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Omar Abdullah keeping fingers, toes crossed

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
January 21, 2004 11:29 IST
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National Conference president Omar Abdullah has expressed the hope that talks between the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand on January 22 are successful.

Abdullah told that both sides would have to step back from their stated positions if progress has to be made.

"I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed. I hope the two sides step back from their stated positions in the interest of keeping the process of dialogue alive. Advani has gone on record that for him the security and integrity of India is paramount and he need not say that the talks have to be within the framework of the Indian Constitution. The Hurriyat leadership is looking for a face saving formula to help them stay alive politically," he said.

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Asked what could be the meeting ground between the government and Hurriyat leaders, Omar Abdullah said the Hurriyat would have to give up its pro-Pakistan stand and the idea of an independent Kashmir.

"I think the solution lies on the lines of Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah accord. The government would have to give greater autonomy to the state. Hurriyat leaders who are looking for their survival would have to accept that. After the initial meeting with Advani Hurriyat would have to carry on the process of dialogue with N N Vohra, the government interlocutor," he said.

He maintained that American pressure had forced Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to give up his stand on some issues, including plebiscite.

"Vajpayeeji had a successful round of talks with the same Musharraf in Islamabad who was very aggressive at Agra few years ago. Clearly the American pressure is working behind the scenes. Pakistan has given up its demand for plebiscite because the conditions that exist today are not favourable for such an exercise. That is why Pakistan has stepped back on it," he added.

"Track II diplomacy between Hurriyat and the Government of India has been going on for sometime. Lot of ground work has been done to ensure the talks stay on the right course," he said.

A five-member delegation of Hurriyat comprising Moulvi Abbas Ansari, chairman, Abdul Gani Bhat, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Bilal Lone and Fazal Haq Qureshi would meet Advani tomorrow.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi