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July 29, 2000
Hurriyat calls talks offer 'change of heart'
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
The separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference Saturday described the talks offer by the Government of India as a "change of heart and mind".
The APHC executive met here Saturday morning and discussed the issue following the offer to the Hizbul Mujahideen by the Centre late Friday.
In a statement after the meeting, APHC chairman Professor Abdul Gani Bhat said that through its statement the government has "lifted itself from its recent statements and has tried to rise from its stubbornness to confine talks within the four walls of the Constitution".
Gani said, "If this change metamorphoses itself into a positive approach, the issue of Kashmir will then be resolved in the better interest of everlasting peace in the sub-continent."
The APHC declared that it will ''continue to discharge its historic duties in keeping with the political aspirations of the Kashmiri people".
"The fast changing scenario in the sub-continent and at the international level has made the APHC all-important."
The Hurriyat chief stressed on the initiation of a meaningful political process, which could lead to final settlement of the issue.
Hizbul Mujahideen chief commander Syed Salahu-ud-Din Friday had said that the outfit will "only monitor any dialogue process on the Kashmir solution. We will not participate in it. Participating in negotiations is not our job."
"There is a representative leadership in Kashmir, which forms part of the APHC,'' he had said, according to the local English daily Greater Kashmir. He added, "There are also some friends at the international level" and Salahu Din identified one of them as Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmir American Council.
The Hizbul chief made it clear that "we will only monitor the progress of the dialogue". He made it clear that the Hizbul can "restart its activities even before the end of a stipulated three-month period if the Government of India does not reciprocate adequately to its offer of a cease-fire".
He reiterated that the "dialogue should be trilateral, involving India, Pakistan and the Kashmir leadership''.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army Saturday suspended operations against the Hizbul, which announced a unilateral three-month cease-fire early this week in Kashmir.
"Operations against all other outfits will continue," Lt Gen J R Mukherjee, corps commander of the 15 Corps told journalists here.
He said that the cease-fire offer by Abdul Majid Dar, operations chief of the Hizbul, "reflects the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir, who are tired of militancy and want to live peaceful and normal lives".
At the same time, the commander said that during the past three months, the army achieved spectacular successes in its fight against militants. "We killed160 militants in three months".
The army commander said that "suitable mechanisms have been put in place in the hinterland so that the peace process is not jeopardised".
The Hizbul was compelled to offer a cease-fire at the behest of the people of Kashmir, who want restoration of peace and normalcy. He said the people and the Hizbul, which is dominated by local militants, have a stake in peace and added that "together they will oppose those who oppose return of peace in Kashmir".
Mukherjee described the killing of a top Hizbul commander in an army operation along with two others as "unfortunate". The Hizbul divisional commander, he said, "opened fire on troops at Beerwah" and added, "I visited the area".
The army commander admitted it was difficult to differentiate between militants of various outfits, but said, "We know from intelligence reports where they are located".
He said that these difficulties will be overcome once talks begin with the Hizbul leadership and modalities of a cease-fire are worked out.
The Corps commander, however, warned that the army will retaliate even if a Hizbul militant "attacks us". He said there were nearly 1500 militants active in Kashmir and between 750 to 850 belonged to the Hizbul.
He said that nearly 3000 to 5000 militants were waiting to infiltrate, but added, "We are ready to deal with them."
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