World Bulletin / News Desk
Pakistan's decision to invite pro-independence leaders from Indian-held Kashmir for consultations ahead of highly-anticipated talks with India has sparked controversy on Wednesday.
Indian media have questioned the move as similar invitations previously caused India to call off peace talks but Pakistan has stood by its decision, with the national security advisers to both countries meeting in New Delhi on Sunday.
“We have sent invitations for talks over dinner to all the Kashmiri resistance leaders and we look forward to seeing them,” the spokesman to Pakistan High Commission in India, Manzoor Ali Memon, said.
Memon said Pakistan always invited Kashmiri leaders for consultations ahead of any talks with India.
"As a sovereign country, we are free to choose to talk to who we want and we will talk to the Kashmiris. And there are reports that seem to suggest that we are calling them only for dinner which is absurd. We can't call the leaders just to have dinner with them. Of course there will be talks and consultations with them," Memon said.
Several Kashmiri leaders have welcomed the talks and accepted the invitation from the Pakistani High Commission.
"We had a party meeting today and we have decided to go to the dinner. We welcome the talks and believe that dialogue is the only way toward peace," Mirwaiz Umar, head of Kashmiri pro-independence faction Hurriyat (M), said.
Umar also said that he hoped the Indian government had realized that calling off the talks last year, after a similar meeting, was a missed opportunity for normalizing relations between the two countries.
"We want to strengthen the dialogue and any discussion without Kashmir, between India and Pakistan is futile. So this is a good step in the right direction," he said.
The octogenarian resistance leader and chairman of the Hurriyat (G) faction, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, also accepted the invitation.
Geelani had turned down an earlier invite to an Eid dinner at the Pakistani High Commission after mention of the Kashmir dispute was omitted from a statement by the Pakistani and Indian premiers in Russia in July, at the meeting that led to these security talks.
"We will brief the Pakistanis of the situation in Kashmir and urge them to have a more consistent policy on Kashmir and further highlight the issue through diplomatic channels," Geelani's party stated on Wednesday. "It is a good step and we welcome it."Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Ağustos 2015, 17:13