Crisis may render J&K ceasefire futile
21 March 2001
The Times of India
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: The present political crisis confronting the Union government may render futile the unilateral ceasefire initiative in Jammu and Kashmir. For the Union government, the objective behind initiating the unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir was to subsequently hold talks with disgruntled elements to find a permanent solution to the Kashmir imbroglio. However, with the Centre itself drawn into the vortex of political turmoil, the prospects of a dialogue on Kahsmir seem to have receded. "Kashmir is not going to be the main concern in any case with assembly elections due in several states in the second half of April. All major political parties, including the BJP-led government, are going to be busy gearing up for the elections," a senior government official said when asked about prospects of Kashmir ceasefire. Senior Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Omer Farooq told The Times of India on Tuesday that even before the government got into a political turmoil, it did not take any concrete step beyond announcing the ceasefire. He said he had high hopes from Prime Minister Vajpayee's peace initiative and that even Pakistan had responded to it. "But the government failed to implement the ceasefire in letter and spirit, and there seems to be confusion on the Kashmir issue," he said. About a Hurriyat delegation for peace talks to Pakistan, he said initially the government said it had no objection but then it refused to grant permission to Hurriyat representatives to travel to Pakistan. He said Hurriyat had no intention of mediating between India and Pakistan as was alleged and they were prepared to wait and be included in the talks later on to represent the interest of the Kashmiri people. He was still hopeful that the peace initiative by way of ceasefire may succeed as everybody wanted peace in Kashmir. The security experts, however, perceive things differently. They point out that in any case the thrice extended ceasefire had failed to elicit positive response from the major actors in the Valley, namely the militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and the Jaish-e-Mohammad which had outrightly rejected the ceasefire. Thus, they say yet another objective of ceasefire, to end violence, had also not been achieved and that the killings had gone up. Hurriyat Conference, experts say, did not figure in the ceasefire perspective as they were not in a position to ensure end to violence by any of the militant outfits. Hurriyat leaders were also not in a position to influence Pakistan military regime to desist from cross-border terrorism, they point out. The present extension of ceasefire lasts till May-end. Many factors would have by then come into play, depending to what impact the present political crisis leaves on the country.