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August 9, 2000
Govt now tries to woo Hurriyat
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The government intends to rope in the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference in the peace initiative in Jammu and Kashmir, despite Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani's criticism of it in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
"Yes, Advani has highlighted the Hurriyat's negative role in its cold attitude towards the Hizbul Mujahideen's cease-fire and its terming it a hasty move. But we are also talking to the Hizb, which had trained its guns against people in the state and our security forces. However, we have made it clear that the government will hold peace talks with those who eschew violence. So the Hurriyat is in the contention," asserted Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu.
In the House, Advani pointed out that "honourable members must have noticed the negative role played by the Hurriyat leadership in this entire episode. Perhaps they forgot that Jammu and Kashmir has been in a bloodied turmoil for more than a decade. Under the circumstances how could this peace initiative be called 'hasty'? It seems that the Hurriyat leadership was acting under pressure from Pakistan. They certainly did not act in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir and thus compromised the interests of the people of the state."
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan did not think that the government's intention to rope in the Hurriyat leadership in the peace initiative revealed a softening of stance against hostile forces.
"Let's avoid misunderstanding. The government said it would talk to concerned parties for a peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue and the Hurriyat is one such party. As regards Pakistan, the government has said that bilateral talks with it can be explored if it stops cross-border terrorism. In the present situation, where the cease-fire has been withdrawn by the Hizb at Pakistan's behest, we have underscored that we shall persist with our policy of firmness [in dealing with terrorism] and flexibility [in holding the peace talks]. So there is no confusion," Mahajan pointed out.
A senior official of the Prime Minister's Office described the Hurriyat's criticism of the cease-fire as a case of "upmanship." He explained that by announcing the cease-fire, the Hizb had occupied the Kashmir centre-stage and was the cynosure of the world community. But all other entities, including the Hurriyat, other militant groups and Pakistan found it hard to swallow this."
"That's why the Hurriyat leadership not only criticised the Hizb cease-fire but keeps sniping at Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, the bete noire of the Hurriyat-Islamabad combine," he pointed out.
According to the official, India's handling of the peace talks has drawn praise from the international community, with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee being talked in terms of a "statesman''.
Significantly, a media report underlined on Wednesday that the Clinton administration held Pakistan responsible for scuttling the peace initiative. United States administration officials, however, indicated that it was up to the Vajpayee government and the Hizb to sort out the issue of resuming the peace initiative.
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