hurriyat leaders and whether it had cast a shadow over India-Pakistan talks, Ms. Rao ruled out inclusion of a third party in the Kashmir dispute, pointing out that “as far as India-Pakistan is concerned the only structure in our relationship is bilateral.”

This structure was set up to cover all outstanding issues of concern which included Jammu and Kashmir, she added.

Ms. Rao also referred to the ministerial Joint Statement which notes the discussions held on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the need for continued discussions.

Mr. Bashir defended the Khar-Hurriyat interaction. “In a democratic polity, it is in our interest to reach out to all sections. I think we should not read more into it. The meeting can't be construed in any manner to cast any sort of shadow on today's [Wednesday's] talks. On the contrary, you are reading too much into it which is not good.”

Pakistan's position

He pointed out that Pakistan had a certain position on the Hurriyat and the U.S.-based Director of Kashmiri American Council Ghulam Nabi Fai. “I don't think this should be construed as anti-Indian,” he said.

On Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed's statements against India, Mr. Bashir wanted the media to make a distinction between the views expressed by an individual and those by the state.

Behind closed doors, India once again reiterated its annoyance over the Hurriyat leaders meeting Ms. Khar by pointing out that the two Hurriyat factions did not represent all Kashmiris.

Even before the meetings got under way on Tuesday, government sources here termed the interaction a “bad idea” and felt the Pakistanis should ask them to talk the language of peace and reconciliation.

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