A defiant Pakistan on Wednesday made it clear that it will continue talking to Kashmiri separatists, saying that the “bottomline” for Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir issue was to engage all stakeholders, evoking a sharp reaction from India which accused it of adopting an approach different to the one laid down by Simla Agreement.
Within hours of Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit justifying his meeting with Kashmiri separatists, saying “We need to engage with all stakeholders”, spokesperson in the external affairs ministry Syed Akbaruddin said as per Simla Agreement it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and any other approach will “not yield results”. The fresh round of sparring has raised doubts about the prospects of early resumption of the dialogue process for bringing the strained ties back on track.
“We need to engage with all stakeholders. It is not a question of either, or as far as we are concerned. We are engaging with India to find peaceful ways,” Basit said during an interaction with foreign journalists here while reacting to India’s stand that Pakistan should either choose dialogue with separatists or Indian government.
Justifying his meeting with the Kashmiri separatists, Basit said, “We strongly believe that our interaction is helpful to the process itself. It is helpful to find peaceful solution to the problem. It is important to engage with all stakeholders. So that is the bottomline for us.”
Asked about Basit’s remarks, Akbaruddin said, “After 1972 and the signing of the Simla Agreement by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, there are only two ‘stakeholders’ on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir –the Union of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. “This is a principle which is the bedrock of our bilateral relations. This was reaffirmed in the Lahore Declaration of 1999 between Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Vajpayee,” the spokesperson said, asserting “that an approach that is different to the one laid down by the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration does not yield results”.
India had called off the talks between foreign secretaries slated for August 25, telling Pakistan bluntly to choose between an Indo-Pak dialogue or hobnobbing with the separatists.
Asserting that he has not breached any protocol by holding talks with Kashmiri separatists, Basit said, “This has been a long-standing practice. We have been meeting the Kashmiri leaders...It is important to engage with all the stakeholders to find a peaceful solution to the issue.”