August 2000 News

India blames Pak., open for talks

8 August 2000
The Hindu
Harish Khare

New Delhi: The Government of India has noted with ''deep regret'' the withdrawal of the ceasefire by Syed Salahuddin, and has blamed Pakistan for torpedoing the peace process. The Government holds ''Pakistani agencies'' responsible for putting ''intense pressure on the Hizbul Mujahideen leadership in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to revoke the ceasefire.'' At the same time, the Government reiterated its firm commitment to the ''peace process'' and called upon ''on all those have taken to arms to return to the path of peace.'' This considered response came in the form of a statement from the Government, and was issued after detailed discussion between the Prime Minister, Mr.. Atal Behari Vajpayee, and his senior official advisers. Earlier, soon after Syed Salahuddin''s ''end of ceasefire'' announcement became known, the Prime Minister summoned an informal meeting of the Cabinet sub- committee on security. His Ministerial colleagues - the Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, and the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes - gathered in the Prime Minister''s office in Parliament House itself, and it seems a decision was taken to keep the door open for the Hizbul Mujahideen to return to the negotiating table. On the other hand, official sources have noted that the Hizbul leader, Mr. Majid Dar, had so far not reacted, and the inclination was to wait and watch Mr. Dar''s next move. According to some officials, the onus was on Mr. Dar to respond to the positive mood in the Valley to the nascent peace process, and that it was unfair of the Hizbul to make demands on India, without making any, leave alone commensurate, demands on Pakistan. At the same time, an Army spokesman here made it clear that the security forces would be free to retaliate if any Hizbul Mujahideen militants opened fire. The spokesman added that ''we will not be mute spectators if they resume their activities.'' In fact, the security forces throughout Jammu and Kashmir have been alerted to the possibility of the Hizbul or some other militant group undertaking a major act of terrorism. According to the Government''s statement, the July 24 ceasefire offer by Mr. Majid Dar ''did not fit in with Pakistan''s design of aiding and abetting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.'' The statement asserts that ''Pakistani agencies put pressure on the other groups to continue and intensify acts of violence in Jammu and Kashmir which led to the massacres of August 1 and 2.'' The Government lays the blame for the end of ceasefire at Pakistan''s door. This evening''s statement notes that ''Pakistan''s objective has been to derail the peace process by seeking to involve itself as a party in discussion between India and the Hizbul Mujahideen. The sabotage of the peace process by Pakistan clearly shows its callow disregard for the welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.'' Addressing itself to Syed Salahuddin''s insistence on a role for Pakistan, the statement does not categorically rule out a dialogue altogether though characterising it as ''a separate matter''. And then the familiar formulation that ''India is willing to talk with Pakistan on all matters of bilateral concern when Pakistan puts an end to cross-border terrorism.'' Though there is a keen sense of disappointment that the Hizbul leadership has buckled under Pakistani pressures, there was no surprise over the Syed''s announcement in Islamabad this evening. It is realised that the next move will be a mix of the relative commitment and strength of various ''commanders'', their vulnerabilities on account of families in Pakistan, Mr. Majid Dar''s own appreciation of the desire for peace in the Valley, and Syed Salahuddin''s capacity for autonomous decision- making. While the security forces will not give any quarter, the political leadership will not shut the door on negotiations either.


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