January 2005 News

Concern Over Increased Fidayeen Attacks

17 January 2005
The Times of India

New Delhi: Concerned at the increasing 'fidayeen' attacks in Srinagar, the Central government has decided to restart political dialogue with seperatists in Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has authorized his Home Minister Shivraj Patil to restart stalled dialogue with separatist groups including the moderate faction of All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), which had held two rounds of negotiations with the previous Atal Bihari Vajpayee led government. Sources here said that Patil's office is sending out invitations to various groups for talks. New Delhi's interlocutor on Kashmir former top bureaucrat N. N. Vohra is understood to have asked the government to show urgency in political dialogue to check violence. At a recent meeting with the Prime Minister Vohra believed that the delay in the talks has made militants once again pro-active in Kashmir. The decision to send invitation letters to all the groups was taken at a high-level meeting convened by Patil last week. 'The invitation for talks being extended to political parties in government in Jammu and Kashmir, those in opposition and other political groups not represented in the legislature,' sources said. The issue was also discussed threadbare at the Coordination Group of the government headed by Vohra. Sources further said New Delhi is also thinking of extending invitations to Tehreek-e-Hurriyat led by hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. This will further underline New Delhi's commitment to 'meaningful' dialogue, they said. The moderate Hurriyat, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had already held two rounds of talks with then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and had agreed to continue the process. However, after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government assumed power in May last year, the dialogue was stalled. The Hurriyat has refused to meet Patil, arguing that holding talks with Home Minister after Deputy Prime Minister will 'lower' the level of dialogue. Mirwaiz led Hurriyat is also demanding that its leaders be first allowed to visit Pakistan before resuming talks. Officials, however, here believe that the faction is buying time to unite its factions, which were disgruntled since the alliance moved closer to New Delhi. 'We had been waiting for them to set their own house in order, but now the wait cannot be indefinite. The ball is now in their court and it is for them to decide whether to continue the process,' said an official. Intelligence agencies, however, here are veering around the view that besides Kashmiris other ethnic groups be also involved in the dialogue process to counter Hurriyat's argument that they are representing all shades of opinion in the state. They are lobbying to seek invitations letters for groups representing Kashmiri Pandits, Gujjars, Dogras, Sikhs, refugees and Paharis, the sources said.


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