June 2006 News

Singh wants local Kashmir groups heads

20 June 2006
The Daily Times
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh wants “local” instead of “outside” experts to head the five working groups he announced after a roundtable conference in Srinagar last month to study various issues concerning Jammu and Kashmir and recommend solutions. The groups, likely to be announced later this week, will have one expert each from a panel of over a dozen, including two former chief justices of India, drawn up by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The right to choose the expert member rests with the conveners, once Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announces formation of the groups. Sources in the PMO said Azad has completed consultations with various parties and groups and secured a go-ahead from the prime minister to announce the groups. They said the next roundtable, for which no dates have been fixed, hinges on the reports from these groups and hence Singh wants the groups to start deliberations at the earliest. The sources said the Kashmiris would dislike it if outsiders were appointed to deal with their problems, and that was why the prime minister had directed that each group should be led by a representative of a political party in the state. Each group will have five members, including the convener and the expert. The conveners will be from the Congress, National Conference, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist). A representative of Kashmiri Pandits or the Panthers Party may head one of the groups if the BJP, which boycotted the roundtable, refuses to allow its members into the groups, the sources said. The most important working group will deliberate on ‘Centre-State relations’ and issues like ‘autonomy’ and ‘self-rule’, and the PMO has suggested four names as experts former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral, former chief justice of India AM Ahmadi, constitutional expert and writer AG Noorani and former West Bengal finance minister Ashok Mitra. The experts shortlisted for the working group that will consider ‘confidence- building measures across segments of society in the state’ are Nobel prize-winning economist Amratya Sen, former chief justice and present NHRC chairman Dr Adresh Sen Anand, and author of ‘Developments in Jammu and Kashmir Constitution,’ and noted activist John Drez, who resigned from the National Advisory Council last year. Former foreign secretaries Muchkand Dubey, Salman Hyder and Maharaja Krishna Rasgotra have been recommended as experts for the working group on ‘strengthening relations across LoC’. Economists Jagdish Bhagwati, Bimal Jalan and Pranab Sen have been recommended for the working group that will consider economic development and employment generation. The experts suggested for the group tasked to evolve good governance are former cabinet secretaries BG Deshmukh and Zafar Saifullah and the PM’s Principal Secretary TK Nair.


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