The Indian government will “respond appropriately” to Pakistan’s invitation to Kashmiri separatists for a meeting during its national security adviser Sartaj Aziz’s Delhi visit, sources said on Wednesday.
India has not officially responded to the invitation, but the meeting is unlikely to hit Sunday’s talks between Aziz and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, though it may have muddied the waters ahead of the resumption of bilateral talks.
"Let's see what happens (if they go ahead with the meeting with the separatists). The government will respond appropriately," government sources said.
A spokesman for the ministry of external affairs did not respond to requests for a comment.
Earlier governments grudgingly tolerated meetings between Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists, but India called off bilateral talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries last year after the Pakistani envoy met with Hurriyat leaders. At the time, India accused Pakistan of interfering in its domestic affairs.
Manzoor Ali Memon, a spokesman for the Pakistani embassy, confirmed the invitation and declined to comment further.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq reacts to Pakistan's invitation for talks
Hardline Kashmiri separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani is among the leaders invited to the Pakistani High Commission on August 23, the day talks between the security officials are due to start, Ayaz Akbar, a spokesman for the separatists, said.
The moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq held an emergency executive meeting on Wednesday where it was decided to attend the function.
Welcoming the PM's statement in Dubai recently that all issues needed to be resolved through talks, the Mirwaiz said, "We lost an opportunity last year and I hope that the opportunity is not lost again."
"At the outset, we request both India and Pakistan to put an end to the hostilities along the Line of Control and ensure a complete ceasefire. Only innocent people are becoming victims of the tension along the border," the Mirwaiz said.
JKLF leader Yasin Malik was yet to decide on whether to accept the invitation. "We will take a decision soon," he said.
Hopes for warmer ties rose last month when Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, met on the sidelines of a summit in Russia and agreed that their national security advisers would hold talks.
"This is deliberate attempt to irritate India," S Chandrasekharan, director of the South Asia Analysis Group in New Delhi, said on Pakistan's invitation to the separatists.
The Opposition Congress on Wednesday accused the government of having "no road map" on engagement with Pakistan and said it was making "abrupt policy statements".
The party sought to brush aside the invitation to Hurriyat leaders for consultations, saying the people of the state had rejected the separatists.
"There is no road map. There is no vision on engagement with Pakistan. There are complex issues and challenges. There are abrupt policy statements (on dealing with Pakistan). (Talks) On today. Off tomorrow," Congress leader Anand Sharma told a press conference.