As separatists attend Pakistan Day reception, India rules out third party in talks

New Delhi: Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference and other separatist outfits on Monday attended the Pakistan Day function here, even as India made it clear that there was no place for any third party while dealing with Kashmir and other issues with Islamabad.

The function, held under the glare of the media at the Pakistan High Commission here, was attended by Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. (retd) V.K. Singh. Congress leader and former union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar was also present.

There was more than usual media interest in this year's function as the Narendra Modi government had, in August last year, called off foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan after the country's envoy met Kashmiri separatist leaders, ignoring India's request not to do so.

However, there has since been been resumed official-level engagement between the two countries, with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar visiting Pakistan earlier this month as part of the SAARC yatra.

Former Indian Army chief V.K. Singh, who was wearing a green jacket, spent about 10 minutes at the function and sat with Pakistan's High Commissioner Abdul Basit.

The envoy, in his brief speech, introduced V.K. Singh as the "chief guest".

"We owe to our future generations to give them a peaceful atmosphere and not conflict," Basit later told IANS.

Basit on Sunday met Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq.

The Pakistani envoy earlier in the month met hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani and updated him about the talks between Jaishankar and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in Islamabad.

As Basit apparently suggested on Monday that India had no objection to his meetings with Hurriyat leaders, the Indian government made it clear that there was no place for any third party while dealing with issues with Islamabad.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the only way forward vis-a-vis Pakistan was a peaceful bilateral dialogue.

He said there should be no scope of misunderstanding about India's stance on resolving outstanding issues with Pakistan.

"Having repeated it on so many occasions, there should be no scope for misunderstanding or misrepresenting India's position on the role of the so-called Hurriyat," Akbaruddin said.

He said there were only two parties on India-Pakistan issues and there was no place for a third party.

"The only way forward to proceed on all outstanding issues is a peaceful bilateral dialogue within the framework of Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration," he said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the media that Pakistan can call whoever it wants on its national day.

Coming out of the function, Geelani talked about "azadi" and "state terrorism" in Jammu and Kashmir.

He also emphasised on five conditions set by his group in 2010 for any result-oriented talks with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

Geelani said the Indian government should accept Kashmir as disputed territory, withdraw its forces and "black laws", punish those involved in the killing of 128 people in 2010, and release of political prisoners.

Apart from Umer Farooq and other members of his faction of Hurriyat Conference, which is regarded as moderate, the function was attended by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik.

Aiyar told the media later that India and Pakistan should show maturity for "uninterrupted dialogue".

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