Crucial talks between Centre, Hurriyat begin
21 January 2004
The Hindustan Times
Press Trust of India
New Delhi: The first-ever crucial talks between the Centre and the Hurriyat Conference begin on Thursday with the separatist amalgam adopting a two-pronged strategy, which includes a step-by-step approach for resolution of the vexed Kashmir issue.While the Centre would be represented by Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani at the talks, the five-member Hurriyat delegation would be led by its chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari.Union Home Secretary N Gopalaswami and Centre's interlocutor on Kashmir issue NN Vohra are likely to assist the Deputy Prime Minister in the parleys with the separatist group.The other Hurriyat members are Abdul Gani Bhat, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Bilal Lone and Fazal-ul-Haq Qureshi.Ceasefire with terrorist groups and release of political prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir besides facilitating return of some expatriate Kashmiri leaders are some of the issues that are likely to figure in the talks.The Hurriyat Conference, which ignored threats from various terrorist groups to take part the talks, will be adopting a two-pronged strategy for the talks —steps towards resolution of Kashmir issue and bringing some 'relief' to the people of Jammu and Kashmir from violence.'We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy — discussing resolution- oriented steps for finding solution to the vexed Kashmir issue and bringing some relief to the people of the state,' former Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said.The Hurriyat Conference would not be making their visit to Pakistan as any pre-condition but would emphasise on the point that a visit to Pakistan could be beneficial to efforts to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.Government sources said the Centre was not averse to the idea and may allow the Hurriyat team to visit Pakistan.The Hurriyat delegation would also advocate some measures, including ceasefire with terrorist groups besides release of some political detenues languishing in jails without any case for deepening peace in the state.The delegation would also stress for withdrawal of special powers given to the Army for tackling militancy in the state.The Hurriyat delegation is likely to emphasise on removing travel restrictions and steps in starting the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus service.