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July 31, 2000
India determined to keep Pakistan out of talks on J&K
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The Hizbul Mujahideen's threat to review its ceasefire offer if New Delhi lays down conditions for talks will not shake the Centre's resolve to keep Pakistan out of the dialogue, top government sources confirmed on Monday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior member of the prime minister's office told rediff.com, "We have said ad nauseam that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, so involving Pakistan in talks is out of the question. We know what Pakistan wants, so the talks cannot be tripartite. That is the bottom line. But yes, the government is favourably disposed towards greater devolution of powers for the state."
Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salah-ud-din had on Sunday threatened to review the ceasefire offer if the government insisted that talks be held within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.
Significantly, Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, at a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Sunday, underscored that the government's action against other terrorist outfits would continue.
Advani told Abdullah that as long as Pakistan instigated cross-border terrorism, India would not talk to it on Kashmir. Dr Abdullah supported the government's stand, but wanted the Centre to announce a government team [for talks] to avoid further alienation of the people of the state.
Referring to it, Special Secretary (Home) Tilak Raj Kakkar indicated that the government, while handing out maximum concessions in the proposed talks, was determined to keep them within the parameters of the Constitution. He did not elaborate.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told a delegation of Bharatiya Janata Party politicians from Jammu & Kashmir headed by Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Chaman Lal Gupta on Sunday that the government had already rejected the state assembly's autonomy resolution and there was no question of reopening it.
While ministers in the Vajpayee government are restraining themselves from speaking on the issue, their anxiety to keep any dialogue within the parameters of the Constitution is manifest.
According to external affairs ministry officials, the Indian position on Kashmir has been conveyed to a number of foreign, notably European, diplomats in the last few months. Many have visited the border state to gauge the ground reality.
All-Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat recently commented that the central government had shown a change of heart by responding to the Hizbul Mujahideen's ceasefire offer.
But the government's determination to prevent any mischief in the matter by Pakistan has unambiguously provided a vignette of the course the proposed talks are bound to take -- a dead end. This is because the government is steadfast in its resolve to hold talks within the ambit of the Constitution while the pro-Pakistan outfits reject such a condition.
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