'Singh wants Kashmir issue settled by 2008'
4 May 2006
The Daily Times
New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly told his interlocutors on Kashmir that he does not want “open ended discussions” on the Kashmir issue, and has set a deadline of 2008 to settle the dispute. During his meeting with the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) on Wednesday, Singh told the Kashmiri leaders he would be happy to study their proposals for peace. Official sources here also said that the prime minister did not try to persuade Hurriyat leaders to participate in the round table discussions scheduled in Srinagar on May 25. He reportedly said that he would have been happy to see Hurriyat’s participation, but would not make it a sticking point. “The important thing is that dialogue remains on track and sustained,” the sources quoted the prime minister as saying. “There are irritants like the JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik since he hinges here and there, and Democratic Freedom Movement leader Shabir Shah stands isolated,” the sources added, explaining why Singh is putting so much trust in the Hurriyat Conference. They said the formulation worked out on Wednesday involves formation of two committees through which contact and regular interaction will be maintained. The government will set up one committee while the APHC will form the other. Home Minister Shivraj Patil will head the government committee that will include National Security Advisor KR Naryanan and interlocutor NN Vohra, besides non-official members Saifuddin Soz, union minister for water resources, and Ashok Bhan. APHC chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is believed to have told Singh that the three-member Hurriyat committee will be headed by its former chairman Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat. Working behind the scenes will be another Hurriyat committee consisting of constitutional and legal experts and economists. The “mechanism” of further talks as such was agreed upon at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Hurriyat leaders with the prime minister, but Farooq sought time for discussions with other members of the APHC, which is a conglomeration of nearly two dozen parties.