Shah's response a positive signal: Pant
3 May 2001
New Delhi: The Vajpayee Government's Jammu and Kashmir pointman K C Pant sees a positive note in separatist leader Shabir Shah's move to despatch emissaries to New Delhi in response to the Centre's offer for dialogue on the Kashmir tangle. Though the emissaries - Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDFP) general secretary Maulana Abdullah Tari and chief spokesman Salim Geelani who handed over Mr Shah's letter to Mr Pant on Thursday - reiterated party's much-publicised demand to involve Pakistan in the process of resolving the Kashmir issue, Mr Pant felt that there was some forward movement. Talking to medapersons, Mr Pant criticised the Hurriyat Conference for its stand on the Centre's talks invitation and said, 'Nowhere negotiations are made through newspapers.' The Hurriyat Conference on Wednesday had said that it would not send a formal communication to Mr Pant. 'Whatever we have to say in this regard has already appeared in the media,' Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhatt had said on Wednesday. 'It is a serious matter ... there has to be an increased level of understanding and one has to build a platform of trust,' Mr Pant said. Mr Pant, however, hastily added that since he had not received any formal communication from the Hurriyat Conference, he would not be able to offer any comment in this regard. After receiving Mr Shah's letter, Mr Pant said, 'This is a window of opportunity for us to move towards a peaceful resolution to the (Kashmir) problem.' 'This is a good step forward. I welcome Shabir Shah's response to the Centre's invitation for a dialogue on the issue,' Mr Pant said. The letter, according to Mr Shah's emissaries, seeks to elicit the Centre's response on involving Pakistan and militant groups in negotiations on the Kashmir imbroglio and recognition of Kashmir as a core issue. On clarifications sought by Mr Shah in his letter, Mr Pant said, 'Let me study it. Then I will reply'. He also made it clear that there was no discussion with the emissaries on the content of the letter. Mr Pant was optimistic that talks would start soon with the JKDFP leaders. Mr Pant, who had already held talks with former Chief Minister Syed Mir Qasim and noted human right activist Balraj Puri, said, 'I meet people from the State daily, to discuss the ways to bring about normalcy in the Valley. People want normalcy ... they yearn for it.' He added, 'Some of them met me, other are expected to meet in the future. There is tremendous response to the peace process in the State.' According to Maulana Tari, one of the JKDFP emissaries, 'Kashmir is not a law and order problem, but a political issue that needs to be resolved politically.' Referring to his party's demand to involve Pakistan in the talks, he said, 'Bilateralism has not worked so far. The two countries (India and Pakistan) signed many agreements, but that never helped ending the dispute. He also demanded that militant groups operating in the State should be directly or indirectly involved in the talks. 'This will help to end violence and restore peace in the Valley,' he said. He, however, objected to the Centre's move to involve nationalist parties in the talks.