SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Three key Kashmiri separatist leaders Tuesday met Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi amid strong protests from India.
The leaders include hardliner Syed Ali Geelani, moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and pro-independent Yasin Malik.
The trio reached New Delhi on the invitation of Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to held meetings with him separately.
India Monday called off foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan scheduled to be held in Islamabad on Aug. 25, citing concerns over Pakistan's engagement with Kashmiri separatists ahead of the talks, saying it undermined the constructive diplomatic engagement initiated by their Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Geelani said the decision of Pakistan to talk to separatist leaders of Kashmir ahead of talks with India vindicated that Kashmir is not alone in their struggle of right to self- determination.
"I am overwhelmed by the decision of Pakistan choosing Kashmir over India," Geelani, the chairman of hardline faction of Hurriyat (freedom) Conference said.
"This has vindicated their (Pakistan) stand on Kashmir and I am thankful to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for taking such a bold decision."
According to Geelani, Kashmir was an international issue and needs to be resolved as per United Nations resolutions.
"I told Pakistani High Commissioner that inclusion of Kashmiri leadership is must in talks between India and Pakistan," he said. "I stressed on implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir and was assured that Pakistan will support all the peaceful means for the resolution of Kashmir."
Geelani expressed disappointment to Pakistan High Commissioner over Indian government's decision to call off foreign secretary- level talks.
The chairman of moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said his meeting with Basit was fruitful.
"The Pakistan High Commissioner assured Pakistan will always remain on the side of Kashmir and continue their support for the cause of Kashmir," Mirwaiz said.
Mirwaiz said India should revisit its decision of calling off the secretary-level talks with Pakistan.
The chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Yasin Malik who met Pakistan High Commissioner Tuesday evening said he urged Pakistan for tri-partite talks for the resolution of Kashmir.
Malik said India by calling off the foreign secretary-level talks over the separatist meeting with Pakistan has defied its 24 years of precedence.
"In the last 24 years Indian government has never resisted such talks and by calling off the meeting, the Indian government has discarded its own leadership," Malik said. "It has been the tradition that whenever a Pakistani delegation visits India, they first held meeting with separatist leadership of Kashmir."
Pakistan High Commissioner's invitations to separatist leaders for meetings evoked sharp reaction from opposition Congress party, who criticized the ruling BJP of not having clear stand on Pakistan.
Reports said protest demonstrations were staged by several groups outside Pakistan High Commissioner's office opposing its meeting with Kashmiri separatists.
Pakistan Monday said the Indian decision to scrap talks was a setback to the efforts by their leadership to promote good neighborly relations with India.
Congress party Tuesday slammed Pakistan High Commissioner for his meeting with Hurriyat leaders and demanded Pakistani envoy be send back.
"Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit must be sent back," Congress party spokesperson Anand Sharma told media.
The United States has said it was "unfortunate" that the Indo- Pak foreign secretary-level talks have fallen through and asked both countries to take steps to improve bilateral ties.
A separatist movement challenging New Delhi's rule is going on in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989. Militant groups are also engaged in a guerrilla war with Indian troops across the restive region. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of sending armed militants to Indian-controlled Kashmir. However, Islamabad says it only provides moral and political support to Kashmiris.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.