Delhi, Islamabad trade Mood-easing gestures

Pak delays iftaar with Hurriyat, India returns strayed youth

SRINAGAR: Even as skepticism hovers over the globally watched meeting between Indian and Pakistani premiers on Friday, both countries seemed willing to ensure the meeting takes place in a “conducive” atmosphere. Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi Abdul Basit’s decision to delay his already scheduled Iftaar meet, a ritual for past many years, is seen as a step in this direction.

According to separatist sources, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit had sent invitations to all Kashmiri separatist leaders for Iftar dinner at Pakistan embassy for July 4.

The invites included Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Miwaiz Umar Farooq, Mohammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmad Shah.

The dinner is being held every year for the separatist leaders. However, later the High Commission conveyed to separatist that the Iftar has postponed.

“No fresh date for next invitation has been announced and it seems next date would be after Modi-Nawaz meeting,” said a top separatist leader.

“I think Pakistan didn’t want to have huge media focus on Iftar at a time when Prime Ministers of two countries are meeting and that is why they have postponed it,” said a lower rung separatist leader pleading anonymity.

In August 2014, India cancelled talks with Pakistan after Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Delhi consulted Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of secretary level talks.

The foreign secretaries of two countries were to meet in Islamabad in May, 2014 to discuss the resumption of formal dialogue. Pakistan had described invitation to separatists longstanding practice saying prior to Pakistan-India talks, meetings with Kashmiri leaders is held to facilitate meaningful discussions on the issue of Kashmir.

Days ahead of Ufa meet, the Pakistan-based militant amalgam of Kashmiris offered talks with New Delhi, though it attached a rider that India should first admit Kashmir as a disputed territory. “I think that offer had something to do with the Ufa preparations,” said an analyst while recalling how Indian authorities politely returned a young person from Pakistani administered Kashmir to Pakistani authorities after he had strayed into Indian territory.

Meanwhile India has not rebutted the Pakistani claim that the request for a meeting was put up by the Indian side. Analysts here observe all these pointers as suggesting that both sides are willing for a “working relationship” in order play their respective military and economic roles in Asia.

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