Pakistan's High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, on Wednesday defended his meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, on Tuesday, maintaining that it was a long standing practice and had been going on for years.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club here, Basit said the meeting with the separatist leaders, which created a political flutter across India, was to find a viable solution to the Kashmir issue. He said, "It was in the larger context of exploring peaceful means towards resolving the issue. This has been a long standing practice, I have nothing more to add to this," Basit said, adding, "Kashmiris are legitimate stakeholders in finding a peaceful solution to the issue. We had been meeting Kashmiri leaders for past twenty years. The objective of this interaction is to engage all stakeholders in order to find a viable, peaceful solution to the problem". He also stressed on the need to look at the Kashmir issue "dispassionately and in a more realistic manner".
Terming the cancellation of the August 25 foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan as a setback, Basit asserted, "It's a setback that the Indian foreign secretary will not visit Pakistan and that meeting has been cancelled, but diplomacy is the art of possible, and we will persevere in finding peaceful solutions to our problems." He also explained that Pakistan attaches immense importance to having a "peaceful and normal relation with India and they would continue working towards that objective."
"It's a complex relation, but the time has come to move forward now. In Pakistan, there is a national consensus to promote normal relations with India, and for that to happen, it is important that we engage in a comprehensive and meaningful dialogue process," said Basit.
Appreciating PM Modi's words on Indian Independence Day that SAARC nations need to work together to fight issues like poverty, the high commissioner said, "If Pakistan and India work together, and if SAARC is vitalised, then I can assure you that sky is the limit."