Mirwaiz Accepts PM's Invitation For Direct Talks
28 April 2006
The Indian Express
Srinagar: In a major boost to PM Manmohan Singh's Kashmir roundtable next month, Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq today accepted the PM's invitation for direct talks in Delhi next week. This was deemed as a prelude to the separatists' participation in the Srinagar roundtable. However, Mirwaiz said. 'Hurriyat is not against the roundtable but we will not be part of the crowd.' He called the Hurriyat's separate dialogue with the Centre as the 'original format' which needed to be strengthened for a forward movement on the Kashmir issue. 'Hurriyat is for talks with New Delhi. When we started the talks two years ago, it was supposed to be a continuous process,' he said after Friday prayers here and sought 'concrete concessions' from New Delhi to restore the credibility of this long- drawn engagement. Hurriyat, he said, will soon meet to nominate the delegation and finalise the agenda. 'Our main demand is for New Delhi to be flexible, like Pakistan has been, and address the core issue of Kashmir,' he said, even as he listed demilitarisation and the release of the prisoners as part of the Hurriyat agenda. Mirwaiz said the talks had nothing to do with the PM's roundtable but hinted at Hurriyat keeping its options open. 'We will first talk to the Prime Minister and see how things shape up,' he said. 'Unlike our past talks, we want this round to deliver,' he said. Offering a rare acknowledgement to the role of the J-K government in the entire process, Mirwaiz said the state government this time was willing to contribute to peace in the state and that the ball was now in New Delhi's court. However, wary of the talks being seen as a preparatory exercise for the roundtable, Mirwaiz said, 'Our talks with the Centre are independent of the roundtable and should be treated as such.' Round 2 on May 3, ahead of May 25 roundtable PM Manmohan Singh will hold the second round of talks with Hurriyat leaders here on May 3. He will meet Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, said PM's media advisor Sanjaya Baru. This comes ahead of the second roundtable convened by the PM in Srinagar on May 25. The PM would seek a roadmap from the Hurriyat to solve the Kashmir issue as the amalgam had promised to offer a plan. Hurriyat had found itself marginalised after the Centre started negotiations with other separatist groups, including rivals like Sajjad Lone of the Peoples' Conference and Yaseen Malik of the JKLF. Peeved, the Hurriyat stayed away from the first roundtable in Delhi on February 25.