Kashmiri separatist says India talks break down
30 August 2007
Srinagar: Talks between India and moderate Kashmiri separatists have broken down after three years, and the failure could push the next generation towards extremism, a leading separatist leader said on Thursday. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that India lacked the will to find a political solution to the troubles in the disputed Himalayan region where more than 42,000 people have died since a separatist revolt broke out in 1989. 'I think it (the dialogue) has already broken down, more than a year and half has passed and we have not moved an inch anywhere,' Farooq told Reuters in an interview. 'It is an indication there is complete breakdown of communication. 'Maybe, there is more extremism, hardline attitude, which might erupt with the new generation.' Farooq is chairman of the moderate faction of Kashmir's main political separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, which started talks with New Delhi in 2004, the first between the two sides since a revolt began. Farooq's remarks reflect how hopes for progress in the dispute have dissipated this year, with the wider peace process between India and Pakistan also advancing little and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf distracted by his own domestic crises. Farooq said that the broader India-Pakistan peace process 'is on track but too slow'. The Kashmiri leader is battling opposition at home from more radical leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has worried some moderates with his ability to call thousands of Kashmiris onto the streets in anti-India protests and strikes. The latest round of Kashmir talks were held in May 2006 and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Hurriyat, led by Farooq, had agreed to establish a system to discuss solutions to the decades-old dispute over Kashmir. 'To be honest enough, I don't think now they (New Delhi) are much interested ... I think their approach has always been to delay as much as possible,' said the 35-year-old Farooq, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. 'It is very sad that to get the attention of Delhi and the Indian public there has to be violence in Kashmir,' added Farooq, who is also Kashmir's chief cleric. Officials say violence between militants and troops has declined considerably in Kashmir after India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full and rule in parts, started a peace process in 2004. But Farooq, who was educated at a Christian missionary school and married to a U.S.-based Muslim, warned that India was missing an historic chance. 'I genuinely believe an opportunity is being missed, because nobody knows, whatever Hurriyat Conference is in a position to do today, maybe two years, three years, four years down the line, we are not in a position to do that,' said Farooq. Farooq delivers sermons every Friday to thousands at the grand Jamia mosque in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital. Hurriyat, which wants the dispute to be settled with trilateral talks with India and Pakistan, split in 2003 when a hardliners headed by Geelani walked out after moderates decided to hold talks with New Delhi. Most of the militant groups also opposed the talks. 'We suffered, we went against the tide, we initiated the dialogue, but it pains to see that they left it halfway,' said Farooq. Farooq's uncle was shot dead and the region's oldest school, run by Farooq, was razed after Hurriyat held talks with New Delhi. His guarded house in Srinagar has been attacked several times with grenades. 'Hurriyat has always been for a dialogue ... we believe that we have a very strong case and we should not be scared to talk.'