Delhi Sends Feelers To Geelani14 January 2010
Srinagar: In a significant move in the on-going political initiatives on the Kashmir issue, the center today made a behind-the-scenes contact with the chairman of the Hurriyat G, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, through former point man, Wajahat Habibullah, to invite the veteran separatist for talks and a meeting with the union minister for home, P Chidambaram. Geelani, a trenchant opponent of any bilateral engagement with India, has confirmed the one-hour meeting with Habibullah in New Delhi today. The meeting, an unexpected turn of events in New Delhi’s moves on Jammu and Kashmir, comes in the wake of the union home minister’s announcement of initiating quiet diplomacy in Kashmir to engage “all groups” in fruitful dialogue to resolve the 62-year-old Kashmir impasse. Habibullah, highly regarded across the political spectrum for his long innings in the valley, and a keen Kashmir watcher, turned up at Geelani’s quarters in Delhi today for a detailed meeting on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The former bureaucrat, tipped to be the state’s first information commissioner, extended a formal invitation to Geelani for talks with the center and a meeting with the union home minister. Habibullah is understood to have to have underscored Geelani’s potential to play a significant role in making the center’s quiet diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir issue fruitful and hoped the separatist would make a positive initiative in peace-building efforts. The intermediary was said to have emphasized the prime minister’s qualities of farsightedness and seriousness, and said that Dr. Manmohan Singh was not only keen to enter into concrete dialogue with Pakistan to usher in peace but also in favour of engaging all groups within the state to restore peace in Kashmir. The separatist leadership should take advantage of the prime minister’s farsighted approach, Habibullah was learnt to have told Geelani. In his turn, Geelani, who is in Delhi for treatment, is said to have clarified that he was not against talks, but emphasized that dialogue-for-dialogue’s sake had yielded no results in the past and was not expected to do so in the future. Geelani reminded Haibullah of the latter’s overtures in 1998 when he, that is Geelani, had told him to convince India to accept the disputed status of Kashmir, withdraw troops and release all prisoners, and he would find the Hurriyat Conference ready for talks. “My stand is the same today: that talks are pointless unless India recognizes the disputed status of Kashmir and is prepared to withdraw troops and grant the right of self-determination,” Geelani was quoted as having told Habibullah. “You had met me twice, but were not heard of after that, precisely like R K Mishra and Admiral Nayar, who came to me twice but were untraceable after hearing my agenda,” Geelani said. Geelani told Habibullah that India was trying to malign the separatist leadership in the eyes of the world by projecting it as against talks. “One the one hand, India is blowing the talks’ bugle, and on the other it keeps on harping the atoot ang tune,” he said. “We demand that India take concrete, sincerely-intended steps to resolve Kashmir, and it will find the separatists responding in a positive fashion,” he said. “I have nothing personal against the prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, but he too is the head of the 7 lakh troops in illegal occupation of the state who perpetrate oppression on an innocent population,” he said.