May 2001 News

Jaswant was Hurriyat’s choice for mediator, not Pant: Lone

23 May 2001
The Indian Express
Aasha Khosa

New Delhi: DEFENCE Minister Jaswant Singh, and not K.C. Pant, was the Hurriyat’s choice for mediator on Kashmir, according to senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone, who claimed that unofficial contacts between New Delhi and the Hurriyat had been intact till Singh had been representing the Centre. Making this public for the first time, Lone told The Indian Express that the Hurriyat preferred Jaswant Singh because Pant appeared a more charismatic and decisive person. ‘‘Pant’s appointment was a surprise for us. More surprising and shocking was his agenda to talk to everyone in Kashmir,’’ Lone said, adding that Pant’s introduction lead to severing of all ‘‘unofficial contacts’’ between the Hurriyat and New Delhi. ‘‘It was agreed upon that the Prime Minister would invite us for a cup of tea and there we would talk about the urgency to work for peace in Kashmir and also the decision of appointing Jaswant Singh as the mediator would be announced.’’ Feeling betrayed at the sudden ‘‘backtracking by New Delhi’’, Lone claims the Government had encouraged the Hurriyat to visit Pakistan. ‘‘We ourselves were amazed at the signals we were getting. Imagine, they had even told us that there was no problem even if Geelani, whom they are demonising now, goes (to Pakistan),’’ Lone said. After taking a public stand on the Pakistan trip, backing off would not have been proper, he felt. ‘‘Even when talks between us and the Government of India were unofficial, there was some responsibility on both sides to see that neither of them would do anything that amounts to embarrassment for the other side,’’ he said, blaming New Delhi for betraying their trust. Lone confessed that unofficial talks between the Centre and the Hurriyat were going on since May 2000 following the Prime Minister’s offer to hold talks. ‘‘Even (former prime minister) Narsimha Rao had sent us feelers; but this time, we accepted the offer since it came from a Prime Minister who is a moderate and a liberal and also from a party which is pan-nationalist. We thought it would work.’’


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