April 2003 News

PM Visit: J-K Groups Finalise Strategies

15 April 2003
The Indian Express

Srinagar: As Jammu and Kashmir braces up to welcome Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, scheduled to land in Srinagar on Friday, the separatist groups are waiting with their fingers crossed. Two main groups, the Hurriyat Conference and Shabir Ahmad Shah-led Democratic Freedom Party, seem unprepared about their response if Vajpayee sends any feelers during his two-day visit. Hurriyat chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat said they will discuss 'carefully' if any fresh proposal entailing a 'purposeful dailogue' on Kashmir came out. However, he offered 'no comments' when asked whether Hurriyat was optimistic about the visit. The amalgam's executive leader Moulvi Abbas Ansari, though 'not hopeful of any miracles during PM's visit', advocated Centre-Nagaland kind of a dialogue. 'If the PM is directly talking to Naga rebels what is stopping him from doing the same with Kashmiris,' he said. Ansari said that if the PM showed 'some kind of flexibility vis-a-vis the Kashmir problem', Hurriyat would lap up the chance. 'We are willing to deliberate on any fresh agenda. If he calls for a suitable and meaningful dialogue on Kashmir, we are ready to participate.' Asked if Hurriyat would show any flexibilty in return, Ansari said 'let him (the PM) offer something and we will see'. ' Sajjad Ghani Lone, chairman, People's Conference - a constituent in the conglomerate's seven-member executive council - said their party would give a 'positive' response if any unambiguous offer came from the Prime Minister. Shabir Ahmad Shah also clarified if Vajpayee commited himself to hold 'meaningful' talks, his party would take up offer. Shah suggested that even an announcement of working groups on Kashmir by the PM can set a trend for a fresh dialogue process. 'Our party is ready to talk if PM, Deputy PM in consultation with other national parties agree that Kashmir is a national issue,' he said. He said if this followed the formation of a working group that is even headed by the Centre's new Kashmir interlocutor N N Vohra, they would have no problems in entering a dialogue.


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