January 2004 News

Hurriyat talk team in town, let’s not hype, says Advani

20 January 2004
The Indian Express

NEW DELHI: On the eve of the crucial meeting with the All Party Hurriyat Conference, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani said today he would have preferred the talks to have been low key and not hyped so much. ‘‘The post-Islamabad developments have overshadowed the Hurriyat talks. There is no need for any hype especially after the breakthrough we got in Islamabad. Before that, I could understand,’’ he said. However, he refused to comment on the contentious issue — whether the January 22 talks would be within the framework of the Constitution. Soon after the Cabinet’s decision - appointing Advani to talk to the separatist group — he had said that the talks would be within the Constitutional framework. This had immediately evinced a strong reaction from the Hurriyat leaders, who saw it as a pre- condition. Since then, the subject has been given a quiet burial. All those involved in the dialogue process with the Hurriyat now maintained that the talks would be flexible with no fixed agenda or pre-conditions. ‘‘The first meeting is mainly to break the ice and get to know each other,’’ an official said. The Hurriyat leaders echoed this. Arriving from Srinagar today, Hurriyat Chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari said that they were going to talk with an ‘‘open mind’’ without attaching any preconditions and that all the delegates were looking forward to the talks. Other members of the delegation, Abdul Gani Bhat, People’s Conference representative Bilal Lone and Fazl-ul- Haq Qureshi, also arrived with him. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq had reached here yesterday. Bhat also said that the first meeting was mainly going to be a ‘‘familiarisation process’’ where the two sides would exchange pleasantries. ‘‘We are not going to thrust any agenda,’’ he said. However, sources disclosed that Ansari had, along with the official acceptance of Centre’s invitation, listed what sources said was ‘‘expression of his expectations.’’ ‘‘Nothing much,’’ an official said. ‘‘Just things like, they hope that the talks will be held in a friendly atmosphere without any preconditions. Basically they want this to be a freewheeling interaction where they can discuss any issue,’’ sources added.


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