May 2000 News

No meaningful dialogue without Pakistan: Hurriyat

2 May 2000
Asian Age
Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar: The Centre’s enthusiasm to hold peace talks with the Hurriyat Conference is unlikely to prevail. Some of the leaders do not see much in the offer of “triangular” instead of trilateral or tripartite talks by the Vajpayee government and have declared that without Islamabad’s involvement no meaningful dialogue is possible. On the other hand, although the ruling National Conference is not against New Delhi’s proximity with the Hurriyat Conference leadership, it is reluctant to be a part of any process that would undermine its role in the Kashmir politics. The idea of involving political stalwarts like former chief minister Syed Mir Qasim in the proposed talks has found many takers here as the urge for reconciliation is gathering momentum with each passing day. The Hurriyat Conference’s official line is the Centre must make a formal offer of talks, in writing, and all its leaders must be freed from jail to discuss the offer threadbare. However, two senior amalgam leaders, Maulvi Omar Farooq and Prof. Abdul Gani, are camping in New Delhi for the past couple of days to find out what the Centre is willing to offer. The release from prison of their colleagues, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Sheikh Abdul Aziz, will only facilitate their plan, they feel. Maulvi Abbas Ansari, a Hurriyat Conference executive member, thinks that a stage has come wherein he and his colleagues can workout modalities for holding a dialogue with the Centre. “First and foremost thing is — let the government of India make a written offer of talks to us which, when it comes, would be discussed by our central executive and then the general council before a final decision is taken,” he told The Asian Age on Tuesday. He ruled out the possibility of a bilateral dialogue with the Centre, asserting that similar experiments in the past failed to bear any fruit. “Pakistan’s involvement is a must. Without them being there across the table it would be another futile exercise,” he said. Reacting to reports that Malik was unwilling to be part of the proposed talks with the Centre, Maulvi Abbas said that this “rumour” was actually a deliberate attempt to try and “bifurcate” the Hurriyat Conference. He, however, indicated that the idea of holding bilateral talks with the Centre might not be acceptable to the people that the amalgam was representing and any such collective or individual move would only have repercussions back home. In other words, he himself would not be a party to any such move. The Hurriyat Conference is not averse to holding talks but has repeatedly said that these should be held between India, Pakistan and the “true representatives” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister’s national security adviser Brajesh Mishra reportedly met some of the Hurriyat Conference leaders in Delhi recently to express the Centre’s willingness to hold “triangular” talks to restore peace in the state. Mr Mishra explained to them that for obvious reasons it might not be possible for the Vajpayee government to involve Pakistan in talks at this stage. At best, it could well have bilateral negotiations with the Kashmiri leadership and simultaneously reopen diplomatic channels for holding a dialogue with Pakistan. The Hurriyat Conference leadership, especially present chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is in favour of breaking the stalemate as early as possible as unabated violence has only brought misery to the Kashmiri population. The Centre, it seems, does not want to lose any more time but act well before the Kashmiri leadership becomes completely extraneous with more and more Islamic militants arriving from across the border to fight jehad against India. The Centre is apparently also keen to ward off the pressure being build up on it from outside to play its part in bringing about peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad is not opposed to holding talks on Kashmir as the international pressure on it to stop helping the militants is growing by the day. However, it will not and cannot reconcile to a bilateral move that New Delhi is keen to initiate in Kashmir, excluding it from the ambit of talks at this stage. The statements being issued by hardcore militant outfits from Lashkar-e-Tayyaba to Al-Omar Mujahi-deen, necessarily pro-Pakistan, against talks between New Delhi and the Hurriyat can be seen as the reflection of the mindset. Islamabad’s case would be made stronger if Malik’s JKLF also opts out. Despite the Hurriyat Conference’s zeal to put an end to violence in the state, its leaders cannot overlook the ground realities. The task of selling the idea of talks is not an easy one under the given circumstances. The extra-judicial murders of active hardcore militants or those who pretended were living a peaceful life after spending years in prisons and other alleged excesses being perpetuated by the security forces in their fight against insurgency are only making it more arduous for anyone to contribute to the much-talked about peace process. Mr Qasim told defence minister George Fernandes, who met him here last week, that he was more than willing to help out but “whatever you do, you must do with all sincerity behind it.” The ruling National Conference has is jittery about the Centre’s growing intimacy with the Hurriyat Conference as it is the only political party which has suffered the most for its pro-India leanings during the decade-old militancy. “We firmly believe that violence is no answer to problems. It is understanding that helps in solving complicated issues like the one we are faced with,” said Sheikh Nazir Ahmed, party general secretary. He said that the Centre has held talks with Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership from time to time and recently even discussed the issue with US President Bill Clinton and, “therefore, there was no harm in doing it now with the Hurriyat Conference leadership.”


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