October 2016 News

'Track II' On Track, Sinha Team Meets Separatists

25 October 2016
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Samaan Lateef

Srinagar: A five-member delegation, headed by former Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha, today met Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani at the latter's residence, paving the way for talks with separatists, who had on September 4 slammed the door on an all-party delegation of MPs when approached. The delegation comprising retired Air Vice-Marshal Kapil Kak, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, veteran journalist Bharat Bhushan and executive director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve, was with Geelani, who is under house arrest, for 80 minutes. 'We met in a cordial atmosphere. Our aim was to talk to separatists and we have succeeded in that,' Sinha told the media as he came out of Geelani's residence. The delegates insisted that they should not be seen as 'representatives' of the Centre. 'We are people of goodwill. We have come here on humanitarian grounds to share the pain and suffering of Kashmiris,' Sinha said, while emphasising they had had no 'invitation from the separatists'. The delegation members faced angry protesters, who raised slogans, as they left Geelani's house. They later met Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, the only one to have met the MPs on September 4. The three-day visit of the Sinha-led delegation is being seen as a 'Track II initiative', as it is for the first time that civil society members would be interacting with the separatists to break the ice to restore peace in Kashmir. The Valley has seen relentless violence for the past over three months. The delegation is scheduled to meet Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, various civil society members and trade groups tomorrow.