Talks possible with ‘everybody’: India
31 March 2006
Islamabad: India’s High Commissioner in Pakistan said on Friday New Delhi could talk to ‘everybody’ in Kashmir in a violence-free atmosphere but sidestepped a reported offer by a major guerilla alliance that it would consider a truce if it were included in the dialogue. “We are ready to talk with everybody and there are tremendous flexibilities within the Indian constitution which permit us to do this,” Shivshankar Menon said in reply to a question after giving a talk in Islamabad. However, he declined to give a formal response to reported remarks by United Jihad Council chairman Syed Salahuddin that a guerilla ceasefire was possible if New Delhi recognised groups like his as parties to the Kashmir dispute. Mr Menon was asked after his speech at a South Asian Free Media Association programme if there was a possibility of New Delhi engaging militant groups in talks as it had done with anti-India political groups over the past year to discuss the Kashmir problem. “Obviously in our view the representatives of Kashmiri people are those who are elected by them as their leaders,” the high commissioner said about pro-India parties represented in the Legislative Assembly of the Indian-held Kashmir. “But that doesn’t mean we will not talk to others. But one condition both President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have agreed...is that it has to be done in an atmosphere free of violence — no terrorism. Terrorism has to be controlled.” Mr Salahuddin, who is also the supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, was quoted by a foreign news agency on Thursday as making the truce offer in a telephone interview with Srinagar- based Kashmir News Service. “Not only Hizbul Mujahideen but also the entire militant leadership would consider (a) truce if the Indian government acknowledges the disputed nature of Kashmir...,” the guerilla leader said but added that he wanted talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris before agreeing to a ceasefire. “I have seen what you have seen in the press... that includes ifs and buts and conditions and so on,” Mr Menon said about Mr Salahuddin’s remarks.