December 2000 News

Hurriyat leaders can travel to Pakistan

16 December 2000
The Hindu
Harish Khare

NEW DELHI: The Government has no problem if some of the Hurriyat leaders want to travel to Pakistan, according to responsible sources in the Vajpayee administration. It is pointed out by these sources that at least two the APHC leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mr. Abbas Ansari, have travel documents, and even Mr. Abdul Gani Lone''s Pakistan-travel documents are valid for three months. ''If these people want to go to Pakistan, nobody is preventing them,'' the sources said. However, what is not acceptable is the Hurriyat leaders wanting to go to Pakistan to broker a peace between New Delhi and Islamabad, or being allowed to go because Pakistan chooses to anoint the APHC as the ''recognized'' Kashmir group. At the same time, the Government is aware that the Hurriyat leaders themselves are not very keen on travelling to Pakistan. For example, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhatt, Hurriyat Chairman, is reported to have informed some of his unofficial interlocutors that the APHC leaders had done some plain-talking when they recently met the Pakistani High Commissioner here. Prof. Bhatt is believed to have told the diplomat that there would be little point in them going to Pakistan because ''Islamabad would not do what the Hurriyat will want it to do, and Hurriyat would not do what Islamabad will want it to do.'' APHC stance crucial In fact, the official sources suggest that the APHC can create congenial conditions for a dialogue between India and Pakistan by taking a responsible and independent stance in its executive meeting, scheduled for Sunday. The Hurriyat stance would be one of the elements that could determine the Vajpayee Government''s decision to enter into a dialogue with Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The sources point out a slight change in the Government''s formulation, as spelled out by the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, yesterday at the Consultative Committee of the Home Ministry. Mr. Advani, it is pointed out, has opened a possibility by talking of ''the Centre''s preparedness to talk to Pakistan if the violence ended or was reduced drastically.'' The insistence on an end to cross-border violence no more seems to be complete and total. The Vajpayee Government seems to have overcome its inhibition about talking to a military regime. ''We have dealt with military regimes before, and a general saheb in Islamabad is no novelty for us,'' the argument goes. What has inhibited the dialogue is cross-border violence. It is recalled that a few days before he was ousted Mr. Nawaz Sharif called up Mr. Vajpayee to congratulate him on the election victory and invited the latter to resume the ''Lahore process''; and, in his reply, Mr. Vajpayee, it is pointed out had drawn Mr. Sharif''s attention to cross-border violence. For now, before it decides whether the time is ripe for a dialogue with Pakistan, New Delhi would also want to understand for itself how the military regime tackles the challenge from the fundamentalist forces in the post-Nawaz Sharif exile phase.


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