Kasuri-Kashmiri leadership talks spark debate in Delhi
2 September 2004
News Network International
Srinagar: Though Kashmiri leadership is all set to meet Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri in New Delhi this weekend, the meeting has sparked a controversy in the government circles. Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairmen of rival Hurriyat Conference factions, and other senior leaders, including Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah, would be meeting Kasuri on September 4 or 5. But, 'the Indian security establishment has objected to letting Pakistan have unfettered access to the Kashmiri leaders,' reports from Delhi said. Geelani, Mirwaiz, Malik and Shah last week received invitations for the meeting with Kasuri and Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar from the country's High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan. It is however unknown if it would be a joint meeting or each leader would have individual discussion with Kasuri, Greater Kashmir reported. The officials fear that Kasuri's meeting with 'moderates' at this stage could push them into hardening their stance vis-a-vis the invitation to the third round of talks with the Congress-led coalition government in New Delhi. The officials, reports said, argue that while Hurriyat was not talking to New Delhi at the moment, 'it is rushing headlong to meet Kasuri, putting a question mark on Pakistan's intentions.' Security circles are also reported to be unanimous on blocking the meeting as Pakistan has been seriously trying to patch up differences between the rival Hurriyat factions and persuade the separatist leadership to unite under one banner. This was evident when People's League Chairman Sheikh Abdul Aziz, after meeting Riaz Khokhar in Delhi recently, joined the Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference last week. But the foreign ministry has argued that such meetings would strengthen the view that India is a confident democracy. 'We may not like it, but we can live with it,' reports quoted an unnamed South Block official as saying. Meanwhile, Mirwaiz Umar is likely to take up the reopening of Uri-Muzaffarabad road and permitting the Hurriyat leadership to visit Pakistan to talk with the militant leadership, during his meeting with Kasuri. Umar, whose Hurriyat faction has held two rounds of talks with New Delhi early this year, said he would impress upon the Pakistan leadership the importance of the reopening of Uri-Muzaffarabad road that could unite thousands of families living on each side of the Line of Control.