Farooq for Talks with Pakistan To Settle Kashmir Issue
28 February 2000
Times of India
Jammu: Chief minister Farooq Abdullah said here on Monday that ''the time has come to settle the Kashmir issue with Pakistan''. Referring to the killing of eight Indian soldiers by the Pakistanis in the Nowshera sector of Rajouri district on Sunday, he said guns were still booming in that sector, along Uri and other area of the Line of Control. ''The situation along the entire border is serious,'' he added. While asserting that there was no alternative to making peace with Pakistan through talks, he said at the same time that Pakistan had to be warned that if it chose the path of war and escalated it to a nuclear showdown, ''it will be entirely destroyed while India will still survive''. Farooq was replying in the legislative council to the debate on the motion of thanks to the governor''s address delivered to a joint sitting of the legislature at the opening of the budget session on February 23. Farooq pointed out that in the event of a Pakistani nuclear strike, the entire state would be destroyed. ''What has been achieved in 50 years will be destroyed in two minutes?'' Quoting Prime Minister Vajpayee''s remarks during his visit to the Tangdhar area in the Kupwara-Baramullah sector last year, the CM said: ''One can change one''s friends, but not neighbours: So friendship has to be established with Pakistan.'' Citing the example of Vietnam (from where the US had to beat a retreat) and Algeria (from where the French withdrew), Farooq said: ''No war was ever won.'' He added: ''The leader (Clinton) coming here should work towards India-Pakistan peace.'' Observers saw a shift in the position of Abdullah who, after the Kargil intrusion by Pakistan, wanted Indian forces to cross the LoC and liberate Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). However, referring to the BJP''s repeated assertion that liberation of PoK was on its agenda, he asked what had prevented the Centre from taking such a step, while he had been urging since the Pakistani aggression in Kargil that India should reoccupy PoK (and end Kashmir''s travails). Reiterating his position on the National Conference demand for greater autonomy for the state, Farooq said it was intended to act as a ''balm'' for the people of the state. He said analysts were commenting that autonomy was the best viamedia. ''However, the danger from Pakistan would remain even if autonomy was granted and a settlement with that country was imperative,'' he added.