Omar Abdullah Opposes Keeping Kashmir Issue In 'deep Freeze'

29 March 2008
The Daily Excelsior

Islamabad: Opposing suggestions that the Kashmir issue should be 'deep frozen', National Conference president Omar Abdullah today claimed that PPP chairman Asif Ali Zardari's stand that Indo-Pak ties should not be held hostage to the dispute had little support in Pakistan and J-K. Such a stand would be the 'option of the last resort' for the National Conference. 'Besides, there is no guarantee that a future generation will be better (at resolving the issue),' Omar, the son of former J-K chief minister Farooq Abdullah, told PTI on the sidelines of a Pugwash conference here. Omar Abdullah, whose party is in opposition in Jammu and Kashmir, insisted that National Conference did not want the Kashmir issue to be 'deep frozen'. He said, 'We should take a look at what has been achieved and we are willing to take that forward.' Abdullah made it clear that there is no 'popular support on the ground' in Jammu and Kashmir for Zardari's stand that India-Pakistan relations should not be held hostage to the Kashmir issue, which should be set aside to be settled by a future generation. He also claimed that Zardari had 'backtracked' from his comments following the response in Jammu and Kashmir. Zardari's comments, made during an interview with an Indian TV news channel, were widely criticised by hardliners in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. In his first policy speech, Pakistan's new prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani yesterday trumpeted Pakistan's long-standing policy on Kashmir saying 'sacrifices' of Kashmiri people will not go waste and their 'aspirations' will be taken on board while resolving the vexed issue. Abdullah said President Pervez Musharraf's four-point proposal for settling the Kashmir issue still constitutes the best way forward for resolving the decades-old dispute as considerable work has been done on them by Pakistan and India. However, it remains to be seen whether Pakistan's new government which comprises opponents of the increasingly unpopular military ruler will carry forward these proposals as they are 'too closely identified with Musharraf', he said. 'The proposals made by Musharraf represent a framework that we can work with. There is enough in them that we can take forward,' Abdullah . Under his roadmap for resolving Kashmir unveiled in 2006, Musharraf had suggested the gradual withdrawal of troops from the region, self-governance and a joint supervision mechanism. Abdullah also said no 'significant changes' were likely in the Indian government's stand on the Kashmir issue till 2009, when a general election is due. 'The process in India has been institutionalised and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has continued with what was begun by his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee.' Despite the different stands of political parties and groups in Jammu and Kashmir, Abdullah said the National Conference would have no problems in working with other forces 'in selling a solution' to the Kashmir issue. At the same time, the Indian and Pakistani governments would have to take steps to fully implement the confidence-building measures announced for Kashmir. 'The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service hasn't added to the people's confidence. The linkages must actually work. 'There has to be trade across the Line of Control. And movement across the LoC cannot be confined to divided families and must be made available to everyone.' Besides Abdullah, People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, intellectuals and journalists from Jammu and Kashmir are participating in the Pugwash conference.