Kashmiris Expect Talks With India After Pakistan
7 June 2005
Islamabad: Separatists from Indian Kashmir, due to meet Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf later on Tuesday, said they expect Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to invite them for talks once they return home. The separatists have so far been left out of the peace process begun 18 months ago by South Asia's nuclear-armed rivals, but they have Pakistan's support to be included in a three-way dialogue to settle the core issue of their disputed homeland. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said India's decision to allow himself and eight other separatist leaders to cross Kashmir's ceasefire line for talks in Islamabad showed which way New Delhi was leaning. At a luncheon hosted by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Farooq was asked whether he expected the Indian premier to call the Hurriyat leaders for talks. 'Oh, definitely,' Farooq said, adding that India clearly wanted to address the issue. 'The fact that we are sitting here today in Islamabad is a tacit recognition of the fact that the government of India does realise that until the people of Kashmir are satisfied there cannot be permanent peace in Kashmir.' The separatists arrived last Thursday, coming on the bus route between Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, and Muzzafarabad, the capital of Pakistan's portion of the Himalayan region. The bus route, started in early April, is the most tangible result of a peace process Musharraf and Singh now describe as 'irreversible'. 'Let's hope the government of India is interested in taking the dialogue process forward,' Farooq said, explaining that mechanisms needed to be established to involve all interested parties. Hurriyat's moderates want a united and autonomous Kashmir. Two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since partition of the subcontinent in 1947 have been over Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. They almost went to war again in 2002, this time armed with nuclear weapons. Over 45,000 people have been killed in Indian Kashmir since a secessionist uprising began in 1989. India has long blamed Pakistan for fostering the Islamist-led insurgency, something Islamabad denies, saying it offers only moral support to what it calls Kashmiri freedom fighters. A hardline faction of Hurriyat refused to make the trip to Pakistan in protest over what they see as a sell-out by Musharraf. Militant allies of the hardliners have been fighting for all of Kashmir to belong to Pakistan. Musharraf, who is due to meet the Hurriyat leadership late on Tuesday, wants them to be part of the dialogue. He sees the Kashmir dispute being resolved through demilitarisation of those areas in Indian Kashmir where the conflict has been centred, and the establishment of a soft border for the Kashmiris, along with some form of self-governance, albeit with oversight from New Delhi and Islamabad.