Kashmiri Leaders Not Separatists: Pak

REGIONAL

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has rejected a recent Indian statement calling on Islamabad to make a “conscious choice” on deciding whether it wanted to negotiate with New Delhi or with separatist leaders.

Reacting to remarks by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said that Pakistan would not accept preconditions for the resumption of the stalled bilateral dialogue.

Jaitley, who is also India’s finance minister, had said that a new “red line” has to be drawn in Pakistan to reconsider who they want to speak to. “Do they want to speak to the Government of India or do they want to speak to those who want to break India? Unless Pakistan makes a conscious choice, a dialogue with Pakistan will not be possible.”

Reiterating the internationally recognised status of Kashmir as a disputed territory, the foreign office spokesperson emphasised that Kashmiri leaders are not separatists, but instead representatives of an occupied people who were fighting for their right to self-determination.

“We do not accept any conditionality. Kashmiris are not Indian separatists. They are people in occupied territory struggling for their right to self-determination that has been recognised by United Nations resolutions. Pakistan is a party to the dispute. So this contention is not acceptable,” she contended.

Aslam added, “As we have been stating, the dialogue between Pakistan and India is not a favour that one country does to the other. Dialogue between Pakistan and India is a necessity for peace in this region so that South Asia focuses on economic development and welfare of its people.”

India had called off foreign secretary level talks in August citing the Pakistani High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri leaders as reason for the cancellation.

Since then, relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours hit a new low as a result of ongoing tensions along the Line of Control and Working Boundary.

At least 21 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the cross fire since the skirmishes started in early October.

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