Centre-Hurriyat Make Moves For Track-II Talks
24 August 2003
The Indian Express
New Delhi: After Hurriyat showed a moderate approach to talks with the Centre, the government is likely to make its first move during the forthcoming inter-state council meeting at Srinagar for either holding talks with Hurriyat Conference or making a statement to facilitate this. Informed sources said there was a major movement on the track-II level from both sides and the icing on the cake was the indication by the new Hurriyat chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari that he was ready to hold talks with the Centre. The Hurriyat has also made it clear that it would not press for inclusion of Pakistan at initial stage though it was of the view that Islamabad was a party to the dispute and would have to come in at a later stage. Incidentally, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is understood to have been playing a pivotal role in facilitating a dialogue between Hurriyat and the Centre from behind the curtains. Sayeed has been pressing the central leadership to meet Hurriyat as this could help in resolving the internal dimension of the Kashmir issue. The sources said the Centre was likely to make a first step by announcing its willingness to invite Hurriyat for talks during the inter-state council meeting being held in Srinagar next week. Hurriyat is averse to giving any bandh call during the two-day council meeting, which is scheduled to begin on August 27, the sources said. The Centre was also toying with the idea of meeting the Hurriyat leaders at the top level and later continue the talks through its interlocutor N.N. Vohra - a pattern similar to the talks held by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, the sources said. The amalgam leadership, which was recently in Capital, had met several diplomats of various countries where they were told in categorical terms to begin talks with the Centre at the earliest. The absence of firebrand Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelnai from the scene was also an added advantage for Hurriyat as he was alleged to be the only hurdle in the way of Hurriyat-Centre dialogue for resolution of Kashmir issue, the sources said. Geelani, who was retired from holding any political post by the new advisory council of Jamaat, is feeling completely marginalised and was now thinking of forming a new outfit. Geelani has not been able to come to terms with the changing equation in the world, especially after September 11 attacks, under which violence has no role to play in resolution of conflicts the world over, a senior Hurriyat leader said on the condition of anonymity. The second major hurdle of JKLF leader Yaseen Malik has also appeared to be not so insurmountable as Malik today stands completely isolated within the amalgam. The major parties of the Hurriyat led by Ansari, former chairmen Abdul Gani Bhat and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq have been echoing peace with other two major political outfits of the conglomerate - Peoples' Conference and People's League. Hurriyat leaders, who had been in touch with some of the non-government mediators, have also been pressing for an assurance to visit Pakistan, which was under government's consideration, the sources said.