August 2000 News

Hizbul insistence on Pakistan involvement impeding talks

7 August 2000
The Hindu
Atul Aneja

New Delhi: The Hizbul Mujahideen''s insistence on involving Pakistan was obstructing its on-going dialogue with the Indian authorities, highly-placed sources in the Government said. According to the sources, Hizbul negotiators in Srinagar are insisting on Pakistan''s involvement in the dialogue, despite India rejecting early talks with Islamabad at the highest level. New Delhi is fully conscious of not engaging Pakistan via the Hizbul. The official position that talks with Pakistan could begin only if Islamabad stopped supporting insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir remained unchanged, the sources said. Analysts here cite two key reasons behind the Hizbul''s insistence on involving Pakistan. First, the Hizbul leaders are aware that unless Pakistan is on board, its (Pakistan''s) capacity to sabotage the incipient peace process in Kashmir cannot be underestimated. Pakistan, it is felt, has the capacity to play the ''spoilers'' role, by unleashing its loyal foreign-dominated jehadi forces, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e- Mohammad in Kashmir, unless allowed to participate in the talks. Besides, the Hizbul is vulnerable to Pakistani pressure. Several of its cadre and families reside in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), giving Islamabad a vital leverage over the organisation. Pakistan runs two Hizbul training camps in Jhal and Dhani there. Though official opinion here is divided, a large section in the Government, as of now, believes that the Hizbul Mujahideen is serious about the negotiations. In fact, the security agencies are in possession of a radio intercept in which the Hizbul number two man, Mr. Majid Dar, reportedly defied a directive from the Pakistani authorities not to engage India in talks before the ceasefire offer was made. The talks in Srinagar this morning were further impeded because the Hizbul Mujahideen''s district commanders failed to show up. They were to discuss the modalities for enforcing the ceasefire at the local level with the Army. Sources said a decision for direct talks between the Hizbul and the armed forces on enforcing the ground rules for a ceasefire had been taken earlier. While the Hizbul has apparently attributed its decision to defer the talks with the Army to attacks on some its cadre during the week, the actual reason for stalling the dialogue may lie elsewhere. According to an assessment, the Hizbul wants to intensify the pressure on Indian negotiators. For this, it is likely to deliberately allow the August 8 deadline for eliciting a positive Indian response to its ceasefire offer to lapse. A fresh deadline with more stringent conditions is expected to be announced later. Meanwhile, Kashmir watchers here feel the talks could gather momentum later in the week. A possible deal on the modalities for enforcing the ceasefire before August 15 cannot be ruled out.


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