New Delhi: India on Wednesday strongly hit out at Pakistan for describing Kashmiri separatists as 'stakeholders' in the resolution of Kashmir problem, saying as per Simla Agreement it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and any other approach will "not yield results".
It also criticised Pakistan for making assurances that "had no meanings", be it on not allowing the country or territories under its control to be used for anti-India terrorism or investigations and trials of Mumbai terror attacks, which were conspired, hatched and carried out by Pak-based terror outfits.
Asked about Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit's remarks justifying his meeting with Kashmiri separatists, spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin said: "After 1972 and the signing of the Simla Agreement by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, there are only two 'stakeholders' on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir – the Union of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
"This is a principle which is the bedrock of our bilateral relations. This was reaffirmed in the Lahore Declaration of 1999 between Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Vajpayee".
Earlier, Basit told foreign journalists, "We strongly believe that our interaction (with Kashmiri separatists) is helpful to the process itself. It is helpful to find peaceful solution to the problem. It is important to engage with all stakeholders. So that is the bottomline for us."
"We need to engage with all stakeholders. It is not a question of either, or as far as we are concerned. We are engaging with India to find peaceful ways," Basit said while reacting to India's stand that Pakistan should either choose dialogue with separatists or Indian government.
India had called off the talks between Foreign Secretaries slated for August 25, telling Pakistan bluntly to choose between an Indo-Pak dialogue or hobnobbing with the separatists.
Asked why did India permit meetings between Pakistan and the Hurriyat in the past, the MEA spokesperson said: "Pakistan assured us, at the highest level, that they were committed to a peaceful dialogue on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and would not allow Pakistan or territories under its control to be used for terrorism against us."
"We know now, particularly after the Mumbai terror attacks and the manner in which Pakistan has pursued subsequent investigations and trials, that this assurance had no meaning and that an approach that is different to the one laid down by the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration does not yield results".
The Pakistan High Commissioner also said his country "attaches enormous importance" to its ties with India and that there was no need to be "pessimistic" about cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks.
The Pakistan envoy said calling off the August 25 talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries by India was a "setback" but noted that it should not discourage the two neighbours from resolving the Kashmir issue.
Asserting that he has not breached any protocol by holding talks with Kashmiri separatists, Basit said, "This has been a long-standing practice. We have been meeting the Kashmiri leaders...It is important to engage with all the stakeholders to find a peaceful solution to the issue."
Asserting that "Dialogue is not a favour by Pakistan to India or vice versa", Basit said Pakistan remains committed to promoting peaceful, result-oriented and meaningful dialogue process.
Noting that Kashmir was a "bilateral dispute", he said there was no need to be "pessimistic" about cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks and that both the countries should move forward.
"So the setback should not disappoint us, discourage us to finding ways and means as to how to take the process forward in line with our leadership's visions on both sides of the border. So, we will try our maximum to see as to how this process can be taken forward," Basit said.
He said Pakistan understands that it was a "complex situation" but added it was positive and will not allow distractions to come in the way of finding solutions to the problems.
Basit said the Kashmir issue should be looked at "dispassionately" and asserted that the aim of his meetings with the Kashmiri separatists was to find a viable solution to the issue. He said Indian diplomats in Islamabad also meet people from all hues.
But the Pakistan envoy parried a question on whether his government will allow Indian diplomats to meet local leaders from Baloch region.
On cooperation among SAARC-member countries, Basit said: "Sky is the limit if SAARC is vitalised".
Asked whether there was possibility of any meeting between Modi and Sharif in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next month, he said it would be wrong to speculate as nothing has been finalised.
On the ceasefire violations along the LoC, Basit said as per Pakistani side, there have been 57 alleged border violations by the Indian troops since July last year for which Pakistan had served demarche.
Meanwhile, separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah said Kashmir issue was a "trilateral" one and there was nothing wrong in separatists meeting with Pakistan High Commissioner.
"Kashmir is not a bilateral issue, but a trilateral one," the Democratic Freedom Party chairman told reporters.
The cancellation of Foreign Secretary-level talks was "undemocratic and unjustified", Shah said.