Hurriyat sticks to tripartite talks stand
22 November 2000
Jammu: The All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has stuck to its stand of tripartite talks while extending a guarded welcome to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee''s announcement of unilateral cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It has used a different set of words to reiterate its stand of tripartite dialogue involving Pakistan and demanded a bigger role for itself in resolving what it calls the ''Kashmir dispute, which is not an internal matter of India''. Following a meeting Tuesday evening, the conglomerate of 23 separatist outfits threw the ball back in the Indian government''s court by asking it to make clarifications whether it accepted ''Kashmir as a dispute'' that needed to be resolved by ''involving all three parties''. India has maintained that Kashmir is an integral part of the country and it will not involve Pakistan in any discussions with Kashmiri militant groups. A shift in the Hurriyat''s stand could have been detected had it shown a willingness to talk to India directly on the basis of the cease-fire offer, analysts said. Instead, the secessionist conglomerate has reiterated its old stand that it would participate in talks only if they are ''meaningful, result oriented and involved all the three parties - India, Pakistan and militants''. The Hurriyat has not rejected the cease-fire offer outright for it can ill-afford to ignore the public sentiment, according to observers here. A majority of people in Jammu and Kashmir want a speedy return to peace. More than 25,000 people have died in the decade-long violence in the state. Observers say acceptance of the offer would have placed the Hurriyat leadership at odds with the Pakistan-based militant outfits calling the shots in Jammu and Kashmir. Various militant outfits like the Lashker-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Jamait-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Badr and Harkatul-Mujahideen have rejected the cease-fire offer calling it a ''political gimmick by the Indian government''. Independent observers say that the Hurriyat leadership could have taken a courageous stand on the issue, but failed to do so. Instead, it sought to know whether Vajpayee was sincere in resolving the Kashmir problem.