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Pakistan defends talks with Kashmiri Separatists

Pakistan defends talks with Kashmiri Separatists
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Pakistan\'s envoy to India Abdul Basit defended his recent talks with Kashmiri separatists on Wednesday, saying that including them in the dialogue is the only way to find a lasting peace between the South Asian rivals.

New Delhi: Pakistan's envoy to India Abdul Basit defended his recent talks with Kashmiri separatists on Wednesday, saying that including them in the dialogue is the only way to find a lasting peace between the South Asian rivals.

Abdul Basit PHOTO

Abdul Basit spoke to reporters in New Delhi two days after India called off diplomatic talks with Pakistan because Basit met with separatist leaders in the violence-wracked region.

India said the meeting undermined efforts to thaw relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors. But India has tolerated such meetings in the past, which suggests the country's new government is taking a harder line against Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir. Both countries control parts of the Himalayan region and claim it in its entirety. That dispute is at the heart of the lingering animosity between the rivals.

Basit said that Pakistan's diplomats in India have been meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders for decades because the people of Kashmir are at the heart of any lasting peace between the two countries.

"The objective of interacting with Kashmiri leaders is precisely to talk to all the stakeholders to find a viable, peaceful solution to the problem," Basit said. India and Pakistan agreed to resume talks in May when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the inauguration of his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.

The two countries' foreign secretaries had been scheduled to meet next week in Islamabad to discuss the resumption of a formal dialogue, but India called off the talks on Monday.

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