Parties Welcome Modi-Sharif Meet

27 May 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Ishfaq Tantry

Srinagar: Mainstream political parties in Kashmir have welcomed the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif today and termed it a good beginning, but the separatist camp in Kashmir has interpreted the meeting differently. While the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference termed the meeting as a 'meaningless exercise' and the absence and omission of the K-word from public statements as 'unfortunate', the moderate Hurriyat was satisfied by the fact that both countries had agreed to 'formalise' the bilateral engagement at the foreign secretary level. Carrying a 'message of peace', Sharif, who arrived in New Delhi on Monday afternoon, today held a detailed bilateral meeting with Modi at Hyderabad House, which stretched well past the stipulated time. However, in the public statements issued by both sides at the end of the meeting there was no specific mention of 'Kashmir'. While Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh in her statement said India's position on Kashmir was well known, Sharif in his brief public statement missed the Kashmir word altogether. Welcoming the Modi-Sharif meeting, the ruling National Conference hoped both India and Pakistan would begin meaningful talks on all outstanding issues, particularly the Kashmir issue. National Conference general secretary Shiekh Mustafa Kamal in a statement here said that both India and Pakistan should start a meaningful dialogue over Kashmir while keeping in view the aspirations of Kashmiri people. 'However, in any result-oriented and meaningful talks, the participation of all stakeholders from J&K becomes necessary', Kamal said while adding that the direct fallout of tensions and sour relations between the two nations is borne by the people of J&K. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while welcoming the meeting, termed the engagement between the two heads as a good beginning of a long journey. 'Though nobody expected any miracles in the first meet, but positive notes struck by Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif during the meeting today has added great value to this engagement,' PDP chief spokesman Naeem Akhtar told The Tribune. He said there was no other way for both neighbours than talking and engaging. Hailing the attendance of the SAARC heads at the swearing-in of Modi, the Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN), headed by Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, has termed the meeting between Modi and Sharif a 'good beginning' for the South Asian region. The party said the people of J&K had high hopes that a result-oriented dialogue would start between the two countries for the betterment of the people of the state and the country. Meanwhile, Ayaz Akbar, spokesman of the Syed Ali Geelani-led hardline Hurriyat, said: 'The outcome of the meetings between the two leaders is unfortunate. The absence of Kashmir from the public statements indicates that Kashmir has not been discussed. Rather, we will call this meeting just a ritual and a meaningless exercise.' Asked if the Kashmir issue had been sidelined, Ayaz said: 'Any Pakistani Prime Minister cannot afford to sideline the Kashmir issue from his engagements with India given the aspirations of Kashmiri people and the position of the Pakistani army over it.' 'Minus Kashmir, any dialogue or engagement between India and Pakistan is meaningless and a fruitless exercise,' he added. 'It is matter of satisfaction that both the countries have decided and agreed to formalise the dialogue process at the foreign secretary level', chairman of the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told The Tribune 'No doubt Kashmir was not mentioned in the public statements, but I am sure that Kashmir continues to be one of the important issues in the agenda between India and Pakistan. And I am also sure that both the leaders must have discussed it in their meeting today,' Mirwaiz said while reading the missing K-word from the public statement as a matter of 'caution' by the new government led by Modi and on part of the Pakistan Government.