January 2004 News

Mirwaiz praises Advani for his 'sincerity'

29 January 2004
The Daily Times
Staff Report

WASHINGTON: Mirwaiz Umer Farooq had warm praise for India's hardline deputy Prime Minister LK Advani who, he says 'fully' realises the 'sensitivities of the Hurriyat coming to Delhi and talking to him'.In an interview published here this week by India Abroad, the Kashmiri leader who is an important member of the faction that favours talks with India unlike Syed Ali Gillani's group, said, 'We will do our best to strengthen this process which has been initiated by the Government of India.' He said after the meeting, 'My perspective of Advani Ji has changed. The manner in which he talked to the Hurriyat Conference showed his sincerity and his realism.' He told the Hurriyat group that the Kashmir problem would not vanish overnight and it would take time to sort out the 'ticklish' issues. He advocated a step-by-step approach. Mirwaiz Farooq said the delegation was anticipating a 'difference of opinion on many issues', but added that 'whatever issues we mentioned, he not only listened patiently but agreed with most of the problems we took up'.Mirwaiz Farooq described the response in the Valley to the Delhi meeting as positive, adding that 'the mood is very upbeat and optimistic.' He said the Hurriyat had adopted a two-pronged strategy. He spoke of a 'roadmap' and the need to provide 'some relief to the people of the State at the ground level'. He predicted that if the Indian government took some quick action, such as releasing prisoners, 'you will see a lot of change in the mindset to the people of Jammu and Kashmir'. He said, 'I hope those people who were accusing us of a sellout will have a look at the joint statement issued at the end of the meeting.' He claimed that the Indian government had admitted that there 'has to be a resolution to the problem of Jammu and Kashmir'. He said the process had already started with the India-Pakistan dialogue which, hopefully, would lead to a tripartite dialogue. He said all credit for opening the talks with Hurriyat should go to Prime Minister Vajpayee whom he called 'a man with a vision' who wants to 'move forward'. He said Mr Vajpayee was fighting the coming election on the issue of peace and would take the credit with Mr Advani also sharing the 'honour'.Mr Farooq also expressed support for the opening of the Muzaffarabad- Srinagar route, which addressed the human dimension of the Kashmir problem. Asked if he was willing to open the door to other communities, he replied, 'We have no option but to do it. We want to take the initiative further. We are trying to build a consensus amongst separatists and reach out to other parties who may not agree with us.'Asked if the Hizbul Mujahideen would 'fall in line' as well, Mr Farooq answered, 'There is a perceptible change and they will have to realise this sooner or later. You cannot reverse the process that has been started. We need to address problems through dialogue rather than through violence. Violence in all forms has to stop. The only way out is to talk and sort things out. The Hizb chief will realise that things have to move on. He will have to join the process if he wants his organisation to play any meaningful role.'He admitted that 'there are people working behind the scenes and pushing both India and Pakistan to talk. We know how things are today. The American influence is very much there.'


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