Talk to Hurriyat, says Mufti as NC braces for autonomy discussion
14 July 2000
The Indian Express
New Delhi: As the Vajpayee government and National Conference prepare for a dialogue on the contentious issue of autonomy, veteran Kashmiri politician Mufti Mohammed Sayeed today asked the Prime Minister to ''give equal weightage'' to dialogue with the Kashmiri separatist conglomerate - the All parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). In a long meeting with the Prime Minister this evening, Mufti is believed to have urged the PM not to forego the option of talking to the Hurriyat by initiating a dialogue with the National Conference. Mufti parried questions about his meeting with Vajpayee, apparently not wanting to be accused of ''throwing a spanner in the NC-Centre talks on autonomy''. He is reported to have conveyed to the Prime Minister that ''too much attention on Farooq Abdullah on autonomy was forcing the APHC leaders to harden their stance and it could even lead to impasse in the talks with the separatists, which had barely started''. The veteran Kashmiri leader who has since floated his own regional party had charged Farooq Abdullah government with raking up the autonomy issue as a diversion to its '' misrule and rampant corruption in the government''. Mufti had always been advocating the Centre-Hurriyat talks as the only viable resolution of Kashmir imbroglio. Meanwhile, Farooq Abdullah today announced he would lead a delegation from Srinagar for the proposed talks with New Delhi on Monday. Abdullah, who was here for few hours to receive the Dr. B C Roy award for distinguished services in medical sector, said: ''I am hopeful (about the autonomy talks)''. Although Abdullah parried questions on continuation of the National Conference as a constituent of the NDA, it appears the alliance would stay on. Abdullah said his party''s working committee would decide the issue while Defence Minister George Fernandes intervened: ''NC is a valuable partner of the NDA and in Omer Abdullah I have found a very bright and competent colleague''.