Jaswant against Musharraf meeting Hurriyat
28 May 2001
The Times of India
Times Internet Network
NEW DELHI: India has dismissed Pervez Musharraf's reported desire to meet Hurriyat leaders on his Delhi visit as something "beyond comprehension". And in case Pakistan wants to talk about a referendum in Jammu and Kashmir, it has ruled that out. Setting what could be interpreted as India's bottomline on the Kashmir issue, external affairs minister Jaswant Singh said that there was no question of Delhi agreeing to a referendum in the state to determine its future. And he also recalled a Parliament resolution stating that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India. "That remains unaltered," Singh said when faced with questions on India's stand during the proposed talks. Also stated was India's opposition to "denominational nationalism", an apparent reference to Pakistan's claim that Jammu and Kashmir belonged to it because it was a Muslim-majority state. "We believe in civic nationalism," he said. He, however, added that India did not wish to enter into "contentious" issues before Musharraf arrived. At his press conference, Singh went through a balancing act. He didn"t want to say anything which had the potential of derailing the talks even before they began. But faced with specific questions, he had to state Delhi's stand. Like reiterating that maintaining law and order in the Valley was India's internal affair. Initially Singh parried questions on Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar's reported remark that Musharraf planned to meet Hurriyat leaders in Delhi. "That's a non-issue," he said. Asked later to elaborate, he said, "a non-issue is a non-issue." Pressed further if that meant that Delhi would not create obstacles in a Hurriyat-Musharraf meeting, Singh said that the Prime Minister's invitation was meant for Musharraf's meeting with him. "From where all the additionalities have come in is beyond my comprehension," he said. In the past, India has consistently rejected the idea of a tripartite Delhi-Hurriyat-Islamabad talks on Kashmir. And even during the six-month ceasefire, it made clear that it was not keen on the hardliners in the Hurriyat Conference visiting Pakistan. Singh reiterated India's position that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir had been "encouraged" and "abetted" by Pakistan. That was a fact of life, he said. But he justified what critics have termed an about-turn in India's policy that there would be no talks with Pakistan till it gave up cross-border terrorism. India had said that it would not talk unless there was a "conducive atmosphere" for resumption of negotiations, he reminded. He insisted there had been a change in attitude on the other side of the Line of Control. He added that there had been "a very significant and very substanial" decline in the exchange of fire between the two countries at the LoC. India is also willing to bury the ghosts of Kargil. "We believe that we have to move beyond the confines of history," he said. Unless the two countries addressed the challenges of tomorrow, they would do great harm to their people, he added. He further said that India's policy towards Pakistan was not "absolutist". The invitation to Musharraf was sent out at the right time, Singh insisted. "The timing should be right. That is decided by the government," he said. Singh also indicated a revival of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) process, possibly leading up to the summit-meet, which has been postponed since 1999. The two foreign secretaries will meet on the sidelines of a coming SAARC officials-level meeting. While making clear that India was willing to do business with a General, the minister made clear that it was not condoning the military takeover. He said that the fact remained that there was change of government in Pakistan through military coup. Time had passed since then and there also had been some opening up to the democratic process. "We have to deal with the government of the day. And it is our decision to deal with them," he said. Answering another question on India's stand against Pakistan being in the Commonwealth as a military dictator had taken power, Singh said that the organisation had its own yardsticks. But India was against a change of government through military means.