Centre plays its Kashmir card, invites militant groups for talks
5 April 2001
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: The Vajpayee Government on Thursday nominated Planning Commission Deputy Chairman K C Pant as its emissary to hold a broad-based dialogue with all Kashmiri groups, including those who have shunned the idea of a negotiated settlement of the problem. The Centre invited all Kashmiri militants" organisations and the Hurriyat Conference for dialogue without any pre-conditions. The Centre articulated its willingness to reciprocate Islamabad's eagerness for talks on Kashmir, provided it curbed cross-border terrorism and put an end to vicious anti-India propaganda. It called upon all "right thinking people in Jammu and Kashmir to join hands and march purposefully in the quest of peace that has eluded them for the last 12 years". Dwelling on Pakistan's offer for talks, the Government reiterated India's readiness for dialogue "in accordance with the Shimla Agreement and the spirit of the Lahore Declaration." The statement announcing Mr Pant's nomination, together with broad details of the Government's political initiative on Kashmir, was made by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). While spelling out the agenda of the proposed dialogue - "Peace and how it may be attained in the troubled State", the statement expressed hope that people's representatives from all walks of life in Jammu and Kashmir will be partners in the dialogue. In a veiled reference to the Hurriyat's ambivalence on participating in the dialogue by putting forth the condition of its Pakistan mission, the statement emphasised that having taken the position to negotiate a peace deal without pre-conditions, the multi-party conglomerate's stand was inconsistent with its policy plank. "The doors are open for the Hurriyat to join the talks. The doors are also not closed for Kashmiri organisations, which are currently engaged in militancy in the state but are desirous of peace," the statement said. In an obvious effort to isolate mercenary factions active in the State, the Centre referred to what it termed continuing violence perpetrated by some "predominantly non-Kashmiri terrorist groups" against the people of J&K. It asserted that the security forces had been directed "to vigorously conduct operations against all those bent upon disturbing peace" without causing undue hardship or harassment to the local population. While calling upon the people to join the peace process, the statement expressed optimism that all political parties, NGOs, trade unions, social and religious bodies from all regions besides the State Government will participate in the dialogue. It said an atmosphere of peace was the only guarantee for the evolution of an "agreed solution" of the J&K controversy. ‘No solution without Pak’ THE HURRIYAT Conference on Thursday said it would discuss the Centre's announcement of talks at its executive meeting in Srinagar next week. However, casting doubts over the government's efforts to promote peace, the Hurriyat said no tangible solution to the Kashmir issue can be found without involving Pakistan. "The reality is that unless India, Pakistan and the Hurriyat hold talks, peace cannot return." The Hurriyat also said that it was unlikely to enter into any dialogue unless its leaders were allowed to visit Pakistan.