Militants Condemn Kashmiri Visit
27 May 2005
Srinagar: A militant group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir has condemned moderate separatists for accepting an invitation to travel for talks with Pakistan. The Jamiat-ul Mujahideen said the move would affect the separatist movement in Indian-administered Kashmir. Moderate separatist leaders said they would go to Pakistan earlier in the week to help resolve the dispute. India has permitted the trip, but says the group must restrict its visit to Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Kashmir dispute Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani was non-committal on where the talks would take place, but said the Hurriyat leadership had 'a special status'. 'They can play an effective role in the ongoing peace process,' he told BBC News. 'During their visit, they would not only interact with the Kashmiri leadership of Azad Kashmir [Pakistan-administered Kashmir], but also hold consultations with the Pakistani leadership to carry the peace process forward.' India criticised The separatists are planning to travel on a cross-Kashmir bus service that was launched last month and links Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-administered Kashmir with Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir. It is important to consolidate the peace process between the two countries and the flexibility to travel should be there Separatist leader Abdul Gani Bhat But an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said that Delhi had a clear understanding with Pakistan that passengers travelling on the bus could not travel beyond Pakistan-administered Kashmir. 'Any travel beyond the territory would not be in keeping with the understanding between the two governments,' the spokesman Navtej Sarna said. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said earlier in the week India had cleared the separatists' trip to Pakistan. 'Now we have a breakthrough. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has allowed them to travel to Pakistan,' he told the Daily Times. Kashmiri separatist leaders have criticised India's insistence that the group go no further than Pakistan-administered Kashmir. 'It is important to consolidate the peace process between the two countries and the flexibility to travel should be there,' separatist leader Abdul Gani Bhat said. A spokesman for the moderate faction of the main separatist Hurriyat alliance told the BBC the Indian government 'should not create hurdles in the peace process which it has itself initiated in co-operation with Pakistan'. Key visit Two separatist leaders, Yasin Malik of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads the Hurriyat alliance, have said they will lead delegations to Pakistan. A hardline separatist faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani is yet to respond to the invitation. It is the first time the separatists have been allowed by India to hold talks with Pakistan as a representative group, although some have visited Pakistan individually. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since independence in 1947. But for the past 18 months they have been engaged in a peace process.