Azad hopeful of India, Pak resolving all issues
13 January 2007
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today expressed hope that India and Pakistan would give 'some shape' to proposals to resolve all issues during ongoing Foreign Minister-level talks. 'Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has been suggesting so many proposals through newspapers and television for quite some time, and I hope the opportunity has come to give some shape to these suggestions,' Azad told reporters on the sidelines of a Kashmir Expo on Handicrafts here. He was replying to questions about his expectation from talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri in Islamabad. Mukherjee today began a two-day visit to Pakistan. Azad said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s three-pronged strategy — talks with Pakistan, parleys with political parties of Jammu and Kashmir and talks with separatists of the State — had led to desired results whose success was gauged in the two roundtable conferences held last year. Asked about the much-hyped joint mechanism between the two countries, Azad hoped there would be some forward movement on all these issues. 'Ever since the announcement of the mechanism, there was no such high-level meeting between the two countries but now I hope there will a forward movement in all spheres,' he said. While Azad did not divulge anything about his recent talks with the Prime Minister and Mukherjee, sources close to him claimed he had stressed the need for a concrete response to Pakistan’s proposal for de-militarisation and joint management of Kashmir. Azad has favoured India suggesting to Pakistan ways for joint management of water resources, tourism and trade between the two parts of Kashmir. He has been making it clear that Musharraf’s proposals need to be discussed thoroughly and there should be synchronisation between public posturing and the stand taken at the negotiating table, the sources said. Azad is understood to have informed the Centre that de-militarisation at the borders or the Line of Control is not acceptable. Besides, sending armed forces in civilian areas back to barracks depends on the reduction of violence by militants, as the forces are only performing law and order duties, Azad was quoted by sources as having told the Centre. Kashmir’s famed handicrafts were on display when envoys of several countries visited the Kashmir Handicraft Expo in the capital at the invitation of Azad. Exquisite carpets, beautiful shawls and several other items are on display at the Expo at Connaught Place here and the exhibition will be on till the end of February. Azad went around with various envoys — including those from Egypt, Kuwait and Jordan — who admired the handicrafts and carpets on display. Azad said his Government was trying its best to take exports of handicrafts to Rs 1,000 crore during this fiscal, Rs 300 crore more than the figure for the last financial year. He said the handicraft industry too was a victim of militancy along with tourism, and many Kashmiris earned a livelihood by exporting these items to European markets. 'We are trying to eye the Middle East and CIS markets and that was the purpose of calling these envoys and showing them the exquisite work of Kashmir,' Azad said. Some of the Envoys were left spellbound by the intricate work on shawls and wood carvings of walnut wood.