Advani rules out pre-1953 status for J&K
20 October 2000
The Times of India
New Delhi: Home minister L K Advani on Friday ruled out the return of Jammu and Kashmir to its pre-1953 status, saying such a step would ''severely harm'' the country''s interests even as Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah said autonomy to states was would make the country strong and vibrant. Advani was addressing a meeting of his ministry''s consultative committee here. Responding to criticism by some opposition members that the autonomy resolution adopted by the Jammu and Kashmir assembly should not have been rejected outright, he said the Centre was prepared for ''greater devolution'' of powers to the states, including J&K. Advani said greater devolution of powers would lead to ''efficiency in administration and speedier development''. The government had an open mind on the issue, he added. The autonomy resolution, the home minister said, had recommended return to the pre-1953 status ''which is not acceptable to the government as it would severely harm the interests of the people''. On resumption of a dialogue with J&K militants, Advani said: ''We are prepared to talk with the militants in the Valley if they give up arms and come to the negotiating table.'' Advani added India''s stand of not holding a dialogue with Pakistan till it stops cross-border terrorism has been ''appreciated globally''. ''As a result of New Delhi''s efforts, some of the major countries like the US, Canada, Britain, France and Israel have agreed to set up joint working groups with India to tackle cross-border terrorism,'' he said. At another meeting, Abdullah said: ''Autonomy does not mean secession from the country, and, in fact, this would make New Delhi more stronger.'' Speaking at a seminar on ''Autonomy to the states: Need of the hour'', organised by Asom Jatiyabadi Yuba Parishad here, he regretted that some people were trying to link autonomy with secession. ''In a democracy, even a voice which is feeble is heard or one day, the same voice becomes strong and threatens the very balance of the nation.'' Abdullah said devolution of more powers to the states was necessary and the Centre should make suitable arrangements for it while reviewing the Constitution. No one wants to make New Delhi weak but it was the Centre''s duty to transfer certain powers to the states after retaining defence, foreign affairs and communication, he said. ''When J&K enjoyed such powers in 1964, did the Centre ever have a feeling that we were on the path of secessionism?'' he asked. Rejecting the opinion that his government had taken a back seat on the issue of autonomy, Abdullah said: ''We are moving forward and hope that the issue would be solved peacefully.''