July 2000 News

Vajpayee-Farooq dialogue on autonomy to continue

17 July 2000
Indian Express

New Delhi: Farooq Abdullah, who came to the Capital with his five senior ministers in the hope of initiating a formal dialogue with the Centre on his demand for greater political autonomy, today met the Prime Minister for just 25 minutes. Abdullah told mediapersons after the meeting: ''We have decided to initiate a dialogue without any pre-conceived notions about going back to any dates. I want to carry my state to the next century and here people are talking about the 20th century. People should not pinpoint any dates during for the dialogue,'' he said seeking to dismiss impressions that his party''s wanted to stick to return to the pre-1953 constitutional status. Abdullah hinted at the likely formation of an inter-ministerial committee of the Centre and the state to carry out talks on the autonomy. ''You will see the results in a few days and parameteres will be evolved between both the sides,'' he said in reply to a question regarding what his ministers were doing here. If Abdullah''s remarks are any indication, he seems to have reconciled to a protracted and directionless talks on autonomy after the formal rejection of his autonomy resolution by the union cabinet. Sources said this seems the most likely way out for both the state and the Centre from the heightened tensions created by the autonomy demand. Interestingly, Abdullah''s ministerial team comprises hardliners of National Conference including, Mohiudin Shah (a close relative of Abdullah), Mohommad Shafi, Abdul Rahim Rather, Pyare Lal Handoo and Bodh Raj Bali (from Jammu region). Sources said Abdullah had brought his colleagues to New delhi to convey the impression about how serious he is about the autonomy demand. ''I am returning to Srinagar tomorrow and Inshah Allah, the ministers will also leave by then,'' Abdullah told mediapersons. The Chief Minister said he wished to remove the notions held by majority of the Indians that NC was seeking secession under the garb of autonomy. ''I want to assure everyone that we want to build a strong India and a strong state.'' He also said that ''there was a need for us to talk to many political parties''. In his trademark passionate style Abdullah said: ''Please don''t weaken us in our fight against Pakistan, remember, Pakistan is not going to leave us alone. I need your help.''


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