Pakistan rejects India request to cancel Kashmir meet
Pakistan has turned down a request from India to cancel a dinner with Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of bilateral security talks.
Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that it "sees no reason to depart from this established past practice" of consulting with Kashmiri leaders before any talks with India.
The talks between the two nuclear neighbors are thought to be hanging by a thread as standoff emerges over the proposed meeting between Pakistani officials and Kashmiri leaders.
"India’s insistence to introduce conditionalities and restrict the agenda for the dialogue, demonstrates a lack of seriousness on India’s part to meaningfully engage with Pakistan," said the statement. "The Hurriyat leaders are true representatives of the Kashmiri people of the Indian occupied Kashmir. Pakistan regards them as genuine stakeholders in the efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir Dispute."
Responding to a claim by India that Pakistan had not responded to its suggested agenda for the talks, the statement added that Pakistan had proposed the discussion of "all outstanding issues, including Kashmir and other disputes, as well as, terrorism issues."
When the talks, to be held by each country's national security adviser, were announced by the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in July, the Kashmir dispute was omitted from their joint-statement in favor of a focus on security matters.
The disputed Himalayan region has become increasingly tense since then however, with security forces exchanging fire across the de-facto boundaries that divide Kashmir as well as an increased number of militant attacks within the Indian-held part of the region.
In a series of tweets Friday, India's foreign ministry said it was opposed to Pakistan's invitation to the pro-independence All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders to meet National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz when he lands in New Delhi.
"India has advised Pakistan yesterday that it would not be appropriate for Mr. Sartaj Aziz to meet with [Kashmiri] Hurriyat representatives in India," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted. "Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism."
The Kashmiri leaders invited to consult with Aziz when he arrives in New Delhi were all placed under house arrest Thursday to prevent them from attending the meeting but the decision was surprisingly reversed two hours later.
Last year India cancelled foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries after a similar meeting.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.
The two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in Indian held Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
More than 70,000 Kashmiris have been killed so far in the violence, most of them by Indian forces. India maintains over half a million soldiers in Indian held Kashmir.
A part of Kashmir is also held by China.
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