Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, June 21:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said Pakistan violated an understanding with India by allowing Hurriyat leaders to travel beyond Pakistani Kashmir, but reiterated his government’s desire to take the composite dialogue forward. Replying to a letter from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh denied his government had mishandled the visit to Pakistan this month by leaders of the separatist All Party Hurriyat Conference. “That Pakistan decided to invite them to visit Islamabad and other cities in Pakistan violated an understanding on these procedures that had been reached between India and Pakistan,” Manmohan Singh said. He also noted: “It is our endeavour to take the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan forward while ensuring that India’s vital interests are fully safeguarded.” Vajpayee had, in a letter to the prime minister dated June 15, pointed out that the peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad had taken some “disturbing turns” and it had become “Kashmir-centric” — as Pakistan wanted. Pointing out that the Hurriyat leaders had regularly met Pakistani dignitaries visiting India as well as its diplomats in the past four to five years, Manmohan Singh said his government felt their visit to Pakistan could not do any harm.

“I may also add that their visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir using the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus was cleared on the basis of agreed procedures,” Manmohan Singh said in his letter written yesterday. Singh denied Indian authorities had mishandled the separatists’ visit to Pakistan. He reiterated New Delhi’s vital interests were fully secured in the efforts to bring peace between India and Pakistan. The prime minister said though the Hurriyat was one of the groups that was outside the free and fair electoral process in Jammu and Kashmir, the government would be ready to hold a dialogue with such groups.