December 2006 News

Musharraf offer nearer to New Delhi's bottom line

5 December 2006
The Hindu
Praveen Swami

Srinagar: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's four-point proposal on Jammu and Kashmir is part of a carefully constructed — and closely guarded — mosaic of initiatives intended to breathe life into the dialogue process this winter, a highly placed Government source told The Hindu . On December 12, New Delhi will resume formal discussions with the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, with the secessionist coalition chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, meeting the Centre's official interlocutor, N.N. Vohra. He will then travel to England to study the accords that underpinned the Northern Ireland peace process. At once, the former Supreme Court judge, Saghir Ahmad, is expected to chair the first meeting of a working group that will witness a long-delayed dialogue between the Centre and major political parties on Jammu and Kashmir's constitutional relationship with India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to set up the working group in May, but disputes over its leadership and composition delayed its creation. The Mirwaiz-Vohra meeting seems to be the outcome of a growing realisation among the secessionist politicians that the pace of India-Pakistan détente could make them redundant to the peace process. 'If we don't take our place at the table soon,' a senior secessionist leader told The Hindu, 'it is clear India and Pakistan will just start the dinner without us.'+ Gen. Musharraf's proposal, which substituted his earlier calls for 'self-rule' with the terms 'autonomy' and 'self-governance' and 'joint management' of Jammu and Kashmir with 'joint supervision,' comes closer to India's bottom line than ever before. Progress had been made on the other two elements of his proposal — troop reduction and opening up the Line of Control for civilian movement. Major political formations have reacted warmly to the proposal. The Mirwaiz told The Hindu that the proposal needed to be discussed 'not just between India and Pakistan, but also by all parties in Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.' Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik also called for an 'inclusive dialogue.' National Conference president Omar Abdullah called on India to 'move forward.' However, some within the secessionist ranks believe that a deal based on autonomy or self-rule — slogans used by mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir — will cut the ground from under their feet. Sajjad Lone's stand At a rally near Anantnag on Sunday, People's Conference leader Sajjad Lone — until recently a moderate — described the autonomy and self-rule proposals 'a fraud,' and insisted that 'nothing short of independence is acceptable.' Analysts warned that the future of the proposals would rest on Pakistan's ability to deliver on its 2002 promise to end terror acts against India— the foundation of the ongoing peace process. 'We shouldn't get excessively excited by semantics,' argued Dr. Ajai Sahni, director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, 'for, all the talk about peace can only too easily be drowned out by continued violence.'


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