Jammu And Kashmir: AJK President Hints At ‘third Option’ Talks

Jammu And Kashmir: AJK President Hints At ‘third Option’ Talks

20 February 2014
Kashmir Watch
Irfan Ghauri

Islamabad: AJK President Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan on Wednesday hinted that Pakistan was ready to talk with India on the option of carving out an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir. “We are ready to consider the option, if India comes to the negotiating table and puts forward the idea of giving Indian Held Kashmir (IHC) independent status,” the president remarked in what appears to be a major policy shift. He was speaking with a group of reporters after his meeting with Muhammad Afzal Khan, who is contesting the upcoming elections of the European Union from the UK, and Manchester Lord Mayor Naeemul Hassan. The option of an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir had always been a contentious issue amongst the Kashmiris themselves and in India and Pakistan. Under the AJK interim constitution, even those who believe in the idea of an independent Kashmir were barred from taking part in the AJK legislative assembly elections. The AJK president said Pakistan was sincere in wanting to resolve the Kashmir issue. “These things (discussing options) are only possible when India comes to the negotiating table and admits that Kashmir is a disputed territory,” he added. “If India agrees to give IHC independence status, we can also think (along these lines),” he told another questioner. To a question about the possibility of the BJP coming to power in India and its impact on the Kashmir issue, the AJK president said he was more hopeful of a resolution to the issue with the BJP in power. “Congress has never shown any seriousness (to resolve the issue),” he remarked. He said once NATO forces begin drawing back from Afghanistan, the Kashmir issue will once again become important. He said Afghanistan had overshadowed the Kashmir issue for the past 10 years. Earlier, Afzal Khan, a British Pakistani who is one of the promising candidates to secure a seat in the European Parliament, said the EU should play its role to resolve the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. He said the EU should appoint a focal person on Kashmir just as it appointed Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top foreign policy official, to lead talks that led to the current deal over Iran’s nuclear programme.