Dialogue on Kashmir begins in Islamabad
9 March 2006
Islamabad: Politicians from both sides of the divided Kashmir, and intellectuals and experts from Pakistan and India will meet in Islamabad on Friday for a three-day dialogue on Kashmir in a move to help the India-Pakistan peace process. But the discussions sponsored by an international non-governmental organisation, Pugwash, would be held behind closed doors at an Islamabad hotel before a consensus document could be issued at the end of the conference on Sunday, sources said. About 50 delegates are expected to attend the conference to discuss ways to accelerate the peace process, proposals for self-governance, demilitarisation and economic interaction in Kashmir, according to Pugwash Pakistan chapter chief coordinator Talat Masood. “We are interested... to take the peace process forward and providing a platform to develop a consensus,” he told this correspondent. It will be a rare forum for Kashmiri politicians of diverse opinion to discuss the future of their divided state with intellectuals and foreign affairs experts from India and Pakistan, who will include some former diplomats now engaged in the “back-channel” or “track-two” diplomacy. Among politicians will be those standing for accession of the Jammu and Kashmir state to Pakistan, those from Indian-held Kashmir seeking accession to New Delhi and others seeking to reunite divided Himalayan region into an independent state. Those invited from the occupied Kashmir include pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik, pro-India and pro-autonomy National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, a grandson of the late Kashmiri leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, and representatives of the two rival factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). While Mr Malik had already arrived, Mr Masood said he expected Mr Abdullah also to be here for what will be his first visit to Islamabad.