Sound bytes: ‘It is our right to meet Kashmiri leaders’

Published October 2, 2014
Aziz Ahmed Khan.—Photo by Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
Aziz Ahmed Khan.—Photo by Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, said in an interview with an Indian television channel that the meeting of Pakistan’s high commissioner with the Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi ahead of India-Pakistan secretary-level talks last month was ‘ill-timed’.

Dawn spoke to Aziz Ahmed Khan, former high commissioner to India from 2003-2007, about the modalities of meeting Kashmiri leaders.

Q.Is there a modus operandi for meeting Hurriyat or other Kashmiri leaders?

A. There is no such convention. We frequently and regularly meet Kashmiri leaders. It is no big deal. When I was the high commissioner to India I used to meet Hurriyat leaders. Most probably the [the current] high commissioner felt he needed a fresh viewpoint and wanted to know what the conditions are. From what I read in the papers, apparently the Indian foreign secretary told the high commissioner just 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled meeting with the Kashmiri leaders to cancel it. But by then it was too late. The mission was already there. It is unfortunate that this happened but the Indians should have kept quiet about it rather than work themselves in a huff.

Q. Do you require prior permission from the Indian government when you meet Kashmiri leaders?

A. No such requirement is needed. As the high commissioner you meet everyone including opposition leaders, parliamentarians and the media. In fact, you should meet everyone to get everyone’s opinion. When the foreign minister and the prime minister [Shaukat Aziz on Nov 23, 2004] came to India we arranged a meeting with the Kashmiri leaders. Kashmir is a disputed land and we want a resolution that is acceptable to all Kashmiris.

Q. Did you think that the meeting was ill-timed?

A. I really cannot comment on that, because I am unaware of the context under which the meeting was held. I don’t know how long ago the meeting between the high commissioner and the Kashmiri leaders was planned or what was the duration of the meeting. I have read about it only in the newspapers in which Mr Sartaj Aziz spoke about this issue to an Indian TV network. I think most probably Mr Sartaj Aziz was quoted out of context.

Q. Do Indian high commissioners, to your knowledge, meet separatists i.e. Baloch leaders in Pakistan?

A. Kashmir is a disputed territory and Balochistan is not a disputed territory. It is our right to meet Kashmiri leaders.

Q. Is there a way forward?

A. The fact that during the floods in Kashmir, the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a message of sympathy and offered aid to us means that they want to put the incident behind them.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2014

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