India's advice to Pakistan national security adviser (NSA) Sartaj Aziz not to meet Hurriyat leaders before talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval has put the Kashmiri separatist leadership on the defensive. Hurriyat leaders are non-committal about meeting Aziz before the India-Pakistan dialogue.
Speaking to Hindustan Times in Srinagar on Friday, moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that there was no scheduled meeting between Aziz and his party. "We are going for a reception where hundreds of people would be present. It is no one-on-one meeting. If India is objecting to an invitation to a reception, what will be the future of engagement between the two countries?" Mirwaiz said.
Expressing disappointment over India's stand on Kashmir, he said: "I have seen the Ufa (Russia) agreement. It clearly says all bilateral issues between the two countries will be discussed. How can you discuss all issues and leave out Kashmir, which is at the centre of everything? I doubt whether I'll be allowed to travel to Delhi."
"We had welcomed the Narendra Modi government and hoped that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's policy will be followed. We are not only in support of dialogue between India and Pakistan but also New Delhi and Kashmir," Mirwaiz said, adding "the way things are turning out is very unfortunate."
Minutes before Pakistan announced that its invite to the separatists stood for the Sunday reception, the hardline Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani said that the ball was in Pakistan's court. Geelani is scheduled to meet Aziz after the NSA meeting on August 24. "We had declared earlier that our meeting with Aziz is on August 24 and not before the talks," spokesman Ayaz Akbar added.
Senior separatist leader Shabir Shah said: "There is police outside my residence. I have been under house arrest for months. I am not even allowed to go for Friday prayers. If they allow me out on Saturday, I have a flight for Delhi and am keen to meet Aziz at Sunday's reception."
India's objection to the separatist invite and Pakistan's insistence to meet the Hurriyat leaders have raised a question mark on the NSA dialogue on Monday.
Call off meet with Aziz: Farooq to separatists
Meanwhile, National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah has appealed to the separatist leadership to call off the meeting in the interest of Kashmiris. "People are dying on the border.
The talks between India and Pakistan are in the interest of the people so we should let them happen. Everybody knows that the meeting between Aziz and the separatists is symbolic. What will anybody gain out of it? So, separatists should call off their meeting and let the talks happen," Abdullah told a news agency.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik will not be travelling to Delhi for the meeting but will be sending a two-member delegation instead.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, in a series of tweets, that India has also sought confirmation of the proposed agenda for the meeting, which India has insisted should be confined to "terrorism-related issues".
Pakistan has said it plans to raise all important issues, including Kashmir, when Aziz meets his Indian counterpart. Aziz is expected to meet Hurriyat leaders soon after he arrives in Delhi on Sunday.
Read:Pak adamant on meeting Hurriyat leaders, says won't take 'dictation' from India