All eyes will be on the Pakistan mission in New Delhi when high commissioner Abdul Basit hosts an Eid Milan on Tuesday evening, with the Hurriyat gearing up to protest the absence of the Kashmir issue in the official statement issued after the recent meeting of the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers in Russia.
The Pakistan high commission cancelled its original plan to host an ‘iftar’ on July 4, during the Islamic month of Ramzan, to ensure that the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the SCO summit in the Russian city of Ufa went off without any hiccups.
The Hurriyat had been invited to the cancelled ‘iftar’ and reports have suggested the two countries have reached an understanding that Pakistan’s meetings with leaders of the separatist grouping will be kept low-key so that they do not affect efforts to put bilateral ties on an even keel.
Officially, the Pakistani mission said the iftar was cancelled because of a spate of deaths in Karachi due to a heat wave.
However, New Delhi had conveyed that Pakistan’s meetings with the Hurriyat could be an irritant when it called off talks between the foreign secretaries last year after high commissioner Basit met separatist leaders despite being asked by the external affairs ministry not to do so.
Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani has decided to skip the Eid Milan to register a “token protest against the non-inclusion of Kashmir” in the statememt issued after meeting of the Prime Ministers in Ufa. The separatist Dukhtaran-e-Millat too decided to boycott the event.
The moderate Hurriyat faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has confirmed its participation in the Eid Milan, saying its leaders will use the occasion to express their dismay over Kashmir not being included in the official statement.
“The Mirwaiz will stress the need to include Kashmiri representatives in talks aimed at resolving the dispute. Any dialogue process aimed at arriving at a solution on Kashmir will be supported,” moderate Hurriyat spokesperson Shahid-ul-Islam told Hindustan Times.
Senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, who too will attend the event, said: “We don’t attend these functions to eat food but to put across our viewpoint. I will express my reservation over the dropping of Kashmir in the joint declaration.”
The Pakistani envoy has said there is “nothing unusual” about the decision to invite Hurriyat leaders to the Eid Milan.
“The hype being created by some is unfortunate, to put it mildly. Pakistan will continue extending its full moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their legitimate struggle for self-determination,” Basit said.
Sartaj Aziz, Sharif’s advisor on national security and foreign affairs, recently said that Islamabad will make no compromise on the “core” issue of Kashmir and that no dialogue can take place if it is not on the table.
Sharif was widely criticised in Pakistan because Kashmir was not explicitly mentioned in the statement issued in Ufa, and Aziz’s comments were seen as a bid to pacify a domestic constituency. Sources in Islamabad said the two sides had agreed to take up the Kashmir issue through backchannel Track II diplomacy.
At their meeting in Ufa, Russia, India and Pakistan agreed on several steps to nudge along their troubled bilateral ties, including meetings of top security officials and measures to expedite the trial of seven Pakistani men charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
The last major public reception organised by the Pakistani mission – the Pakistan Day event on March 23 – had been overshadowed by a series of cryptic tweets from minister of state for external affairs Gen (retired) VK Singh, who had represented the Indian government.
After Singh’s followers criticised his presence at the function, with some using the hashtag #partywithenemy, Singh responded with a series of five tweets with the hashtags #Duty and #Disgust, which appeared to suggest he was not entirely comfortable about attending the function.
Read:Geelani turns down Pak invite for 'Eid Milan' in Delhi