August 2000 News

Revival Of Talks With Hizbul In Two Months - Fernandes

25 August 2000
Indian Express

New Delhi: Defence Minister George Fernandes today voiced confidence about revival of discussions between the Centre and the Hizbul Mujahideen in the next two months and said the issue of Pakistan''s involvement in the talks would be forgotten by then. ''The Hizbul Mujahideen''s proposal (for a ceasefire) came out of nowhere and then it faded away. I believe that there will be a revival of this proposal,'' Fernandes told Karan Thapar on BBC''s ''Hardtalk India'' programme. To a question whether the Hizbul would continue to insist on tri-partite talks involving Pakistan, he said he was not too sure ''whether this proposal would be put across in all seriousness.'' ''Yes,'' he replied when asked whether the issue of involvement of Pakistan in negotiations would be forgotten or watered down in the next two months. He said the government had ''well-established'' contacts with the Hizb in Kashmir. On Hurriyat Conference chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat''s proposal to constitute two groups of its executive committee to hold talks with India and Pakistan simultaneously, Fernandes said the Hurriyat did not represent any mainstream political or insurgency-oriented movement in Jammu and Kashmir. On the split role suggested by the hurriyat and the possibility of proximity talks, the minister said there was nothing new in it as the Hurriyat has been continuously talking to Pakistan. Asked if there was a split between the Pakistan-based and India-based Hizb commanders, Fernandes said there were reasons to believe that ''strong differences'' existed. Those on the Indian side were ''keen'' on talks toresume, he said and added he had credible reasons to believe so. On whether Hizb ''chief commander'' in Jammu and kashmir, Abdul Majid Dar, who announced a ceasefire in the state on July 24 which was called off by itsPakistan-based chief Syed Salahuddin on August 8, was being protected, he said Dar was ''very safe'' and it was ''our duty to protect anyone who needs protection''. To a question about the contradictory statements coming from Salahuddin and those from Dar on the resumption of the negotiations, he said, ''I want to believe Majid Dar.'' Fernandes said it was Dar who started the idea of going in for talks and finding a solution to the Kashmir issue but that ran into problems following Pakistan''s diktat that no negotiations could take place till Islamabad was involved. Asked whether the ceasefire declaration was the result of the US involvement, he said, ''Not at all, none whatsoever.'' On a ''split'' between Dar and another Hizb commander Khalili Masood, Fernandes said there could be ''some differences'' which needed to be overcome. He agreed with Thapar that New Delhi was trying to put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together in Kashmir and said wisdom and patience were most needed there. ''We live in hope and work in hope and experience shows one should not lose hope.'' Dar, he said, was a Kashmiri who felt that the path chosen by him and his associates would not take them anywhere especially in view of the consequences and fallout it had on the Kashmiri people and probably the militants had reached a point where they thought they needed a ''course correction'' as no solution could be found with the gun. On whether the move by to hold talks with India had the concurrence of Pakistani military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf, he said one could surmise that. He, however, said public statements by Gen. Musharraf did not indicate that he wanted reduction in cross-border terrorism and asserted that it was at Islamabad''s behest that Hizb called off the ceasefire. Asked why India was not talking to Pakistan, the Defence Minister said New Delhi was ready to hold a dialogue with Islamabad provided it stopped cross-border terrorism. On J-K Chief Minister FarooqAbdullah''s autonomy proposal, he said the Centre had only rejected the State Assembly resolution on it and had clearly stated that its doors were open to negotiations. He said talks were on between Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Abdullah while maintaining that a committee to go into the autonomy issue could be formed if felt necessary.


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