July 2000 News

Farooq meets Advani for breakfast, reminds him to count NC in IE Kashmir peace process

30 July 2000
The Indian Express

New Delhi: A ''breakfast meeting'' with L.K. Advani at his Pandara Road residence this morning was the Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah''s way of saying he wished to be counted in the scheduled peace negotiations with Hizbul Mujahiddin and Hurriyat Conference. The meeting lasted about 40-minutes, after which Farooq flew back to Srinagar - apparently satisfied by his encounter with the Union Home Minister. The one-to-one session also assumed significance for another reason: tomorrow Advani is likely to make a detailed reply in the Lok Sabha on the ongoing debate on the Kashmir autonomy issue. Farooq, it is reliably learnt, has pressed Advani for involving all political parties for initiating a ''bigger discussion'' on autonomy. Advani, on the other hand, is widely expected to make the Government''s stand clear on the contentious matter and also spell out how it intends to interact with Hizbul Mujahideen. Events unfolding here, however, suggest that the Government - both at the PMO and Home Ministry level - have began the necessary groundwork for initiating a dialogue with Hizbul Mujahideen. But in the emerging scenario, Farooq''s National Conference may not have much role to play in the days to come. Though the awaited word from Hizbul is yet to come, the Union Home Secretary Kamal Pandey has already held a detailed meeting with other senior officials in the North Block. Files are moving thick and fast, not only within North Block but also between the Home Ministry and the PMO. Farooq''s efforts to garner support of other states for his autonomy cause may have been sidetracked in the light of Hizbul''s ceasefire, but he appeared unruffled. Home Ministry watchers took an anticipatory stand: The issue of autonomy, hot till a few days ago, has now been put on a backburner for all practical purposes. But for Farooq, pointed out sources in the Home Ministry, playing out autonomy card to the hilt - he has scoured several states for the cause - has turned out to be the only means to thwart New Delhi''s tilt towards Hurriyat Conference. They recall how, soon after the central Government released the Hurriyat leaders to pave way for talks with the organisations, Farooq came out with the autonomy bombshell. The move, it is held, was aimed primarily to whittle down the clout of Hurriyat and prevent it from posing a real political challenge to the National Conference in J&K.


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