September 1999 News


Hurriyat is open to talks with Delhi, attacks Pak

28 September 1999
The Asian Age
By Seema Mustafa

NEW DELHI: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, is now open for a dialogue with Delhi so long as it is without any conditions.

"All we are saying is let us take the initial step to resolve Kashmir politically, we need phased confidence building measures and this will be possible only if we are involved in the dialogue," he said.

Speaking to the The Asian Age, the Mirwaiz said that the Hurriyat was not adverse to a "bilateral dialogue" with Delhi. He regretted that Pakistan had not tried to involve the people of Kashmir in its talks with India. He refused to be pinned down about the Hurriyat stand on a possible solution, stating merely, "We see ourselves as an unresolved issue."

Asked repeatedly whether the Hurriyat wanted complete autonomy for Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, or was in favour of joining Pakistan, he said, "Any solution is for all of Kashmir. We have to take the initial step to begin the dialogue, a solution will come from the process."

The Mirwaiz made it clear that PoK, which he referred to as "Azad Kashmir", would be very much part of any solution. He said that the Hurriyat position had been made very clear to the Union government in 1996. "We had offered to talk to the militants for a cease-fire to facilitate a political solution to the problem," he said. He again refused to specify what kind of solution would be acceptable to the Hurriyat, adding that he had met "someone from Minnesota who had offered 36 solutions of Kashmir."

He, however, rejected the proposal of converting the Line of Control into an international border, stating, "This will retain the status quo, of what use will it be to us Kashmiris?" Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has been campaigning extensively throughout the state for this particular option.

While critical of Pakistan, Mr. Mirwaiz Farooq was fairly positive about the US role in the region. He kept drawing parallels between East Timor and Kashmir even when it was pointed out that the US administration had rejected the comparison completely. He was also very optimistic that the US would post a special envoy on Kashmir "very soon." He dismissed reports that this too had been rejected by the White House, saying, "123 Congressmen are now together demanding this, we think matters are moving in that direction and a special envoy will be posted here very soon."

The Hurriyat leader said polling in the Kashmir Valley had been not more than 12 per cent and the official figures were grossly exaggerated. He said that the message from the elecitons was "loud and clear India should re-think its strategy towards Kashmir and replace the totally military approach with a political solution."

"Autonomy, self-determination independence are all issues," he added, "that can be negotiated and talked about."

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