APHC seeks India-Pakistan summit in Srinagar
21 May 2004
NEW DELHI: More than 100,000 Kashmiris gathered in Srinagar on Friday to remember their martyred leaders, where they also resolved that the next India-Pakistan summit be held in Srinagar, the region's spiritual leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said. Speaking to Dawn from Srinagar, after leading a huge rally to mark the slaying of his father, Mirwaiz Mohammed Farooq, 14 years ago, and the more recent killing of APHC leader Abdul Ghani Lone on May 21, 2002, Maulvi Umar Farooq said their martyrdom would not go waste. He described the nomination of Dr Manmohan Singh as India's new prime minister as a source of new hope for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. 'I proposed today to the people of Kashmir that the next India-Pakistan summit talks should be held on the land that is the subject of their dispute. The people approved it unanimously,' he said. Maulvi Umar Farooq praised Dr Manmohan Singh's remarks about the future of the peace talks with Pakistan and the prime minister-designate's emphasis on talking to everyone in Kashmir about the way ahead. The first encounter that Dr Manmohan Singh could have with a Pakistan leader will be in September, at the UN General Assembly when President Gen Pervez Musharraf is expected to be there. After Dr Singh is sworn in on Saturday, a foreign minister is likely to be named too. Former envoy to Pakistan, Mr Natwar Singh's name is being mentioned ahead of others. But whoever takes charge of the external affairs ministry, the first meeting with the Pakistan counterpart could come earlier than officially envisaged. Although they have agreed to meet in either Islamabad or New Delhi in August as part of their pre- arranged bilateral dialogue, the two foreign ministers would meet even before that, in Beijing during the Asian Cooperation Dialogue and Kuala Lumpur for the Asean Regional Forum meet, both in June. Then in the third or fourth week of July, the Pakistan foreign minister would host the Saarc foreign ministers' conference, again expecting Indian participation, official sources said. If by then the APHC is able to put its house in order,there could be some movement in their stepped up involvement in the peace process, albeit on a separate track. The hopes for this are brightening. In a surprise move at the start of the rally, the chairman of the main faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Maulvi Abbas Ansari, offered to step down if that would help forge greater unity among the ranks of the Kashmiri struggle. The move would help woo groups like the ones led by Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah but there is uncertainty about it having any impact on Syed Ali Shah Geelani's decision to break away from the APHC some months ago. Mr Geelani, a leader of Kashmir's Jamaat-i-Islami, is recognized by Pakistan as the leader of the APHC. India sees Maulvi Ansari as the true leader and high level talks have been held with him.