Pakistan envoy defends meeting Kashmiri separatists in India

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Pakistan High Commisioner Abdul Basit speaks at a press conference in Delhi on August 20, 2014.Image source, AFP
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Pakistan High Commisioner in Delhi Abdul Basit announced plans to meet Kashmiri separatists last week

Pakistan's high commissioner to India Abdul Basit has defended his meetings with Kashmiri separatists, a move which led to Delhi cancelling scheduled talks with Islamabad.

Mr Basit said including the separatists in the dialogue "is the only way to find a lasting peace" in the region.

India cancelled talks accusing Pakistan of interfering in its internal affairs.

Pakistan said it was a "long-standing practice" to consult Kashmiri leaders prior to any talks with India.

Relations between the South Asian rivals seemed to be on the up when new Indian PM Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart to his swearing-in ceremony in May.

The two countries' foreign secretaries were to meet next week in Islamabad to discuss the resumption of formal dialogue.

Pakistan described the Indian decision to cancel talks as a "setback".


"Kashmiris are legitimate stakeholders in finding a peaceful solution to the issue," Mr Basit told a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday.

"We have been reaching out to Kashmiri leaders for the last 20 years. Kashmir is a dispute which needs to be resolved peacefully, both countries [are] committed to resolving it," he said.

Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for India's ministry of external affairs, responded in a tweet saying "there are only two "stakeholders" on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir - India and Pakistan. None else [sic]".

Mr Basit had announced plans to meet the separatists last week.

On Monday, Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh warned him against it, saying he could either have a dialogue with India or talk with the separatists.

Later the same day, India cancelled next week's talks in Islamabad when it became clear the Pakistani envoy had gone ahead with the consultation.

Correspondents say the cancellation of talks is an indication of the tough new approach adopted by Mr Modi's government towards Pakistan.

Last week, the Indian prime minister accused Pakistan of waging a proxy war against India in Kashmir.

India has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring militants in the disputed region - though despite a recent spike, overall the violence has declined since the early 2000s.

Relations plunged again over the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack.

Claimed by both countries in its entirety, Kashmir has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years. The South Asian rivals have fought two wars and a limited conflict over the region.