Hurriyat Shifts Gear, Talks Trade
5 May 2006
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: Nearly eight months after their first meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the J&K Hurriyat Conference headed by Mirwiaz Umer Farooq appears to have shifted gear from politics to economics. Even as the Hurriyat contemplates to come up with specific suggestions to carry forward its political agenda through a structured 'dialogue mechanism' at the level of Union home minister, the separatist leaders seem to be pressing for a perceptible softening of the LoC dividing the Kashmiris. That is what even Singh has been advocating as a precursor to the political resolution of Kashmir imbroglio. At the two-hour-long meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday night, one senior Hurriyat leader went to the extent of remarking that 'economics can dissolve complex problems; trade and commerce can dissolve even dividing lines between the countries'. He might have taken a queue from the European Union success story. The Hurriyat, of late, has been talking about some kind of an EU-model for Kashmir, while remaining silent on the political components. Even as New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to commence a truck service on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road for trade and commerce between the people across the LoC-divide - in addition to the existing bus service - the Hurriyat is understood to have pressed for similar services in Jammu province from Rajouri and Poonch. The separatist leaders also reportedly raised the issues connected with human rights violations and excessive frisking of travellers leading to considerable inconvenience and harassment. The PM promised to take a positive view on this. Singh reportedly assured the Hurriyat leaders that the Centre envisages an important role for the conference, to further strengthen the dialogue process. Cautioning them against the hurdles (like the recent Doda killings), Singh reiterated his government's commitment to carry forward an unconditional dialogue process with all political organizations that abjure violence, even if they were not part of the electoral process. The PM also hoped the Hurriyat would attend the second Kashmir roundtable in Srinagar on May 25.