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August 1, 2000
Kashmir talks may not yield concrete results
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Any breakthrough in the proposed talks on the Kashmir dispute appears far-fetched considering that Pakistan will be remote-controlling representatives of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.
The Hurriyat leaders have unambiguously declared that talks are not possible without Pakistan being involved. The newly-elected APHC chief Professor Abdul Gani Bhat has just repeated this line of thinking.
Hence, when Hurriyat representatives sit with the Indian government to negotiate, it will be Islamabad calling the shots.
Although the government has tried to downplay 'irritants' cropping up in the way of talks, the ground realities cannot be brushed away, least of all by the government.
Senior government officials claim that the "olive branch" for talks came from the Hizbul Mujahideen. It was argued that while Indian security forces have suffered casualties, militant organisations, including the Hizbul Mujahideen, have also been equally affected.
It has also been argued that the recently-declared ceasefire by HM has brought about peace in the militancy-infested state, however brittle it may be. The government officials say that the HM has "sized-up" the Kashmiri people's longing for peace.
Such hunky-dory projections apart, the government is embarking on the talks fully aware that the Hurriyat representatives, on Pakistan's behest, are likely to demand what Islamabad has been aspiring for over half a century - that J&K be stop being regarded as an integral part of India. This will enable Pakistan to manipulate the border state towards its strategic objectives - encapsulating it in Islamabad's sphere of influence and ensuring that it turns against the Indian Union.
Both Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani have assured various delegations that India's unity and integrity will not be comprised under any circumstances.
While the government's willingness to hold a dialogue with the Hurriyat is commendable, it is difficult to envision what it has to offer which will amicably solve the Kashmir dispute.
Quick to pounce on the government's predicament, the Congress yesterday sought a clarification about what it intended to do following HM's cease-fire offer. Party spokesperson Margaret Alva pointed out that the HM had "set conditions for talks and the government should say in Parliament what its response is."
"My party has maintained that the government's moves on Jammu and Kashmir gives us cause for concern because there is little transparency and the Opposition should be taken into confidence on such a vital issue," said Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Madhavrao Scindia. He pointed out that any wrong moves concerning the border state could cost the country dear.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav launched a frontal assault on the government, underscoring that " patriotism is not this government's monopoly." He asserted that the people would never tolerate any "governmental injustice" to J&K and Vajpayee would do well to take Opposition leaders into confidence regarding the strategy on Kashmir.
According to sources in the ministry of home affairs, the three persons named by the HM - Mushtaq Jilani of the World Canadian Council, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, executive director of the Kashmir American Council and Dr Ayub Thakur, former nuclear scientist and member of the World Freedom Movement for Jammu and Kashmir - will only "monitor the talks" while Hurriyat representatives will be responsible for the actual negotiations.
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