Pak Climbs Down To Admit: 'our Hurriyat Invite Was Bad Timing'

28 September 2014
The Indian Express

New Delhi: For the first time, Pakistan has admitted that the timing of its high commissioner's meeting with Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi, ahead of the Foreign Secretary-level talks in August, was 'perhaps not totally right'. This comes in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that India is ready to engage in 'serious bilateral dialogue' with Pakistan in an 'appropriate environment'. Pointing out that while meetings between Pakistani diplomats and Hurriyat leaders have been a 'regular practice for the last 30 years and there was nothing new in it', Pakistan's National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz said in New York, 'In this case perhaps, the timing was not totally right because the substantial discussion on Kashmir was yet to start.' However, he added, 'The right to meet Kashmiri leaders could not be given up. I think calling off talks was an overreaction.' India called off the Foreign Secretary-level talks, which were to be held in Islamabad on August 25, after Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Hurriyat leaders ahead of the parleys. Aziz said if India had sent its request - on not meeting the Hurriyat leaders ahead of the FS-level talks - a little earlier, 'probably it could have been considered.' He said the 'message came at a time when one Hurriyat leader was already in Pakistan's High Commission (in New Delhi)'. As reported earlier, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh's request to Basit came about 20 minutes before the latter's meeting with Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah. Aziz also welcomed Modi's statement at the UN General Assembly on the need for resumption of dialogue between the two countries as 'encouraging'. Delivering his first speech as India's Prime Minister to the 69th session of the UNGA on Saturday, Modi said, 'Our future is linked very closely with our neighbours. That is why from the very first day, we extended a hand of friendship to our neighbours.' Referring specifically to Pakistan, he said that India is prepared 'to engage in serious bilateral dialogue with Pakistan in a peaceful atmosphere, without the shadow of terrorism.' But he emphasised that 'it is also up to Pakistan to create the right atmosphere and come forward for bilateral talks.' Earlier, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raked up the Kashmir issue at the UNGA and blamed India for 'another missed opportunity' to address outstanding issues by cancelling the Foreign Secretary-level talks. Asserting that a 'veil' cannot be drawn over the 'core' issue of Kashmir, he said Pakistan is ready to work for resolution of this problem through negotiations. While Modi and Sharif did not meet on the sidelines of the UNGA, National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh met Basit on September 13 and 15 respectively. This was their first meeting after the cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks.