The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kasuri meet sparks debate
- Islamabad invite to Valley leaders raises security concerns

New Delhi, Aug. 31: Islamabadís invitation to four prominent Kashmiri leaders to meet the Pakistan foreign minister on his Delhi visit later this week has sparked a fresh debate in the government on allowing the proposed meeting.

The Indian security establishment has objected to letting Pakistan have unfettered access to the Kashmiri leaders when Islamabad was pushing moderates from the Valley to back hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. They fear that Khursheed Mehmood Kasuriís meeting with moderates at this stage could push them into hardening their stance vis-a-vis the invitation to the third round of talks with the Centre.

But the foreign ministry, which has a major say in the matter, has argued that blocking the proposed meeting would provide Pakistan, and perhaps the Hurriyat Conference, a handle against India.

Besides Geelani, the Pakistan high commission has invited Hurriyat founder chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Frontís Yasin Malik, and J&K Democratic Freedom Partyís Shabir Shah.

Pakistanís Riaz Khokar had met the separatist leaders when he was here for the foreign secretary-level talks, ostensibly to keep them posted on developments in India-Pakistan ties. He was reported to have told the Mirwaiz to stay away from the proposed talks with Delhi. The home ministry claims that inputs indicate that the Khokar meeting was an important reason why the moderate Hurriyat had not responded to Delhiís invitation.

Security circles are reported to be unanimous on blocking the meeting but the foreign ministry has argued that such meetings would strengthen the view that India is a confident democracy. ďWe may not like it, but we can live with it,Ē a South Block official said.

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