Kashmir Rebel Panel Not To Meet Moderate Separatists
1 June 2005
Srinagar: An militant alliance in Pakistani Kashmiri said it would not meet moderate separatist leaders from Indian Kashmir planning to make a historic bus trip across a ceasefire line on Thursday. The trip comes as nuclear-armed India and Pakistan make cautious progress in a peace process that follows decades of distrust and two wars over Kashmir, the disputed territory at the heart of their enmity. It is the first time India has allowed leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference to cross the border for talks with counterparts in Pakistani Kashmir or the Pakistan government. But, the United Jihad Council, a loose-knit alliance of around a dozen militant organisations, issued a statement saying it disapproved of the Hurriyat moderates coming over in an effort to join the peace process, and vowed to carry on the fight to end New Delhi's rule over Kashmir. 'The jihad (holy war) in Jammu and Kashmir will continue until victory is achieved,' the statement said. But talks with Hurriyat leaders could still take place. 'We won't see them as a delegation of the council, but neither will we restrict individual militant leaders from meeting them,' a senior council official told Reuters. The bus route across the ceasefire line dividing Kashmir was opened in April as part of India and Pakistan's efforts to find a lasting solution to their dispute over the Himalayan region. Kashmir was at the centre of two of three wars India and Pakistan have fought since independence from Britain in 1947. Over 45,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since a separatist uprising against India began in 1989. Last week, the Indian foreign ministry objected to plans by the separatist politicians to visit areas outside Pakistani Kashmir, saying such travel would violate an agreement over the bus service between New Delhi and Islamabad. On the eve of the journey, the ministry reiterated its stand but left it to Pakistan to implement the agreement. 'If some of the Hurriyat leaders are invited to travel to Islamabad as has been reported ,.. the onus of this lies with the Pakistani authorities,' a foreign ministry spokesman said. Amid the hype over the trip, a senior leader scheduled to travel to Pakistan warned people not to expect too much. 'It is a beginning, nobody should be under this illusion that this visit will achieve a lot. Kashmir is a complicated issue and we should not expect miracles overnight,' Shabir Ahmad Shah told a news conference. A five-member Hurriyat team as well as Shah of the Jammu Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party and Yasin Malik of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front have accepted Pakistan's invitation to go over for talks. A hardline faction of the Hurriyat, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has rejected the invitation, accusing Islamabad of diluting its stand over Kashmir and appeasing New Delhi.