September 2002 News

Talks with Pak on Kashmir essential: Omar

30 September 2002
The Asian Age

Srinagar: National Conference president Omar Abdullah on Monday ridiculed the idea of projecting the ongoing Jammu and Kashmir Assembly polls as an exercise meant for resolving the Kashmir issue. He said that the elections were being held to elect a new government for the state. ''These elections are only about electing representatives to setup a government in Jammu and Kashmir and to engage the government of India in a dialogue on issues of concern to those elected representatives,'' he said. Mr Abdullah added that the elections were ''never geared to spate of wave for final settlement.'' ''These elections are not about azadi, they are not about Pakistan, they are not about anything else,'' he said, adding that final settlement of the issue lies within the domain of the governments in New Delhi and Islamabad. ''To the extent that the elected representatives will be part of any preparatory dialogue is something Government of India will have to decide closer to that dialogue starting with Pakistan,'' he added. The NC president also said that talks with Pakistan were necessary as it was the root cause of the problems in Jammu and Kashmir. ''Talks are necessary with them as they are the mother of all problems in Jammu and Kashmir,'' he said. Mr Abdullahís statement comes close on the heels of deputy prime minister L.K. Advaniís assertion that Pakistanís demand for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir will be negated if the Assembly elections are completed in a free, fair and participatory manner. Mr Advani said in New Delhi on Sunday that Islamabadís prime objective was that these Assembly elections were not allowed to be held in a smooth manner ''because it negates their demand for plebiscite.'' Mr Abdullah, who is the NCís chief ministerial candidate and minister of state for external affairs, announced that he would resign from the NDA government towards the end of the election process. Mr Abdullah added that there would be no NC minister at the Centre after he had quit the government, but as far as continuing support to the NDA government was concerned, the NC would discuss the issue and take a decision on merit. He was, however, quite unhappy over some of the members of the Vajpayee government the levelling, what he called were serious but unfounded, charges against the Farooq government. ''If what they say is true where were they all these years. They should have raised these issue earlier,'' he said, referring to the statements made by information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley during their campaigning in Jammu. Mr Abdullah said the NC was getting diluted as part of the NDA coalition. ''The National Conference, for reasons I donít want to go into, loses its identity when it becomes a part of large governments at the Centre, especially if led by one particular party,'' he said. He believed that his party could consider being a part a government at the Centre, if it is like that of the United Front ó a coalition made of smaller regional parties, led on the outside by another large party. ''But certainly not an NDA sort of experiment,'' he added. Asked when he would quit the NDA government, he quipped, ''Not today at least as you people would have expected.'' He said he would choose the time for his resignation and categorically ruled out sending any replacement to the Union government. ''I do not think we will have any representative in the Vajpayee ministry,'' he asserted. Mr Abdullah claimed that the NC was heading towards victory in the elections. He said the party would get at least half of the 87 seats and will be in a position to form a government on its own. Asked if it would seek support from Congress or the BJP to form a government in the event of being short of the required number, he said, ''Not at all.'' He chuckled asked if it would be a different case vis-ŗ-vis Mufti Sayeedís Peoplesí Democratic Party. Mr Abdullah said that his party would prepare to sit in the Opposition if it failed to get the required number of seats to form a government on its own.


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