Pakistan on Wednesday brushed aside India's unhappiness over Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz's meetings with Kashmiri separatists in New Delhi, saying such meets were "customary" and the Kashmir issue remains the "core dispute" between the two countries.
"It is customary that when our foreign minister or foreign secretary go to India for official commitments, they do consult Kashmiri leaders," Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said.
"We believe the Kashmir issue is the core dispute between the two countries that needs to be resolved. We further believe the Kashmiri leadership ought to be associated with the dialogue process between India and Pakistan," he said during a weekly news briefing.
Describing Aziz's meetings with the separatists as an "important activity", he said: "This is not the first time that this has happened. This has been happening for as long as I remember."
Pakistan has always extended moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris for their "struggle" and this backing will continue, he said.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said India’s "sentiments and sensitivities" have to be respected for a meaningful dialogue while expressing unhappiness at Aziz's meetings with Kashmiri separatist leaders.
Replying to a question, Chaudhry said alleged "repression" and "human right violations" in Jammu and Kashmir are a matter of concern.
"The solution lies in finding a durable solution of the Kashmir issue by engaging in a meaningful dialogue between Pakistan and India," he said.
Asked about Aziz’s other engagements in India, Chaudhry said he had met Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"The meetings were held in a constructive and cordial atmosphere. All substantive issues were discussed. Pakistan believes the dialogue process is the most effective way to resolve outstanding issues and improve relations," he said.
Violations of the ceasefire on the Line of Control were also discussed. Pakistan believes the ceasefire agreement of 2003 should be respected, he said.
Aziz paid a courtesy call on Dr Singh and conveyed to him the greetings of the Pakistani premier and reaffirmed Pakistan's desire to have good neighbourly relations with India. "The need to address all outstanding issues through the dialogue process was also affirmed," Chaudhry said.
Asked why the directors general of military operations had not met despite a decision made in this regard by the two premiers in September, Chaudhry said the two military officers had been in contact on October 25 and 29 and they concurred on normalising the situation along the LoC and the international border.
"Pakistan remains committed to implementing the decision of the two Prime Ministers that the DGMOs should meet to address the issue of ceasefire violations on the LoC," he said.
Replying to a question about Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah reportedly operating from Afghanistan, he said, "As for reports about the presence of Pakistani militants in Afghanistan, we have said many times that
Afghanistan’s territory should not be used against Pakistan.
"In this regard, our concerns are well known to the Afghan government. We are confident that the Afghan side would take steps that would foster positive momentum in bilateral relations."
Sharif’s visit to Kabul is on the cards and the dates and agenda are being worked out, he said.