November 2000 News

India, Pakistan should end Kashmir occupation: APHC

27 November 2000
The News International

Srinagar: India and Pakistan should both end their forced occupation of Kashmir and reunite the disputed valley, the territory''s separatist alliance said here on Monday. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a coalition of 23 Islamic political parties seeking an independent Kashmir state or merger with Pakistan, also said that it was ready to make concessions in possible negotiations with the Indian government during a Ramazan ceasefire. The cease-fire will come into effect at dawn today as fasting begins, Indian officials said. Omar Farooq, Kashmir''s highest Islamic leader and one of the key decision-makers of the APHC, said his group welcomed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee''s offer for talks and said it was waiting for New Delhi to formally invite them. Vajpayee announced on November 19 that the Indian army would cease military action in occupied Kashmir during Ramazan, except in cases of self-defence. Indian officials say they, in turn, are waiting for the separatists to approach them for talks aimed at ending the violence which has claimed at least 30,000 lives in 11 years. On Monday, helmeted soldiers with machine-guns slung over their shoulders silently patrolled the streets of Srinagar. The soldiers have been ordered not to fire until attacked and only as a last resort. Farooq told The Associated Press in an interview at his residence that Pakistan''s occupation of one-third of Kashmir was also illegal and must be discussed in peace talks. ''I don''t see that as part of Pakistan''s property. That''s also disputed. We''ll talk about all of it,'' Farooq said, adding that reunification should also be on the table. ''I stand for the reunification of Kashmir. The cease-fire line has to go,'' he added. ''This line is not across the land of Kashmir, it''s across the heart of Kashmir.'' Fazal Haq Qureshi, one of Kashmir''s first fighter commanders who was the negotiator for the Hizb-ul Mujahideen in failed peace talks earlier this year, told the AP he believed the dispute would actually come to the table. ''In the next few months, I hope we will see fighter groups talking to the government,'' he said. The APHC has also dropped its insistence on involving Pakistan in three-way talks involving Pakistan. Farooq said coalition members could talk separately to the two countries. -AP Reuters adds: Abdul Gani Bhat urged India on Monday not to put conditions on talks on Kashmir and said Pakistan could be brought into negotiations either separately or in a three-way dialogue. ''There has to be a dialogue between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people. Talks can be held separately, or maybe co-jointly. This is a procedural matter. We can work it out,'' chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference told Reuters in an interview. Bhat said the Indian government''s refusal to resume dialogue with Pakistan was inexplicable. ''You (India) have been talking to Pakistan for the last five past Tashkent, in the Security Council, in Simla and in Lahore. Now, you do not talk to Pakistan. Why not ?'' New Delhi would have to accept Pakistan''s role in the Kashmir dispute, Bhat said. ''One must accept the principle, the details will follow.'' He said his organisation could talk with fighters leaders based in Pakistan because the boys with guns did not trust the Indian leadership. ''The Indian leadership do not honour pledges in observance, they do it in breach,'' he said. New Delhi must give permission to Hurriyat leaders to travel to Pakistan, he said. ''If we are given a chance (by India) to travel to Pakistan, we can talk to them (fighter leaders) and hopefully come out with one voice,'' said Bhat. Bhat said that India''s intransigence over the explosive Kashmir dispute could cost it dearly if a fourth war with Pakistan became inevitable. ''Remember, this time the war will be absolutely disastrous,'' he said. Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah said India can extend its ceasefire in occupied Kashmir if the truce it has declared for Ramazan is a success. ''We will continue with the ceasefire for many, many months to come as we hope that this will succeed in Ramazan and we will get on with it for the rest of the time,'' Farooq Abdullah told Star News television late on Sunday. Kashmiris, including local fighters, wanted an end to the bloodshed in which more than 30,000 people have been killed in nearly 11 years, the state''s police chief said. ''It is my conviction today that people''s desire for peace is getting stronger by the day... and when the people''s mind is made up, everybody has to fall in line,'' Gurbachan Jagat told a news conference on Monday. Jagat, who is moving to Delhi to head the paramilitary border Security Force, said he believed that local fighters were also looking for a way out of life by the gun. India''s unprecedented initiative to bring peace to a region roiled by rebellion against its rule for the past decade has triggered a flurry of maneuvering by politicians, diplomats, fighter groups and separatist leaders. ''Ground is being prepared for talks but no formal initiative has been taken so far,'' occupied Kashmir Governor Girish Saxena said after an internal security meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. The Indian Express newspaper said on Monday serious attempts were being made to set the scene for bilateral talks between India and fighter groups, India and Pakistan, and, at a later stage, all three sides. It said everything hinged on whether the ceasefire stuck.


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