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Pakistan Defends Meeting With Kashmiri Separatists

Kashmiri separatist leader and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman, Yasin Malik, center with beard, sits with party workers at the JKLF’s office in Srinagar, India, Aug. 19, 2014.

Pakistan's ambassador to India has defended his meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders, despite criticism from New Delhi which subsequently called off diplomatic talks with Islamabad.

Abdul Basit said Kashmiris are stakeholders in the diplomatic process, adding that it has been a "longstanding" practice to meet with them.

"This is going on now for years and years and years. And the objective of this interaction with Kashmiris is precisely to engage all stakeholders in order to find a viable, peaceful solution to the problem," said Basit.

India has long accused Pakistan of supporting separatist militants who slip in from Pakistani-controlled Kashmir to stage attacks.

India's foreign ministry spokesperson, Syed Akbarrudin, ruled out involving separatists leaders in any negotiation over the disputed region, citing a decades-old agreement on the issue.

"As regards [to] stakeholders, I would like to make it very clear that after the signing of the Shimla agreement by the prime minister of India and the prime minister of Pakistan there are only two stakeholders on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Those two stakeholders are the Union of India and Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This principle is the bedrock of our bilateral relations," said Akbarrudin.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence, including two over the disputed Kashmir region.

India on Monday cancelled next week's meeting in Islamabad between the foreign secretaries of both countries, who were to discuss the resumption of a formal dialogue.