Advani to take hard measures on Valley terror
26 July 2001
The Asian Age
New Delhi: Union home minister L.K. Advani has made it very clear to his ministry and the security forces that hard measures, and not kid gloves, will now prevail in Jammu and Kashmir. Always for a proactive role in the sensitive border state, Mr Advani, sources said, is now determined to ensure a complete crackdown on militants, no talks with separatist groups and a policy that does not open the present status of the state for any discussion. Sources said that Mr L.K. Advani, in a complete reversal of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s ambiguous and “soft” approach towards Jammu and Kashmir, has made it very clear that he does not see any scope for continuing a dialogue with Pakistan. Senior leaders supportive of his stance in the BJP have been informing reporters in off-the-record briefings that “Advaniji and the other ministers saved the country from being sold out to Musharraf at Agra.” The sources pointed out that the home minister had virtually spelt out his stand in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday when he ruled out even limited autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir as suggested in the autonomy report adopted by the National Conference government in the state. He also made it very clear that “what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir is naked terrorism” and that there could be no two views on this. Prime Minister Vajpayee in his statement in Parliament had veered clear of taking a decisive stand. While reiterating the government’s resolve to fight cross- border terrorism, Mr Vajpayee had preferred to keep the door open for a dialogue with Pakistan. He had also stopped short of raising the question of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir and had spoken instead of the government’s desire to talk to all groups in the state. He had, however, stressed on the “bilateral” nature of the dialogue between India and Pakistan. Mr Advani, sources said, has come back from Agra determined not to allow the “future of Jammu and Kashmir to be compromised.” He was not happy with the decision to invite Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf for talks and while he did not oppose this in Cabinet meetings, he did make it clear outside that he did not expect much from the summit. The sources said the home minister was particularly incensed with the wording of the joint draft statement in Agra and took the lead in insisting that “cross- border terrorism” had to be mentioned in so many words for any communiqué from the summit to be acceptable to him and the government. The sources pointed out that Mr Advani had also taken “exceptional care” to convert a courtesy call on Gen. Musharraf at Rashtrapati Bhavan into a “memorable encounter.” He brought up the subject of cross-border terrorism, Pakistan’s protection to mafia don Dawood Ibrahim and other contentious issues in a 25-minute meeting with Gen. Musharraf. This news was deliberately leaked to the press, leading Pakistan officials to confide in their media that the “Indian home minister was not particularly gracious.” The Kashmir policy, sources admitted, has changed. The death of Hizbul Mujahideen deputy chief commander Masood at the hands of the SOG has sent a strong signal to the Valley that the days of talks with insurgent groups are over. Commander Masood was among those who had responded with other leaders from the Hizb to the Prime Minister’s offer of a dialogue. Mr Advani said in Parliament that the extensions of the ceasefire had proved costly.