Kashmir Finally Gets A Place In Patil's Home
2 October 2004
New Delhi: With the PMO denying media reports that it has decided to play the role of an effective coordinator in J&K affairs, the Union home minister Mr Shivraj Patil's forthcoming visit to the Valley slated later this month - his first after assuming office - has become all the more important. A crucial task in hand for the Union home minister during his three-day trip to J&K (beginning 23 October) in to hold informal meetings with representatives of various separatist groups, including the Hurriyat Conference, in a bid to take forward the peace initiatives undertaken by the past NDA regime. Besides making good use of the 'positive feedback' of the recent Indo-Pak talks, home ministry officials believe that Mr Patil too has already contributed his bit in creating a conducive atmosphere for third round of Centre-Hurriyat talks. 'The minister has continued to make the right noises from the very beginning, while refusing to be drawn into any controversy or provocation over statements from the Valley that he was too junior a representative for the Hurriyat to engage in talks with or that the government was making conflicting statements on the Kashmir issue,' observed an official. However, there aren't too many 'official meetings' fixed between the home minister and separatist groups during Mr Patil's trip to J&K - apparently keeping in the mind the consequent expectations it may give rise to. 'An important endeavour of the home minister's trip will be to take in as many suggestions from various quarters to solve the Kashmir issue. Discussions with Hurriyat for fixing suitable dates for next round of talks is also likely,' said an official. Officially, the home minister is scheduled to meet a host of senior government functionaries as well as political representatives including the governor, chief minister, chief secretary, Mr Farouq Abdullah, and Omar Abdullah, besides chairing high-level meetings at the Raj Bhavan. Mr Patil - who is to spend a day each in Srinagar (23 October), Jammu (24 October) and Leh (25 October) - will also make an ariel survey of border fencing work in Jammu region as well as other bordering areas. Besides senior home ministry, army and intelligence officials, Mr Patil is likely to be accompanied by senior Congress leader, Mr Gulam Nabi Azad, as well as two Ministers of State in the home ministry, Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal, and Mr S Raghupathi. Mr Patil was earlier scheduled to visit J&K from 24-26 September but it was postponed due to the assembly elections.