Patil Hints At 'possibility' Of PM Role In J&K Talks
18 June 2004
The Asian Age
New Delhi: Union home minister Shivraj Patil on Friday hinted at the possibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holding talks with the Hurriyat Conference leaders. In an interview to the BBC World programme Hard Talk India, Mr Patil said he would reward moderate Kashmiri leaders who talk to the Centre in the hope of encouraging others to follow suit. He was responding to a question by Karan Thapar about the pressure on the Hurriyat leadership to show quick results from their talks with the Union government. 'If anybody is working under pressure, they shall have to talk to those who are exerting that pressure and make them see what can be done and what cannot be done,' the Union home minister said in an interview broadcast on Friday night. When asked if he was ready to reward the Hurriyat in order to encourage others, Mr Patil said, 'Definitely.' Asked about the Hurriyat claim that having held talks with a deputy prime minister (L.K. Advani), Mr Patil as Union home minister would be too junior to hold talks with, the minister seemed to hint that the Centre would look into the possibility of talks with the Prime Minister directly. 'I think if the home minister is not capable of talking to them, if the Prime Minister has to talk to them we shall have to see if the Prime Minister can talk to them... These are the things that have to be dealt with in a proper manner in order to solve the problem. If one is intending to solve the problem one would take things as they come and try to find as to how the things can be solved,' Mr Patil said. However, when asked to reconfirm if the Prime Minister might speak to the Hurriyat directly, Mr Patil backed off, saying: 'I'm not saying anything of the kind and don't put that interpretation on what I'm saying.' Mr Patil's ambiguity on the topic was highlighted when later he was asked if a preliminary meeting with the Prime Minister might be a possible way of roping in separatists who had earlier refused to talk with the NDA government. He again left open the possibility of this happening, saying: 'Such promises should not be extracted from the home minister of India when he is dealing with these kinds of things... I'm not saying yes or no to it. I'm saying that those who are given the responsibility to talk to them will talk to them.' Giving details of the Congress- led UPA government's Kashmir policy, Mr Patil said that its aim was 'to solve the problem through talks.' He added that the government was mulling economic packages and measures to increase employment in the state. 'We do think the first thing we should do is to talk to the people who are there and try to persuade them to see that these kinds of issues should be handled in a very just and sympathetic and correct manner... and we will try to see how there is a meeting of minds between the two sides. And we will try to solve the problem through talks. But that's not the only thing. We will have to do some other things also. An economic package will help them. Providing employment to the people will help them,' the home minister said. Mr Patil, however, refused to say anything about the cross-border infiltration and whether it was at an acceptable level or it was rising. 'I'm not saying anything on this point. I'll keep that information to myself... I can't. There are many things (on which) you can talk anything (but) I can't talk anything.' Commenting on the UPA government's resolution to main communal peace and harmony, the Union home minister said, 'These measures relate to your attitude towards life. The people who are in high positions should not keep making statements and creating a divide in society... the people who are in positions they should not make any statement and (the) impression should not be given that there are some good citizens and some citizens who cannot be treated as good citizens. That kind of thing has first to be eradicated.' However, Mr Patil refused to say how this would relate to people like Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi or VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia. He said he would not talk about individuals. The Union home minister denied that his government was moving towards imposing the President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh. He explained the Congress agitation against the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led government, by saying, 'You know that there have been persons who are in one government and yet they are criticising against the government. In Maharashtra, this has happened. In other states (it) also happened. Supposing something is wrong in a state, (is) the elected representative not allowed to express what he feels?'