PM To Visit J&K In June To Restart Dialogue Process17 May 2010
Times of India
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to visit Srinagar in the second week of June to pick up the threads of an engagement he had begun, with initiatives like the round-table on Jammu and Kashmir as well as talks with all shades of opinion. The PM's engagements have not been fully firmed up yet but sources said that a visit was definitely on the cards. The PM has been prepared to speak with the Hurriyat leaders in the past and it was up to the groups to decide if they wanted be part of discussions. The PM will be visiting Srinagar after a long gap. N N Vohra, who was interlocutor for Kashmir prior to being appointed as J&K governor, is believed to be planning an outreach to separatists. In the wake of renewed efforts to push the India-Pakistan engagement, with foreign ministers of the two nations due to meet, the 'domestic' part of the Kashmir agenda needs a push as well. State chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who was part of the quiet dialogue with Kashmiri separatists for many years, is also expected to be part of the efforts to open talks with Hurriyat leaders next month in Srinagar, well-placed sources in J&K told TOI. The background talks with Hurriyat received a setback following an assault on senior leader Fazal Haq Qureshi near his residence in Srinagar on May 11, 2009. The attack instilled fear among separatists over the likely militant response to any move for talks. The separatists are particularly vulnerable to pressure from jihadi groups apart from the views of the Pakistani establishment. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had confirmed late in 2009 that the Hurriyat Conference was in constant touch with Track-II interlocutors for reaching an agreement on the agenda for talks with New Delhi. The PM had at a press conference in Srinagar on October 29, 2009 hoped that the Hurriyat leaders would respond to his call for talks for the good of J&K. The recent statement of Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressing his country's willingness to pick up the threads of Kashmir accord since Pervez Musharraf's rule in 2007 may have been a factor to prompt the PM to make another attempt to involve Kashmiri leaders. Track-II diplomacy on Kashmir had received an impetus during Musharraf's rule in Pakistan till 2007. But with Pakistan then engulfed by a crisis between the executive and the judiciary, the moves lost momentum. Former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mohammed Kasuri had recently told TOI that the two countries were close to signing an accord on Kashmir in 2007 with majority of Kashmiri separatist leaders, with the exception of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, agreeing to come on board.