The Pakistan high commission in New Delhi has invited separatist leaders in Kashmir to a meeting with their national security adviser Sartaj Aziz, who is travelling to India for talks with his counterpart Ajit Doval. The meeting is likely to be held on August 23, the same day of the NSA talks.
The development brings back memories of the foreign secretary-level talks that were called off by India in August last year after the Pakistan high commissioner held consultations with the separatists.
Sources said Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner Mansoor Ahmad Khan called up Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Tuesday to extend an invitation to a meeting with Aziz. Other separatist leaders such as Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik were invited for a reception in honour of Aziz, who is also Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs and security. The high commission is scheduled to hold the function at 6pm on August 23 (Sunday).
“Pakistani authorities want to take separatists on board before they resume talks with India,” Ayaz Akbar, spokesman for the Geelani-led Hurriyat faction, said, confirming the invite.
“I haven’t been invited for one-on-one talks but for a reception where a lot of people besides separatists have been invited,” the moderate Mirwaiz told HT.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq reacts to Pakistan's invitation for talks
Malik said his party, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, would decide on whether to accept the invitation or not at an executive council meeting.
The NSA-level talks — following last month’s agreement in Russia between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif to resume dialogue — are significant as contentious issues such as cross-border terrorism, border violence and attacks like the ones in Udhampur and Gurdaspur are likely to be on the table. They are also likely to set the tone for further engagement between the neighbours. Pakistan, it is reported, is said to be keen on starting foreign secretary-level talks.