Valley Hails Obama Victory, Sees 'hope'

5 November 2008
The Indian Express

Washington DC: As political parties in the Valley, cutting across the separatist-mainstream divide, welcomed Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential elections, a group of Kashmiri students took out a rally and lit candles in celebration. For separatists, Obama's recent statements have come as 'hope” and a “departure from the current US policy of non-engagement in Kashmir”. The response of the mainstream parties has been extremely warm. “Anything he (Obama) can do to facilitate a resolution of this (Kashmir) issue between the two countries is welcome,” said National Conference president Omar Abdullah. “We also believe that as long as he (Obama) works to facilitate a resolution without taking sides, its beneficiary will be the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. Abdullah, however, said India will not tolerate mediation, but facilitation is always welcome. “Obama will need to recognise that both the countries have to do it together and there is a need to respect the sentiments of both sides. That alone will help us move ahead towards a resolution”. Peoples Democratic Party patron and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said Obama's victory would have far-reaching and positive global ramifications. “It is a mindboggling change. He (Obama) is an immigrant, African-American and his father was Muslim. The American people have accepted him as their leader and it is perhaps the biggest ever move towards reconciliation in the world,” he said. “Obama’s victory has come as a good omen as India and Pakistan are already working on a solution of this (Kashmir) issue,” said Sayeed. The separatists were also quick to welcome Obama's victory, especially in view of his recent statements regarding Kashmir. Obama had said that if elected, he would try to help resolve the Kashmir issue so that Pakistan can focus on militancy in its tribal areas and Afghanistan, even hinting at making former President Bill Clinton his envoy for this purpose. These statements have given separatists’ a hope of a shift in the US policy towards Kashmir, especially after the Bush administration consistently ignored their demand for intervention. The chief of Hurriyat moderates, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said: “We hope that Obama will fulfill his promise and responsibility. We hope that he will give practical shape to the statements he made regarding Kashmir during his election campaign”. He also welcomed Obama's proposal to send Clinton as his envoy. Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Geelani termed the victory as historic and hoped that Obama would “resolve the Kashmir...issue in its historic perspective”. He said: “We hope his election will bring a positive change in the foreign policy of America.” The pro-independence JKLF too congratulated Obama. “His (Obama’s) recent statements on Kashmir are encouraging,” said JKLF's vice-chairman Bashir Ahmad Bhat. “The people of Kashmir are hopeful that he will work for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute”. Meanwhile, some students of Kashmir University assembled in the campus to celebrate soon after Obama's victory was announced. Later, a group lit candles, holding placards that read “Obama, keep the promise, help solve Kashmir”....