The First Initiative Was Taken By Vajpayee: Moulvi Abbas Ansari
14 January 2004
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Moulvi Abbas Ansari is basking in the spotlight of the media ahead of his talks with Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. He believes that the recent Indo-Pak talks in Islamabad have opened a new chapter of peace for Kashmir. He told Arun Joshi that there is a need to sustain this atmosphere of peace and friendship that is crucial for peace in the region. Excerpts from the interview: How do you view the recent talks between India and Pakistan? It is a good step. I am sure this has resulted in reducing distances and differences between the two countries. Much of the bitterness too has melted. An atmosphere of goodwill and peace has been created and now there is need to maintain and sustain this atmosphere. How is it good for the people of Jammu and Kashmir? Once the two countries start talking, we, the people in Kashmir, may not be able to shake hands with the people across the borders. But we can exhibit our sense of relief and joy by waving our hands to each other. We will get rid of the shelling and the violence. But how does it affect any solution to the Kashmir crisis? When Delhi and Islamabad talk, peace will come and we will get rid of the bloodshed and violence. We are dying everyday. Kashmiris are going into graves. We want an end to it. I am sure when India and Pakistan bring down the walls of their hatred, a solution to the Kashmir crisis will also emerge. The India-Pakistan joint statement in Islamabad says the solution will be worked out to the satisfaction of the two countries. There is no mention of Kashmiris or their satisfaction. Any comments? Kashmir is very much mentioned. It has been made amply clear that the first round of talks in February will cover Kashmir. Neither side can ignore Kashmir and the wishes of the people. Whom do you give credit for breaking the impassť and for bringing in the thaw in India-Pakistan relations? To the leadership of both the countries. But the greater credit goes to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who expressed his will to end the hostility with Pakistan during his lifetime. President Pervez Musharraf has also exhibited his wisdom, vision and statesmanship. But though both sides were willing to break the ice, the first initiative was taken by Vajpayee. How do you view the re- opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road? It is a welcome step. But there should be relaxation. We should not be asked to travel to India and then to Pakistan to come back to our own Valley. The distance that we can cover in 15 minutes should not be detoured for days or weeks. Have you been invited by the Centre for talks and how long do you think it will take you to get the invitation - if it hasn't already been delivered? It is yet to come. I am told that it has been dispatched. But I have not received it yet. There is a delay.