Basit defends meeting with Kashmiri leaders

Says Pakistan desires friendly ties with India

LAHORE (PR): Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit 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, says a press release received here.

Addressing a press conference at Foreign Correspondents’ club in New Delhi Wednesday, Basit defended his meetings with pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders in the last two days and said he did not breach any protocol by holding talks with them.

“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,” he said.

 

His remarks came days after the Indian government called off the foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan scheduled to be held in Islamabad on August 25 after Basit met pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders, invoking sharp reaction from political quarters in India.

 

India had called off the talks between Foreign Secretaries, telling Pakistan bluntly to choose between an Indo-Pak dialogue or hobnobbing with the pro-freedom leaders.

 

Noting that Pakistan wants to improve ties with India, 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 maximum to see as to how this process can be taken forward,” Basit said.

 

He said Pakistan understands that it was a “complex situation” but added it was positive and will not allow distractions to come in the way of finding solutions to the problems.

 

Basit said Pakistan has been holding talks with Kashmiri leaders for the last 20 years and asserted that the sole aim of his meetings in the last two days was to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.

 

“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 bottom line for us,” he said.

 

Replying to a question on India’s position that Pakistan talk to the pro-freedom leaders or to it, he said, “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 the Kashmir issue should be looked at “dispassionately” and asserted that the aim of his meetings with the Kashmiri leaders was to find a viable solution to the issue. He said Indian diplomats in Islamabad also meet people from all hues.

 

“We attach enormous importance to our relations with India,” he said. On SAARC, Basit said, “Sky is the limit if SAARC is vitalised”. Ahead of the talks in Islamabad, Basit had invited pro-freedom leaders from Kashmir for consultations in New Delhi. Pakistan envoys had in the past too talked with leaders from Kashmir before any major diplomatic initiative with India.

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