Vajpayee to appoint an official to oversee dialogue on J&K
4 April 2000
New Delhi: Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, has, without any fanfare, selected a top Government official to undertake a new, crucial job-to oversee proposed dialogue with a set of Kashmiri Opposition leaders. Mr Vajpayee has chosen to hold his cards to his chest. Hence, identity of the official is not known. Mr Vajpayee, who has, of late, started taking greater interest than before in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, is understood to have favoured holding talks with a set of Kashmiri Opposition leaders. Insiders have revealed that the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, is one among the ''very few men of consequence'' who has been taken into confidence by the Prime Minister on the unreported move aimed at opening communication channels with some Kashmiri Opposition leaders sooner than later. The release of some leaders of Kashmir’s All Party Hurriyat Conference(APHC) from the Jodhpur jail has been linked to Mr Vajpayee’s ''new'' Kashmir line. This line, insiders have also revealed, is in support of the policy of transparency in J&K and starting a ‘meaningful’ dialogue with a set of Kashmiri Opposition leaders within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Mr Vajpayee is said to have his own team of ''Kashmir experts''. Mr Vajpayee is also said to have prepared list of Kashmiri leaders and politicians with whom a dialogue process can be initiated in the near future. And the official said to have been selected by Mr Vajpayee to oversee proposed dialogue has had some quiet sessions with some Kashmiri leaders, including two prominent members of the APHC, in the past one month or so. Insiders have also revealed that Prime Minister’s personal contact with the J&K Chief Minister, which has assumed much importance after the Clinton visit to India and Pakistan, has so far led to two important developments, namely, the removal of unwillingness on part of Dr Farooq Abdullah for a dialogue with Kashmiri Opposition leaders and his ''yes'' to Mr Vajpayee’s proposal for the release of some Hurriyat leaders from Rajasthan’s Jodhpur jail. According to these insiders, Dr Farooq has also offered his ''yes'' to yet another important proposal favouring action against ''controversial and corrupt'' persons in J&K administration and public life. And action against at least two members of the Abdullah Ministry is not ruled out. Meanwhile, Prime Minister has ruled out any intervention by the Centre in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Vajpayee has conveyed to the Delhi unit of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) that the question of imposing President’s rule on J&K ''does not arise''. Mr Vajpayee’s message was in response to the demand by the Shiromani Akali Dal for the new arrangement-dismissal of the Farooq Abdullah regime and bringing Jammu and Kashmir under Central rule. Mr Vajpayee said that while further measures were being taken by the authorities to ensure safety of minorities, including Sikhs, in Kashmir, the demand for President’s rule in the State had no relevance, no justification.