Pant: Credible political face for truce initiative
4 April 2001
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: The Centre's decision to make Planning Commission's Deputy Chairman K C Pant lead its fresh initiative on Kashmir has been guided by the clamour in J&K for lending the ceasefire experiment political content and a credible political face. By selecting Pant as their proposed interface with the Kashmiri groups, the Centre has also addressed the All-Party Hurriyat Conference's frequently voiced concern that the ceasefire move was at best a confidence building exercise controlled mostly by bureaucrats and security personnel. It did not, in any manner, represent a movement forward towards a long-term resolution of the problem. Pant is a seasoned politician with the attributes of a good negotiator. His past stints as Defence Minister and Minister of State for Home are expected to help him tackle his new task. His designated role as the Centre's spokesman on Kashmir is expected to placate the Hurriyat and prepare ground for a more broad-based dialogue involving other, regular political groupings in the State. Home Ministry sources confirmed that the Pant initiative was meant to be all encompassing. Its expanse would cover the entire spectrum in J&K in terms of its geographical and political diversities. For instance, the States" three regions, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, are part of one whole with varying popular aspirations. On his part, Home Minister L K Advani, as proof of his growing post-Tehelka involvement in the Kashmir affairs, has already said that the Centre's "new approach" wasn"t restricted to engaging the Hurriyat. In his view, the involvement of other political and social groups in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh was of as much importance to the final settlement of the issue. Kashmir watchers also view Pant's advent as a development dictated by the dead-end the ceasefire has reached in the State. It also amounts to a tacit admission by the Centre that the "cease combat operations call" has outlived its utility as a stand-alone gesture; that a stage has come to back it up with substantive actions demonstrating political will.