June 2004 News

Pak Objected To J&K Men In India Team

17 June 2004
The Asian Age

Srinagar: The two-day technical talks between India and Pakistan on the proposal of starting a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, scheduled in April this year, were deferred following Islamabad's objection to the inclusion of three officers from Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian team. Confirming this, the official sources here said that the Centre had, after consultation with the Mufti government, picked up the three officials - financial commissioner (home) S.D. Singh, resident commissioner at Delhi Parvaiz Dewan and J&K State Road Transport Corporation managing director Arun Mehta - to represent the state government at the talks. Apparently, keeping in line with its old posture that Jammu and Kashmir being disputed the government in Srinagar does not merit recognition by it, Islamabad objected to the inclusion of the three senior bureaucrats from the state. India, without making a fuss about it at a time when the Lok Sabha elections were close at hand, decided to put off the meet. The deadlock continues, the sources said. The issue is, however, alive and when Union minister for road transport and highways T.R. Balu said, soon after the UPA government took the reins of the country, 'We are ready for reopening the road- link but are waiting for response from Pakistan,' he was actually referring to Pakistan's dragging its feet on the issue by raising the objection on the inclusion of three officers from Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian technical team. 'If the issue is not sorted out in next couple of weeks, the talks are unlikely to take off in July,' said a senior official here. Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed told The Asian Age in an interview earlier that the reopening of what was once the vital road-link between the Valley and rest of undivided India, which is also called the Jhelum Valley Road and Rawalpindi Road, would be a reality soon. He was optimistic of all impediments in the way to be removed sooner than later. 'India and Pakistan will hold technical talks on the issue soon,' he said, adding, 'It is an article of faith with us that the people of Jammu and Kashmir living on either side of the border should be allowed to meet and interact.' Like him, a former Prime Minister of Pakistan- occupied-Kashmir, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, has asserted that in order to create mutual trust the restoration of land routes between the two sides is a must. Mr Mufti added, 'The Pakistani authorities are known to be under tremendous pressure from the Kashmiris living across to accept the Indian offer.' However, hardliners, including some militant outfits, insist that the proposal of starting a bus service between the two cities in a 'conspiracy' hatched in New Delhi to 'legitimise' what they allege is Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.


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