April 2001 News

Hurriyat: No talks unless Delhi allows trip to Pak

26 April 2001
The Asian Age
Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar: The Hurriyat Conference on Thursday said it could not hold a dialogue with the Centre on the Kashmir issue, unless Islamabad is also involved in the exercise. The Hurriyat, however, reiterated that a visit by its designated five-member delegation to Pakistan could break the stalemate on the issue. Briefing reporters after the Hurriyat meeting on Thursday, its chairman Abdul Ghani Butt said, “We’ve not totally rejected the dialogue offer, but we want talks to be held with a purpose and, obviously, with the objective of achieving a breakthrough.” Elaborating, Prof. Butt said if New Delhi wanted talks for the sake of it “then we’re not for it.” On the other hand, the Hurriyat felt that talks ought to proceed towards the “right direction” — which Prof. Butt said was that the “Hurriyat Conference (delegation) will go to Pakistan and get back to talk to the Indians.” The triangular dialogue, he said, was not a condition of the Hurriyat but a “direction.” Prof. Butt said the Centre should accept the “stark political reality” in Jammu and Kashmir that “unless we’re guided by reality we may not be able to reach anywhere.” Asked to spell out this reality, the Hurriyat chief said Kashmir was a disputed territory and Pakistan was party to it. This dispute, he added, was to be resolved on the principle of taking people’s aspirations into account. He asserted that both India and Pakistan were nuclear nations and “if the ghosts of atomic war are to be banished from the South Asian region, then we’ll have to address the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.” An amicable resolution of the issue had also become imperative to translate the concept of an open market economy into reality, he said. Prof. Butt cautioned that if New Delhi did not address the core issue of Kashmir then it would be only trying to create peace in vacuum. “And no peace can happen in a vacuum,” he said. Criticising the Centre’s assertion that it wanted to involve everyone in the proposed peace talks, the Hurriyat Conference chairman alleged that talking to a crowd was an exercise that was a waste of time without achieving anything substantial. “A crowd is always a crowd — heterogeneous, superabundant and many things at once — so we think such a process will take us nowhere.” Prof. Butt said he and his colleagues did not want to board a train that was going nowhere. “We want to get on a train like passengers with a destination,” he said. Earlier the Hurriyat chief read out a statement in Urdu on the decision taken at the crucial meeting of the amalgam’s executive council that was attended by all seven members or their substitutes. The statement accuses the Centre of not being serious in its effort at peace. “Unless bitter political realities are accepted no solid ground can be created to stand upon and work towards peace,” it said. The statement has complained about New Delhi’s “rigidity” and regrets that Kashmir was deliberately being projected as a law and order problem. The Hurriyat has referred to a letter written by to it by the Centre’s point man, Mr K.C. Pant, inviting it for a discussion on the imbroglio. It also refers to earlier official statement in New Delhi expressing its desire to embark on open peace talks on Kashmir. “By declaring Kashmir as an internal problem, mentioning the restoration of law and order and desiring to speak to a crowd of parties, associations and individuals no solution can be arrived at,” it said. The Hurriyat Conference also accused the Centre of attempting to change the nature of the dispute by talking and behaving in such a fashion. “This is being done exactly the way the war in Kashmir was intensified in the guise of a unilateral cease-fire announcement,” it said. The statement also refers to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s promise to find a solution to the Kashmir issue outside the “beaten track” and says this had actually created hope among people in the state. “But it faced the fate all previous Indian pledges and agreements due to inhibition by hard-liners and extremist elements within,” the Hurriyat said. While replying to questions, Prof. Butt said the Hurriyat Conference did not want the Centre to come out with a renewed offer of talks, nor was it imposing any condition on embarking on dialogue. “I said and I repeat, we don’t want to be guided by conditions. We want to be guided by the stark political reality,” he said. The Hurriyat chief reiterated that it was prepared to talk to India and Pakistan and find ways for peace and a brighter future for all of South Asia. Prof. Butt hoped that the proposed visit to Pakistan would take shape as India would soon see reason. “We’ve taken a step which, we are sure, will turn into a leap if the Indians see reason,” he said. He also described the proposed trip as first step towards talking purposefully and with substance. “If you mean to do it, you will have to go to Pakistan to involve the government and people there and the Mujahideen leadership as well... if you don’t do that you are not going to reach anywhere.” Asked if the Hurriyat Conference had specifically accepted the talks offer or otherwise, Prof. Butt said, “Acceptance or rejection of talks is not involved. What is involved is the survival — the survival of the people of India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir.” Elaborating, he said when the future was at stake then one should not talk about accepting an offer or rejecting it. “What we really want is that we put in a collective effort to achieve a breakthrough.” Prof. Butt insisted that the Hurriyat Conference was the sole representative body of the people of Kashmir. When a reporter asked him how could he prove that, the leaders said, “Then hold the promised plebiscite and if the people vote for India we’ll not waste a moment in quitting.” He asserted that if organisations like the BJP and the Ladakh Buddhist Association, the two organisations representing a vast section of people in Jammu and Ladakh respectively were a factor, then India should have thought about this aspect while pleading its case in the United Nations. “It is the principle of majority which prevails,” he said.


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