General VK Singh Attends Pakistan Day Dinner, Kashmiri Separatists Invited Too

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Former army chief and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs VK Singh at Pakistan High Commission


New Delhi: 

Pakistan's envoy Abdul Basit stated this morning that he does not think that India will object to his dinner invitation tonight for Kashmiri separatists to join him in celebrating Pakistan's Republic Day. That observation landed with a bit of a clang.

"The Government of India prefers to speak for itself," rebuked Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. "There should be no scope for misunderstanding or misrepresenting India's position on the role of the so-called Hurriyat... there are only two parties and there is no place for a third party in resolution of India-Pakistan issues."

That bout of tension aside, General (retd) VK Singh, the former army chief and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, attended the Pakistani envoy's dinner. "Meeting between separatists and the Pakistani High Commissioner had started during Vajpayee ji's time, and it continued during our times," said the Congress' Mani Shankar Aiyar, who attended the event.  "I don't think it has harmed us in any way or has assisted Pakistan in any way."

"I don't think the Indian government has any objections (to the invite)," said the Pakistani envoy this morning. That assumption placed the government in a tricky spot, said sources. But a short while later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that he had wished his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for Pakistan Day. (Read: On Pakistan's National Day, PM Modi's Greetings to Nawaz Sharif, and a Message)

Mr Basit's dinner is being attended by Mirwaiz Uaar Farooq, the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, along with six other separatist leaders. The invitation to Kashmiri separatists for Pakistan Day commemorations is standard practice. But last year, India called off scheduled talks in Pakistan after Mr Basit insisted on consulting separatist leaders before the dialogue.

Today's invitation extended to Masarat Alam, allegedly the main organiser of the massive protests in 2010 that saw Kashmiris clashing for months with soldiers and police officers. Mr Alam, who was released from jail earlier this month, said he was not well enough to travel to Delhi for the dinner.



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