July 2001 News

Musharraf ignores India, invites Hurriyat

5 July 2001
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi: While Hurriyat leaders on Thursday brandished a faxed message from Pervez Musharraf saying he was looking forward to meet them, New Delhi rebuffed Islamabad's repeated insistence that the General be allowed to meet them. The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said, "We have said time and again in the past that this is a complete non-issue." She said that India did not consider the Hurriyat of any importance vis--vis the summit and had no role to play. Islamabad should respond to the Indian initiative to make the summit a success and pave the way for a long-term bilateral relationship. In his message, Musharraf said that he was looking forward to meeting Hurriyat leaders. "I have asked the Pakistani High Commissioner to make the necessary arrangements in this regard," the letter said. Musharraf has also assured the Hurriyat chairman that Pakistan would continue to give moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris" struggle. "Let me assure you that Pakistan will continue to extend its moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle," he said. Musharraf's letter was in response to the Hurriyat's June 22 letters to the Pakistan President and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seeking an audience with them when they meet in Agra. New Delhi had rejected the Hurriyat request and asked Musharraf on June 28 not to meet its leaders. Musharraf, too, had publicly said that he would not infringe protocol. At that time, the Hurriyat had seemed to be marginalised. Now Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat says that despite India's shrill opposition, Hurriyat is confident of meeting the General. "We have sought the appointment outside the summit talks. Now that General Musharraf has agreed to meet us, Delhi should not have any problems". He expressed the hope that India would not stand in the way of their meeting with Musharraf. Bhat praised Vajpayee as a "man with vision" and said, "he will not block the passage to sanity". Bhat also said that the Hurriyat could not be left out of the process of finding a solution to the Kashmir issue. Former Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has already gone on the offensive, however. "If Musharraf has invited us over a cup of tea, Vajpayee will be inviting us to dine with him," said Geelani. * Musharraf volte-face May 27: Qazi says Pakistan wants tripartite talks May 28: Jaswant Singh says Hurriyat a "non-issue" June 18: Musharraf says talks must include Hurriyat June 28: India says it wants Hurriyat out June 30: Musharraf says he will not make this an issue July 4: He says that Hurriyat should participate in talks


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