Shabir Shah ready for talks, wants Indo-Pak dialogue
16 April 2001
The Times of India
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: Kashmiri separatist leader and president of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDFP) Shabir Shah on Monday expressed his readiness for talks with the Centre, provided the talks were "meaningful". However, he suggested that Planning Commission deputy chairman K C Pant, who is representing the Centre at the talks, should simultaneously engage Pakistan in the dialogue so that the entire process could be fine-tuned to achieve a breakthrough on the Kashmir issue. Shah said it was high time the government showed its sincerity and talked to "actual leaders who opposed Kashmir's accession" rather than talk to parties like the Congress and the National Conference. Reacting to Pant's meeting with former chief minister Mir Qassim on Sunday, Shah said, "There is no doubt that Qassim can give a thorough briefing to Pant on Kashmir, but at the end of it he has to talk to us." Shah, former member of All-Party Hurriyat Conference, said, "Another issue is that India should hold talks with Pakistan." On India's condition that Islamabad should stop cross-border terrorism before any dialogue process could begin, Shah said, "Big men should have big hearts. This process was on when Prime Minister Vajpayee undertook the Lahore bus trip. The Centre should give up its rigid stand and engage in meaningful talks with its neighbour." Shah urged the Centre to understand the language of Pakistani military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, who has expressed his willingness for talks. "I am not stressing on tripartite talks, but a consensus needs to be evolved between India, Pakistan and the people of the state," he said. Shah said militant groups based in Pakistan also need to be taken into confidence. "These people are necessary elements to broker peace in Kashmir." On Hurriyat, he remarked "Hurriyat has still not learnt to broad-base and to reach out to Jammu and Ladakh. I brought them to Delhi and from there they have moved nowhere." "We cannot ignore Kashmiri Pandits, Dogras of Jammu and Buddhists of Ladakh," he added.