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Pak PMís Adviser meets J-K separatists; India unhappy
Ashok Tuteja & Ishfaq Tantry
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Srinagar, November 10
In a move which upset India, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Adviser on Foreign Affairs met Kashmiri separatist leaders on Sunday shortly after his arrival here for the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Aziz's meeting with the separatists came ahead of his crucial talks with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on the margins of the two-day ASEM which begins in Gurgaon tomorrow. Aziz is expected to meet Khurshid on Tuesday. He has also sought a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Aziz held separate talks at the Pakistan High Commission with the moderate Hurriyat faction leader, Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq, and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The visiting Pakistani leader also met JKLF chief Yasin Malik. The separatists had received invitations from Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Masnoor Ahmad Khan for meetings with Aziz.

Aziz is understood to have told the separatists that Pakistan would continue to provide moral, diplomatic and political support to the Kashimiris. He said Pakistan was committed to settling all issues with India, including Kashmir, through talks. He also stated that steps were being taken by both India and Pakistan to maintain the sanctity of the LoC.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, the Mirwaiz said the moderate leaders told the Pakistani leader that ceasefire should be maintained along the LoC in the interest of peace.

He described his interaction with Sharief's emissary as good and positive. "During the meeting, Aziz expressed Pakistan's willingness to find a solution to the Kashmir issue," he said. "We, however, made it clear that involvement of Kashmiri people is necessary", the Mirwaiz said. He said the Hurriyat delegation also expressed its concern over the recent tension between the two countries along the LoC. "We told that that Kashmir should not be made a battlefield," he said.

"While Pakistani officials expressed their willingness to take the peace process with India forward, we said the Hurriyat will support Kashmir specific confidence-building measures," he said.

Yasin Malik told Aziz that a solution to the Kashmir issue could only be found by involving the people of the region in talks on the issue between India and Pakistan.

"I told him that the focus of any engagement between India and Pakistan should be on human sufferings. We have lost four generations to this conflict," said Malik. His meeting with Aziz lasted for over 45 minutes. Hardliner Geelani could not be reached for his comment. Aziz's interaction with the separatists has come at a time when ties between India and Pakistan are under strain in the wake of frequent ceasefire violations on the LoC by Pakistani troops.

Asked how India looked at the meetings between Aziz and the separatists, Salman Khurshid said several foreign ministers were in the capital for the meeting but the government had nothing to do with their private engagements during their stay in Delhi. Sources, however, said India was unhappy over the fact that Pakistan was once again misusing a multilateral engagement to pursue its Kashmir agenda.

The BJP hit out at the UPA government for allowing Aziz to meet Kashmiri separatists. "Shocked to see that the UPA government has allowed Pakistan PM's adviser to hold talks with Kashmiri separatist leaders," BJP chief Rajnath Singh tweeted.

Sartaj AzizCrucial talks

  • Sartaj Azizís (pic) meeting with Kashmiri separatists came ahead of his crucial biltateral talks with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on the margins of ASEM
  • Sources said India was unhappy over the fact that Pakistan was once again misusing a multilateral engagement to pursue its Kashmir agenda

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