July 2000 News

Farooq confers with PM

29 July 2000
The Hindu

New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, today called on the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and presumably learnt for himself the kind of dialogue that was proposed to be undertaken with the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the militant outfit that had only a few days ago announced a three-month unilateral ceasefire. Dr. Abdullah, who had been kept informed by the Vajpayee Government all along about the various steps towards a dialogue and peace, informed the Prime Minister about the discussion he had with various Chief Ministers on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly''s ''autonomy'' resolution. On Friday evening, the Union Government had invited the Hizbul Mujahideen to surface and get in touch with the Home Secretary. The Government formulation took care to avoid any mention of talks being held within the framework of the Indian Constitution. The expectation, here and in Srinagar, is that a formal contact could come about soon and that the Home Secretary, Mr. Kamal Pande, could be traveling to Srinagar next week. The Army in Sringar had also formulated its initial response to the Hizbul Mujahideen offer. The para-military forces would be reciprocating the HM''s response, without diluting vigilance on the border against infiltration or exfiltration. It has been noted here that the All Party Hurriyat Conference leadership expectedly chose to emphasize the deliberate vagueness in the Union Government''s offer of talks with the HM leadership. The APHC is now prepared to welcome the possibility of talks between the Centre and the militant outfit(s), without any pre- conditions. The Centre''s willingness to enter into a dialogue with any militant group was also indicated by the Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani, in Chennai today. But, curiously enough, the BJP leadership from Jammu and Kashmir was raising a din about the ''autonomy''. The Union minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr. Chiman Lal Gupta, in fact led a delegation of BJP MLAs from Jammu and Kashmir to the Prime Minister. ''There are no talks being held with the State Chief Minister on the autonomy issue and the Union Cabinet stands by its July 4 decision of rejecting the proposal outright,'' Mr. Gupta said after his meeting with the Prime Minister. In fact, the Minister claimed that Mr. Vajpayee had assured him that ''no talks would be held on autonomy''. Mr. Gupta, who represents the Jammu region sentiments, also advised ''caution'' in dealing with the Hizbul Mujahideen. Mr. Gupta was not alone in striking a discordant note. The party president, Mr. Kushbhau Thakre, was quoted as dismissing the notion of ''autonomy'' unacceptable and that the people would never agree to any ''secessionism''.


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