Independence Not A Viable Option For Kashmir : Omar

7 September 2008

New Delhi: [Pro Indian] National Conference President Omar Abdullah has ruled out 'Azadi' (independence) or accession to Pakistan as a viable option for Kashmir and slammed the Centre for losing the 'best opportunity' to resolve the issue during Prevez Musharraf's tenure as the country's President. Abdullah, a prominent Kashmiri leader, told a television channel in an interview that the situation in kashmir was 'bad' and the alienation of the people was a cause for concern. He also denied that ISI was involved in the recent widespread protests in the valley in the wake of the Amarnath land transfer issue and said the protests were an upheaval of people's pent up simmering anger. He said the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had offered the best opportunity for a solution to Kashmir issue but India 'flunked' it. 'I do not believe that independence for Kashmir is a feasible or a viable option and I stand by that...It's my job to tell the people what I believe is in their interest and I sincerely believe that it is not in their interest. It is not a viable alternative to suggest azadi or even accession to Pakistan,' he told CNN-IBN. Elaborating, he said Kashmir could be given independence but not freedom under the circumstances that prevail within the subcontinent-India, Pakistan and China. Even if India and Pakistan were somehow to decide to give the state independence, it would never be really free, Abdullah said. Obseving that Kashmir needed political handling and not economic reconstruction packages and confidence-building measures, Abdullah said he had been always saying-in various fora including the Prime Minister's round table conferences, that Kashmir is essentially a political issue which needs political handling. 'It's not good enough that you give a 24,000 crore economic reconstruction package or you announce all sorts of confidence building measures. It's essentially about the political solution that you need to work out there,' he added. Criticising the Centre for flunking the opportunity to solve the Kashmir issue during President Musharraf's tenure, Abdullah said Gen Musharraf was a 'single window system' and India flunked this golden opportunity. '...we will not have an opportunity like this...I always said the door is closing, its not going to remain open forever and lets grab this opportunity now or we'll loose and it might be the only opportunity of my generation ...We lost it. It's gone...Musharraf was a single window system so to speak, that we had to deal with in Pakistan. That window has gone...We flunked it. All of us, we all played a part in it...Well we are living to rue it now. Had we worked out a solution with Pakistan in 2006-2007, we wouldn't see Kashmir inflamed in 2008,' he added. Asked whether he supported the recent agreement between the Jammu and Kashmir Government and the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, he said 'absolutely.' 'The bottom line for me is that if you don't agree with this agreement, you might also turn around and say that you are against the yatra because there is nothing in this that should give anybody a cause for concern.' Asked if he agreed with the National Security Advisor's comment that Kashmir situation was not as bad as 1990s, Abdullah said 'It's bad.' The difference between now and 1990s is that there are no guns. ' that extent yes, the NSA is right when he says it's not as bad as 1990 because in 1990s people like myself, my party colleagues, we were all fleeing. But he is being a little careful in assessing the actual mood of the people because the size of the protests that you saw in Kashmir, I think should give him more cause for concern than he is publicly stating.' Abdullah denied that there was any Pakistani or ISI involvement in the recent protests in the Kashmir valley. He described the protests as spontaneous. 'What happened was a spontaneous eruption arising out of the fear that the economic blockade brought into people's minds because even in the worst of times, 1990, 1991, 1992, never was there an effort made to cut off Kashmir economically from the rest of the country. 'This is the first time it happened and it sparked off the reaction that you saw,' he said. Asked if he thought in the present situation elections could be held so that the new assembly could be constituted by January 2009, he said elections were possible. 'I believe you can have elections. We missed the great opportunity to have a really good election in Jammu and Kashmir a few months ago. I think (the then Chief Minister) Ghulam Nabi Azad was interested in prolonging the life of his government announcing few populist measures,' the National Conferece leader said.