Vohra A Familiar Face, Hurriyat Less Hostile
21 February 2003
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Even as the Centre's new Kashmir interlocutor N.N. Vohra figures out what is expected of him on the job of resolving this highly politicised and vexed problem, what works in his favour is his personal rapport with some of the secessionist leaders. Sources say that as director of the India International Centre in New Delhi, Vohra had interacted with many of them while playing host to Track II seminars and conferences. This could be one reason why the Hurriyat Conference has not rejected his mission. Analysts also feel that the pressure from the international community and the changing public opinion in Kashmir may force the Hurriyat to adopt a less hawkish stand this time as compared to their reaction to K.C. Pant's mission. However, the greatest beneficiary of Vohra's mission is J-K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. His partymen feel the Centre's gesture had sent the right political signals in the state. They would now be launching a statewide campaign projecting Mufti as a peacenik who fulfilled the promises he made to the people. However analysts are cynical about his mission. Right now, J-K is seething with politically divergent moods. Perhaps to begin with, Vohra would be addressing the issue of inter-regional tensions between Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. The Centre is yet to finalise terms of reference for Vohra's mission though L.K. Advani today said he could start talks from next month. Ever since his name was announced, Vohra has been meeting officials in the Home ministry, PMO, even K.C. Pant, trying to make a brief for himself, sources say. Vohra told The Indian Express that he was trying to get a 'feel of things' by talking to people before he assumes charge. Sources say Advani told Vohra his job was to start with talking to mainstream parties and the J-K government while seeking 'engagement of others including the Hurriyat and insurgents.'