August 2002 News

US: Polls an opportunity for separatists to establish peace

26 August 2002
The Daily Excelsior

Srinagar: The United States today said the coming Jammu and Kashmir Assembly election is an opportunity for separatists to help establish peace in the State and can be part of the exercise to resolove Kashmir issue. ''We see an opportunity in the elections. It can be part of the larger process to etablish peace,'' Lisa Curtis, senior advisor in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs, said after meeting Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq here. Curtis said she held discussions with several separatist leaders, including Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat and acting JKLF chairman Javid Ahmad Mir, and impressed upon them to avail the opportunity for establishing peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Asked if she had any special message from Washington for separatists, Curtis said ''we came with the message that the US does care about Kashmir and Kashmiris. The problems have to be resolved peacefully.'' ''We donít have a magical solution. We urged them (separatists) to see an opportunity in these elections,'' she said. Asked about the purpose behind meeting Hurriyat constituents separately, an aide to Curtis from the US Embassy in New Delhi, Sheetal Patel, said it was a normal practice. ''We meet them individually to know their viewpoints.'' Mirwaiz told reporters after 90-minute meeting with Curtis: ''The US does have an interest as far as Kashmir is concerned. We have certain suggestions for (US) envoys which they said they will consider.'' On the coming elections, he said Hurriyat Conference was not averse to participation but modalities should be clarified first and assurances given on their nature. ''If these are for forming a Government, then it serves no purpose. These should help in resolving Kashmir issue,'' he said. Mirwaiz said the Centre would have to clarify the status of elected representatives and give an assurance that it would hold talks with them to resolve Kashmir issue. ''Whether Pakistan will be involved in the dialogue process has to be made clear,'' he said. He said Hurriyat Conference wanted a political solution to Kashmir issue and ''we are ready for talks.'' ''We will meet tomorrow to decide on Governemnt of Indiaís offer of talks,'' Mirwaiz said. On his talks with Kashmir Committee chairman Ram Jethmalani, he said ''as responsible citizens of India, they (the committee) feel they have duty towards Kashmiri people.'' ''We will take ten steps if they take one,'' he said.


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