''Secret'' Parleys Between Delhi And Hurriyat Begin
24 August 2000
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Adopting ''secrecy-for-the-sake-of-secrecy'' policy, three representatives selected by the Prime Minister''s Office (PMO) and an equal number of leaders of Kashmir''s All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) have, at last, come together and that too in the Union capital to formulate agenda for ''positive, constructive and meaningful'' negotiations on the vital question of resolving the Kashmir crisis. Even as the recently-elected chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, had two rounds of ''informal'' parleys with the three interlocutors of the Government of India, no information was allowed to go out in connection with the discussions held so far. The Hurriyat leaders as well as the Government-sponsored interlocutors have reached an understanding on the question of ensuring ''greater secrecy'', at least for the time being, with regard to the interaction they have had and are going to continue in days to come. Mr Abdul Ghani Lone, too, has had quiet sessions with two interlocutors. According to sources, one of the interlocutors was specially commissioned to get into touch with the Jamaat-e-Islami stalwart, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. These sources told EXCELSIOR that after Mr Geelani''s meeting with the Indian Government''s representative, more than four leaders of the Hurriyat Conference arrived in New Delhi early this week as part of the ''secret'' plan to continue ''peace'' talks. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has already mellowed down as a result of the enormous clout wielded over his parent organisation, the Jamaat-e-Islami, by Mr GM Bhat. In fact, the re-election of Mr Bhat as ''Amir'' of the Jamaat-e-Islami also gave reason for optimism. Mr Bhat Mr Geelani''s nominee, Mr Sharaf Sehrai. Just one member of the organisation''s ''Majlis-e-Numaindgan'' voted for Mr Geelani himself to be elevated from political chief of the organisation to its overall leader. Mr GM Bhat has for the last two years been calling for an end to violence, and has gone on record to state that the Hizbul Mujahideen''s campaign is defeating the Jamaat''s core political objective. One of the Government-sponsored interlocutors, a senior Kashmiri politician told EXCELSIOR, has had two unpublished ''informal'' meetings with Mr Bhat. And the interlocutor, under reference, has, in his separate meetings with Mr GM Bhat and Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, found both of them ''pretty intelligent, not belligerent''. The interlocutor, according to sources, has, following his meeting with Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat on Tuesday, recorded in his assessment note: ''Well begun is half done. There is little doubt of the existence of a genuine constituency for peace in Kashmir today. Barring one or two Hurriyat leaders, the rest of the Hurriyat representatives are for an early end to militancy and terrorism in Kashmir. Much, however, will depend on Pakistan, considering the fact that every peace initiative by India in the past several years has always been thwarted and neutralised by Pakistan''. A Hurriyat leader, currently in New Delhi, pleaded anonymity when he told EXCELSIOR: ''The Government of India will succeed only if it, this time, demonstrated sincerity of intention and of purpose while enlisting our cooperation for resolving the bigger Kashmir issue. We want the peace initiative to prepare the ground for the major parties involved in the Kashmir imbroglio to come to grips with the decades-old problem that has defied solution''. His assertion: ''The on-going differences between New Delhi and Islamabad notwithstanding, Pakistan cannot be brushed aside as it is also a major party to the Kashmir problem''. Significantly, by the time some Hurriyat leaders, particularly the chairman, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, arrived in the Indian capital, the US State Department spokesman, Mr Richard Boucher, said: ''We do believe there cannot be a solution to the Kashmir issue without direct discussions between India and Pakistan. In order for such discussion to take place, a climate of trust must be created through sincere efforts to end the violence and, of course, taking the wishes of the Kashmiri people into account''. Indian chancery in Washington has reportedly informed New Delhi that senior American officials have made no bones about the fact that Pakistan could be leaned on to use its influence over the Kashmiri political groups. After all, Washington is not under any illusion as to who is the real power behind the militant and terrorist outfits in Kashmir.