August 2000 News

Door open for Hurriyat: Government

10 August 2000
The Hindu
Harish Khare

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the collapse of the dialogue with the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Vajpayee government feels that the ''peace process'' has acquired a certain momentum and that the idiom of dialogue would continue to find favour with the people and groups in Kashmir. The breakdown of the dialogue is described as a mere ''roadblock'' and the hope is that the peace process would be resumed soon, rather than late. On its part the Government is willing, according to authoritative sources, to engage the All-Party Hurriyat Conference in a dialogue. This clarification becomes significant in the context of the harsh language used against the Hurriyat by the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, in Parliament. The authoritative sources indicated ''it is not our intention to tell the Hurriyat leaders that you are outside the dialogue ambit.'' However, the expectation is that the Hurriyat leadership would not insist on a tripartite (involving Pakistan) format; any such insistence would invite an unambiguous ''no'' from the Government of India. Similarly, the Government is also willing to keep the door of an ''unconditional'' dialogue open with the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), but not with the Harkat-ul-Ansar or the Lashkar- e-Taiba. The dialogue could take place only ''with our people''; whereas the Harkat and the Lashkar outfits were manned entirely by Pakistani nationals. Interestingly, and contrary to the assertions made by the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the ''authoritative sources'' suggest that the Government was neither hopeful nor would work for a split in the Hizbul Mujahideen - Islamabad-based Syed Salahuddin faction and the Abdul Majid Dar- led group possibly going different ways. The preference rather would be to ''wait and watch'' how the entire group, consisting almost entirely of indigenous Kashmiris, reassesses its strategy. The Vajpayee Government''s approach to the Hizbul Mujahideen is still based on the formulations made by Mr. Dar during his press conference in Srinagar on July 24. At the conference, Mr. Dar made two interesting points. First, that the decision to offer a ceasefire was a collective decision taken by the Majilis-e-Shora and that ''a consensus had emerged among the HM leadership on both sides of the border for a purposeful dialogue which should result in a peaceful solution of the problem.'' Second, Mr. Dar argued that before the ceasefire offer was made the HM leadership had gauged the public mood in Kashmir and ''it was realised that desire for a peaceful solution of the issue by an unconditional and meaningful dialogue among all sections of society, including the local political leadership and the media.'' On the ticklish question of whether any dialogue had to take place within the Constitution or outside its framework, the authoritative sources feel that the Government''s approach is flexible and fair: ''Do not ask us to give up our position; we are not asking you to give up your position.''

 

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