Hurriyat Wants US, UK Out, Iran, Mandela In On J&K
14 July 2003
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: The Hurriyat Conference on Sunday said that United States and Britain should be kept out of attempts to solve the Jammu and Kashmir issue, and instead suggested drafting in Iran or Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela as facilitators in the imbroglio. 'Countries like the United States and United Kingdom should be kept out of Kashmir as they have the power of imposing their solutions on New Delhi and Islamabad,' Hurriyat's new chief Maulana Mohammad Abbas Ansari said in Srinagar a day after taking over. 'It will be a shame if a big power comes and tells India and Pakistan what to do. The two countries should be able to resolve the issue between themselves,' he said. 'India and Pakistan basically belong to the same soil. It would be wiser if the two countries displayed maturity and resolve the Kashmir problem on the dialogue table without third party intervention,' the Hurriyat chairman and leader of Ittehadul Muslemeen said. Asked to name possible countries that could act as mediators without influencing the talks process, the first Shia head of Hurriyat said Iran can be one such country. 'Tehran is a well wisher of India and has friendly relations with Pakistan also. The two countries can seek services of such common friends in resolving the dispute,' Ansari said. Asked to comment on former J&K cheif minister Farooq Abdullah's suggestion that South African leader Nelson Mandela be given a facilitator's role, Ansari said he was not against it. Ansari said New Delhi and Islamabad could also approach the non-aligned movement or even SAARC to help reach a solution. Asked if his statement ruled out mediation as an option, Ansari said mediation was often misconstrued where pressure had to be applied to the two sides for reaching a settlement. 'A mediator is needed only as a witness so that the two parties to a dispute do not go back on their words and that whatever agreement they reach at cannot be disputed later on, he said. Ansari said he was hopeful that talks between India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir would start soon. 'Indications are there that the talks would start soon. The resumption of Delhi-Lahore bus service, diplomatic ties and other exchanges augur well for the peace process', he added. He, however, said confidence-building measures needed to be extended further, including an immediate end to cross-border shelling from both sides. If India is serious about solving the Kashmir issue, a similar bus service should be started between Rawalpindi and Srinagar to allow divided families to meet each other, Ansari said. 'People face a lot of difficulty in getting visas. They suffer a lot of hardships. India should look at the humanitarian angle of the problem and allow a bus service,' Ansari said. 'Kashmir issue is not a border dispute, but a humanitarian problem. It cannot be solved through gun, but only through negotiations. Kashmiris being the principal party to the dispute, should be included in any talks aimed at resolving the issue,' the 65-year-old leader said. 'We are not insisting for inclusion at the outset of the dialogue process between India and Pakistan, but we have to be included at a later stage,' he said. The new Hurriyat chairman sought to downplay differences within the amalgam. 'There is no controversy. People's Conference did not participate in the assembly polls and the Jamaat leader who did had been expelled from the party,' he said. Ansari said his aim would be to keep the conference united and also try to bring back those who had left the conglomerate.