Unease over separatists' meeting with Riaz Khan
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Unease over separatists' meeting with Riaz Khan

The Indian side is not happy with the way the Pakistan High Commission has planned things on this count, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2006 11:44 IST
Arun Joshi

The November 14 meeting between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khan and Kashmiri separatist leaders would be full fledged talks on Kashmir rather than a courtesy call.

The Indian side is not happy with the way the Pakistan High Commission has planned things on this count, but is wary of saying that in as many words.

Separatist leaders have been meeting Pakistani President Musharraf - July 2001 and April 2005. Therefore, the ministry of external affairs officials were consoling themselves with the thought of 'big brother' attitude on this matter.

But they have displayed their unease in some of the meetings, officials interacting with the MEA said on condition of anonymity.

Officials of the Jammu and Kashmir government have also voiced their serious reservations for according respectability to separatists. They deem it as violation of protocol by the Pakistan High Commission.

Leaders of the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party president Shabir Shah and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Yasin Malik have been invited. They were conveyed that Riaz Khan would share views on Kashmir situation and also listen to them on the issue.

All the invited separate leaders could be having separate sessions with Riaz Khan and interact on the issue of Kashmir.

Geelani made it very clear that it was going to be his exchange of ideas with Pakistani Foreign Secretary. "It is going to be one-on-one interactive session," he said. Same is the case with the other separatist leaders.

Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah too have their talking points ready.

"We will tell them how they should proceed on the Kashmir issue, keeping in view the aspirations of the people of Kashmir," Malik said.

Shabir would be telling Khan how important it was for Islamabad to convey why there was an urgency to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Some of the top functionaries of Jammu and Kashmir Government have made their reservations known to the Ministry of External Affairs that such an "abuse of hospitality" would send wrong signals down the line in the state.

This has no similarity with the meeting that the Kashmiri separatist leaders were permitted to have during their June 2005 visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Pakistan. They had traveled to PoK via Srinagar-Muzzaffarbad road in June 2005.

The government cleared their visit. "There is nothing like that this time. Neither Pakistan High Commission has taken the government into confidence, nor have the separatists sought any permission," the official said.

Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah wondered if Prime Minister Manmohan or any leader or official visiting Pakistan could do any such thing on Pakistani soil.

"First of all, the PoK and Northern areas leaders would never be allowed to meet the Indian leaders. And if they did, they would disappear within 24 hours of their meeting."

"Pakistan wants to keep pro-Pakistan leaders in good humour, for that helps Pakistan to stir stew in Kashmir, without realising that these leaders have no base whatsoever beyond some parts of the Valley of Kashmir. They are shy of fighting elections. But that is the way Pakistan wants to project these leaders, for it thinks promoting secessionism can be utilised as a bargaining chip with India at the negotiation table. That is illusion, and unfortunate part of Pakistani diplomacy," Farooq Abdullah commented.

Within the official circles, this is seen as a sign of "weakness of Delhi" in failing to tell Islamabad about the code of conduct of diplomacy.

First Published: Nov 11, 2006 11:44 IST