December 2004 News

Travel curbs on Kashmiris may go

18 December 2004
The Daily Times
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: India may ease travel restrictions for Kashmiri leaders excluding those it deems a 'threat to peace' and likely to indulge in 'anti- national activities' aboard, officials said on Saturday. The 'glasnost' in India's Kashmir policy came after the recent Kathmandu conclave, where for the first time Kashmiri leaders across the divide met and discussed 'peace and an end to violence.A senior official said that India was contemplating several measures including the easing of foreign travel restrictions on All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders in a bid to take the peace process forward. He said that New Delhi wanted to send the message to Pakistan that it was involving all Kashmiri groups in resolving the issue. Except for hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah, all other APHC leaders were allowed to attend the three-day summit in Kathmandu.Without naming Geelani, officials made it clear that the easing of travel restrictions would not extend to those indulging in 'anti-peace activities', or those it thought might engage in anti-Indian activities abroad. Officials claimed that India was pursuing a rational and patient approach to the Kashmir issue and did not expect any quick-fix solutions to complex issues, adding that the government was in touch with all groups in Jammu and Kashmir. While officials said that New Delhi had no objection to talking to the Kashmiri leadership, it stressed that there was no reason for Hurriyat's direct participation in these talks. Officials have said that cross-border terrorism has come down in recent months, adding that this has not been due to any qualitative change in the political atmosphere, but because of New Delhi's stepped up vigil and fencing along the Line of Control (LoC), as well as the winter months and the erosion of the militants' support base. Keen to develop the 'peace constituency', officials said that the government's main focus was on improving people-to-people contact between the two countries, including the resumption of bus and rail services. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is scheduled to visit Islamabad later this month to meet his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar. The two are expected to discuss peace and security, Kashmir, as well as review the progress of the peace process. It is expected that the two countries national security advisers will continue to hold meetings away from the media glare.


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