January 2004 News

Hurriyat leaders back Vajpayee's initiative

23 January 2004
The Dawn

NEW DELHI: All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders met Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for the first time on Friday and assured him they backed his bid to resolve the Kashmir dispute and make peace with Pakistan. The landmark meeting came a day after the leaders held unprecedented talks with Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani in New Delhi, aimed at ending an uprising against Indian rule in the disputed region that has killed more than 40,000 people. 'We had come here to thank the Prime Minister for the initiative he has taken...in search of peace, in search of a solution to the Kashmir problem,' said Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, a senior leader of Hurriyat, a coalition of political, religious and community groups. Mr Farooq was speaking to reporters after a 45-minute meeting, described as a 'courtesy call' by both sides. He said Mr Vajpayee reiterated his government's complete commitment to talks with the APHC leaders. Mr Vajpayee's meeting with Hurriyat leaders came two weeks after he held talks with President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad and the South Asian neighbours agreed to resume talks on a range of disputes, including Kashmir - at the heart of more than half a century of enmity and the cause of two wars. The 79-year-old prime minister last April made a renewed effort for peace between the two nuclear-armed countries, who were on the verge of another war over Kashmir in mid-2002, and called it the last bid during his lifetime. Since then, relations between India and Pakistan have warmed considerably as they restored full diplomatic ties and resumed transport links before agreeing on a dialogue. On Thursday, Hurriyat and the Indian government jointly called for a halt to violence in the Himalayan region, saying an end to the 14-year uprising could be found only through dialogue. They also agreed to meet again in March. CALL REJECTED A Kashmiri guerilla group on Friday rejected calls by India and moderate freedom fighters for an end to all forms of violence, according to a press statement issued by the group in Srinagar. Moderate Kashmiri leaders belonging to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani on Thursday held their first top level talks in New Delhi. The two sides agreed that the only way forward is to ensure that all forms of violence at all levels should come to an end. 'We will not silence our guns against Indian troops and their paid agents,' Jamiatul Mujahedin's field commander General Mohammed Umar said in a statement released to newspapers on Friday. Jamiat is one of a dozen guerilla groups fighting Indian troops in Kashmir. Mr Umar said the group would continue fighting Indian troops 'till we achieve our goal of forcing India out of Kashmir.' Before the talks, Jamiat had threatened the moderates with a 'bad end' if they 'bowed' before India.-Agencies

 

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