Autonomy, LoC as border best solution: Farooq
5 October 2000
The Times of India
Law Kumar Mishra
Srinagar: Chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday said conversion of the Line of Control (LC) into the international border and autonomy to Jammu, Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were the most tangible solutions to the problems between India and Pakistan. The CM gave the suggestion at a luncheon with British parliamentarians who had called on him here. British MPs Linda Pesham, Joe Benton, Gretha Thomas, Paira Khabra, Tony Coleman, Ian Davidson and Deemond Turner are on a three-day tour of the state as members of the Labour Friends of India. A two-member team of the British High Commission is also currently touring the state meeting separatist leaders and senior officers engaged in counter-insurgency operations. During his two-hour talk with the MPs, Farooq dwelt at length on Pakistan''s involvement with terrorism in the state. Though India yearned for peace, it could not be discussed under pressure or threats. The onus for creating a congenial atmosphere by showing sincerity of purpose rests with Pakistan, he said. Farooq said Pakistani shelling on the border, reciprocated with a matching response from India, had made the life of people on the border miserable. For their safety, erection of massive bunkers had become necessary together with ex-gratia to those who had left their homes in the wake of the continued shelling. Making it clear that J&K is an integral part of India, the CM said it would be prudent for Islamabad not to create any hype on Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan. The Pakistani leadership had been thriving on this bogey for the last 53 years, he said. ''We don''t want to be independent,'' Farooq declared and said the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference were so confused that some were talking of plebiscite while other were calling for azadi. Some others wanted to merge with Pakistan. He agreed that talks were necessary for bringing about peace in the region. However, the recent Centre-Hizb talks had fizzled out in just seven days because of Pakistani sabotage, he pointed out. ''Talks would have given peace a chance,'' the CM observed. Answering questions on autonomy, the CM said the demand for restoration of eroded autonomy did not mean secession or weakening of J&K''s relationship with the rest of the country. Regional autonomy was needed to satiate the aspirations of the people living in the three distinct regions and several sub-regions of the state. The demand was nothing new and was within the constitutional framework of India. Asked about the reaction of the Congress and the BJP to the demand, he said the Congress, by and large, subscribed to autonomy but wanted the Indira-Sheikh accord of 1975 to be its basis. Some affiliated organisations of the BJP were opposed to autonomy and advocated abrogation of Article 370, giving special status to J&K, Farooq admitted. He, however, said that in an era of coalition governments, the BJP would not be in a position to further its views on Article 370. The CM also gave a developmental profile of the state, including steps being taken to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure and give a fillip to the state''s economy. He said though the state continued to be deficient in foodgrain production, much headway had been made in agriculture, horticulture and pisciculture.