Srinagar/New Delhi: An invitation by Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to all the Kashmiri separatist leaders "for consultations" in Delhi ahead of Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary level talks touched off a controversy on Sunday with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) calling it "most unfortunate" and "old tactics".
Congress said it is indeed a "strange and an ironical" situation that the Pakistani High Commissioner is "feting" the Kashmiri separatists. The consultations will take place in Delhi on Tuesday for which invitations have gone out to Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief of its hardline faction Syed Ali Shah Geelani and senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, who floated the third faction of the amalgam last year.
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik has also been invited for the parleys.
Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan are due to meet in Islamabad on August 25.
"Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been invited by the Pakistan High Commission for consultations in Delhi on August 19," a spokesman of the moderate faction of the separatist amalgam said.
A spokesman of the hardline faction said Geelani will leave for Delhi on Tuesday for the meeting to be held that afternoon. "The chairman (Malik) got a call from the Pakistan High Commission this afternoon inviting him for talks," a JKLF spokesman said.
BJP spokesperson M J Akbar said the "gesture" of the Pakistani High Commissioner is back to the "old tactics" of finding things to disagree about rather than picking up the message so powerfully enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many times before that the common purpose of the two governments should be the elimination of poverty.
"It is most unfortunate that Pakistan chooses to dwell on creating impossible conditions when so much more beneficial things can happen between the neighbours if they concentrate on the possible," he said. Union Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh said that in case Pakistan sends out a signal that they are directly or indirectly trying to encourage separatism on Indian soil it is going to ultimately not only be affecting India adveresely but also going to boomerang on Pakistan.
"The onus lies on Pakistan and the powers that be in Islamabad to decide and determine what is best in their interests," Singh, an MP from Jammu said.
Singh said there is no change in NDA government's policy on Pakistan and that it will be wrong to conclude that anybody else can actually set an agenda for the Indian side to negotiate with the neighbouring country.
In a tweet, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said," Pak High Comm feting separatists, Pak Army intruding across the border, ISI attacking Indian Consulate in Herat BJP govt sleeps Ache Din Agaye".
Tewari told reporters that it is indeed a "strange and an ironical" situation that the Pakistani High Commissioner is "feting" the Kashmiri separatists.
"You not only have terror being perpetrated against Indian diplomatic missions but more importantly Indian sovereignty being violated and to top it all, you have Kashmiri separatists being hosted," he added.
Tewari also raised a question as to whether the NDA government is under any kind of international pressure to hold talks with Pakistan.
Eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani, who met Shah in Srinagar on Saturday, said the High Commissioner's invitation to the separatists was a "very good move" and he was "very optimistic" that something good will come out of it. Jethmalani said on Saturday that Kashmir Committee is still "alive" and doing its job, but sometimes had to work out of public eye.
The Committee was constituted in 2002 to reach out to separatists in Kashmir and Jethmalani earlier headed it. Pakistan envoys have in the past too talked to separatists from Kashmir before any major diplomatic initiative with India.