A day after PM Narendra Modi scrapped talks, a defiant Pakistan today made it clear that it will continue talking to Kashmiri separatists despite India's protestations, saying that the "bottomline" for India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir issue was to engage all stakeholders and dialogue was not a favour by either party.
At the same time, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said his country "attaches enormous importance" to its ties with India and that there was no need to be "pessimistic" about cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks.
"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, which was objected to by India, 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."
The Pakistan top envoy said calling off the August 25 talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries by India was a "setback" but noted that it should not discourage the two neighbours from resolving the Kashmir issue.
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."
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 "Dialogue is not a favour by Pakistan to India or vice versa", Basit said Pakistan remains committed to promoting peaceful, result-oriented and meaningful dialogue process.
Noting that Kashmir was a "bilateral dispute", he said there was no need to be "pessimistic" about cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks and that both the countries should move forward.
"So the setback should not disappoint us, discourage us to finding ways and means as to how to take the process forward in line with our leadership's visions on both sides of the border. So, we will try our