July 2001 News

Centre rethinks J&K autonomy

23 July 2001
The Hindustan Times
Jay Raina

New Delhi: THE VAJPAYEE government is set to re-orient its Kashmir policy following the failure of the Indo-Pak summit. To begin with, it will redeploy security forces to take on the Pakistan-based militant outfits. The Centre will also speed up the revival of the political process in the troubled state. To send a clear signal to their masters across the borders, security forces are to be given a free hand to stamp out mercenaries operating in the Valley. The new strategy would be in place soon after the completion of the on-going Amarnath yatra. On the political front, the Government may not even shy from initiating discussions on the ruling National Conference''s autonomy demand even though the Union Cabinet had rejected it earlier. Senior government sources said efforts would be made to sort out the Kashmir imbroglio within the framework of India''s democratic dispensation and constitutional safeguards. The peace moves will be supplemented by mobilisation of the state''s public by co-opting all the state-centric democratic formations and other neutral organisations for a broad-based dialogue. Simultaneously, the Centre may also nudge the Farooq Abdullah regime to streamline its functioning to back up the peoples'' mobilisation for peace. The government''s Kashmir pointman K.C. Pant, who is to return from his week-long overseas assignment early next week, may be directed to assess all the possible political alternatives to ensure greater involvement of Kashmiris in the much desired peace process. Sources said while the doors to a dialogue with the Hurriyat may not be shut, the thrust would be to engage other Kashmiri sections to assuage the hurt sentiments of the people in the state. On its part, the Centre appears convinced that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf''s Kashmir- centric agenda at the Agra summit was primarily dictated by Pakistan- based jihadi organisations. It was, therefore, not surprising that the General went to the extent of comparing the ongoing terrorist violence in Kashmir to a ''freedom struggle''. The latest spurt in mercenary-sponsored violence is perceived as part of Pakistan''s ''grand design'' in the ''freedom struggle''. Political observers attribute General Musharraf''s tough talk Kashmir to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee''s invitation to the Pakistan President coinciding with the withdrawal of the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir. This coincidence, gave the impression to the Pakistanis that New Delhi was looking for help from Islamabad to control terrorist violence in Kashmir. The new Kashmir rethink is obviously meant to obviate all such assessments and bring about a modicum of change on the ground through both tighter security measures and a spurt in political activity.


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