India In ‘secret Talks’ With Kashmiri Leaders

6 November 2009
Daily Times
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: India has already held “quiet” and “secret talks” with moderate Kashmiri leaders, notwithstanding their public posturing that they were still preparing for the resumption of the peace process stalled since 2005. During the talks, All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had promised to bring a “clear manifesto” for further talks. The Hindu newspaper, on Friday, reported that Farooq had met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram ahead of his visit to New York to attend the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting. Sources told Daily Times that during the meeting, the top separatist leader said he would consult President Asif Ali Zardari in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session to seek support for his engagements with New Delhi. India also wanted Farooq to use his influence to ask Islamabad to put an end to “residual militancy” to enable Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to abide by his commitments on “de-militrisation”, revocation of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and release of prisoners. Diplomatic sources, however, said Zardari asked Farooq to build the widest possible consensus within Kashmir by bringing hardline leaders such as Syed Ali Geelani, Shabir Ahmed Shah and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Mohammad Yasin Malik on board. He even advised the APHC chairman to travel to Pakistan to apprise the Pakistani military and political leadership “face-to-face” about the situation in Kashmir. The newspaper claimed that during his meeting with Chidambaram, Farooq discussed the prospects of the APHC tabling a clear manifesto for talks. Overtures: Sources said while Dr Singh has successfully coaxed Chidambaram to support his Kashmir and Pakistan initiatives, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister AK Antony and National Security Adviser MK Narayanan have expressed reservations at such engagements. Congress party leadership was also not keen on Manmohan’s Kashmir overtures.