November 1999 News

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Hurriyat signals new line to Delhi

10 November 1999
The Asian Age
By Seema Mustafa

NEW DELHI: All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Ghani Lone has made a strong plea for the inclusion of "Kashmiri representatives" in any dialogue between India and Pakistan, and has said that "whatever is the agreed solution will be acceptable to the Hurriyat, even if it is to stay with India."

Speaking to The Asian Age on Wednesday, Mr. Lone offered to bring down the level of terrorism in the Valley if the Hurriyat was involved in the dialogue. "If we are sure that the government of India will make the Hurriyat party to the talks, we will be in field to stop the violence," he said.

In a marked departure from the Hurriyat's rigid stand, Mr. Lone, who returned from Washington recently, is in Delhi lobbying for the inclusion of the separatist group in any dialogue on Kashmir. Asked if independence was the solution to the Kashmir issue, the Hurriyat leader said, "No, basically we want the issue to be solved forever. Put us in the talks, let us solve it and whatever is the agreed solution, will be acceptable to the Hurriyat."

Mr. Lone went to the extent of saying that the "Hurriyat movement is for persuading the government of India" that the dialogue should include "the people of Kashmir." India and Pakistan. He said the solution should emerge through "peaceful dialogue and not the use of force." Mr. Lone said the people of Kashmir are not with India or Pakistan and there can be no solution without "our involvement in the process."

The Hurriyat leader, who has been speaking extensively on this theme, appears to be following a well rehearsed brief. He was also very critical of Pakistan, stating that successive governments had been promising "diplomatic, political and moral support" to the Kashmiri cause for 52 years "and this has ceased to carry conviction."

He was very reluctant to commit himself on Pakistan's new military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, evading all questions on the subject. He merely said that the Chief Executive of Pakistan had also reiterated the above offer and at this stage "we can't say anything about him." Significantly, Mr. Lone was very supportive of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and refused to condemn the terrorist attack on the Army base in Srinagar. "Our people (on both sides of the LoC) were forced to pick up the gun, our every sentiment is with them," he said.

Asked whether the Hurriyat would prefer a democratic India or a militarist Pakistan, Mr. Lone's first response was, "This depends on what our people want," And then he added, "If you ask me personally, who can have any differences on democracy? But in India this comes in installments, and by the time it reaches Kashmir or the Northeast it becomes colonial."

Mr. Lone, who had gone to Washington for treatment, also addressed the contact group of the Organisation of Islamic Conference as well as its foreign ministers during his three-month stay in the US capital. He also spoke at special meetings organised for him by US based "think tanks" and met state department officials. He was in touch with the Kashmir Study Group which has brought out a detailed plan suggesting three options for a solution of Kashmir.

The Hurriyat leader, who had last visited Washington in 1993, said the marked change this time was that "everyone was aware of the status of Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint in the South Asian region."


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