Article 370 Inviolate, AFSPA Negotiable In PDP-BJP Govt Pact

31 January 2015
The Indian Express
P Vaidyanathan Iyer

New Delhi: The 'agenda for alliance' finalised by the BJP and PDP as they look set to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir includes talks with the Hurriyat, keeping Article 370 inviolate and gradual removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA from the state. The parties have also discussed transfer of NHPC's projects to J&K, and initiating talks with Islamabad over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The agenda was ironed out over more than a dozen meetings held over the last one month between the parties' interlocutors, in Mumbai, Delhi and Jammu. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now be meeting PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in the second week of February. The PDP-BJP government is likely to assume office after the governors' meeting in New Delhi on February 11-12 and the Mufti-Modi meet soon after. As per the agreement, J&K could also get a substantial development package. Sources closely involved in the talks said most of the issues had been sorted out and would figure in the common minimum programme. The tone would be acceptable to both parties and represent 'forward movement', said a source. 'On the issue of Article 370, what found resonance within the BJP was the PDP's keenness to integrate J&K in the new idea of India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi trying to truly empower states in the federal structure,' said the source. The PDP, for its part, was impressed with the intent and purpose shown by the BJP during the talks. 'It is true the BJP is bound by ideology on some core issues, but that has not meant unwillingness to sit and listen,' the source said. The RSS has also been in the loop through Ram Madhav, who is loaned to the BJP for organisational work and was the main interlocutor from the party's side. The BJP indicated it was open to discuss phase-wise removal of AFSPA, starting from areas that have reported no incidents. The PDP suggested that a start could be made from the BJP stronghold of Jammu. The BJP won 25 Assembly seats of the total 37 there. As a first step, the alliance government will recommend removal of certain areas from the list of 'disturbed areas', sources said, pointing out that regions that could be considered 'normal' are now many. The negotiators also deliberated in detail the need to get Hurriyat on the table, given the possibility of the conglomeration emerging as the alliance government's biggest opposition. 'The new government has to find a role for the Hurriyat. What role, how to win them over, are finer aspects still being discussed,' the source said. Similarly, the two parties are agreed on the need to talk to Pakistan over PoK. 'The BJP or the Central government cannot give away PoK. They have to but talk,' the source said. Discussions on this will continue. A key issue highlighted by the PDP was the demand for transfer of hydroelectric projects of NHPC to the state government. This will bring tremendous goodwill for the Union government in the Valley, the PDP urged. The assets could be transferred to the state at book value, sources said. Apart from Madhav, BJP president Amit Shah and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were involved in the discussions with the PDP. Haseeb Drabu, former chairman and managing director of J&K Bank who won from Rajapora, was the main interlocutor from the PDP's side.