Kashmiris Hopeful Of Continued Peace Process
13 May 2004
Srinagar: Kashmiris said they expected the new government to continue with peace talks with Pakistan after the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's coalition was heading for a stunning defeat on Thursday. With results from the marathon election expected in hours, the Congress party of the Gandhi-Nehru political dynasty gained far more than predicted in opinion polls. Vajpayee began a peace process with Islamabad last year. 'The two countries are due to hold talks on the main dispute of Kashmir in May-June. 'The Bharatiya Janata Party has done good work by establishing good relations with Pakistan. We hope that Congress will continue the good work when it comes to power,' Ahmed Hassan, a doctor, said in Srinagar. Abu Bhat, another resident, said: 'We hope the Congress will continue building better ties with Pakistan, which was first initiated by the BJP. We hope that the India-Pakistan bus service will also continue.' Another Kashmiri, Kazi Ahmed, said he did not expect any major shift in the policy of the Congress party. 'Parties change their stance as soon as they come to power...we cannot say what policy will Congress adopt, but we think they will continue the good work, because they would try their best to perform better than the previous governments,' said Ahmed. There were some who opined that the Congress, being the oldest political party of the country, could resolve the vexed dispute. 'We are hopeful that the Congress will try and solve the Kashmir problem, which no ruling party has been able to solve till now. We hope that Congress will solve the problem,' said Mahatir Mohammad. Vajpayee called the election six months early confident a booming economy, warming ties with old foe Pakistan and a bumper harvest would guarantee his alliance another five years. But voters and analysts say his 'India shining' slogan came across as too smug and the country's rural majority has turned its back on the ruling coalition saying reforms and booming growth had only benefited the urban middle class. Meanwhile, the opposition National Conference party president Omar Abdullah, who won from Srinagar parliamentary constituency, thanked the voters. 'I hope that I will be able to restart my work. I was defeated from here in 2002, I think we should now forget that. I am thankful to the people of Ganderbal,' said Abdullah.