Delhi invites separatists for talks, Geelani included



New Delhi, Aug 6: Observing that it wanted to “win the hearts and minds” of the people of Kashmir, the government Friday said it would resume dialogue and asked the separatists, including Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to join it.
Home Minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha that the Centre was keen on fulfilling its promises, including on the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and reduction of security personnel in the state, depending on the situation there.
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be receiving an all-party delegation from Jammu and Kashmir, possibly next Monday, and that leaders of parties in Parliament would also be called for a meeting.
Chidambaram, who was responding to clarifications sought on his statement on Kashmir unrest made on Wednesday, said Pakistan appeared to have changed its strategy on fomenting trouble in the valley as it seemed to be now relying on “civilian unrest” for “dividends”.
Noting that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India in “unique circumstances”, he said the state has a “unique problem” and requires a “unique solution”. Chidambaram appealed to all sections to put an end to the cycle of violence and said, “We have to put our heads together to find a solution to the unique problem”.
Contending that “it is important to win the hearts and minds of people of Jammu and Kashmir”, the Home Minister said, “We will resume the political process. The answer to the problem lies only through the political process, only through dialogue.”
He said it was his intention to “do everything possible to resume the quiet dialogue” which he undertook with the moderate Hurriyat leaders before it got interrupted on December 4, 2009 after an assassination bid on one them.
The Home Minister had announced the initiation of ‘quiet talks’ with separatists during his visit to Srinagar October last year. Referring to Geelani’s statement against stone-pelting, the Home Minister said, “If it marks a shift of his stand, I don’t know. If yes, I would welcome. It is a good sign”.
He said there should be “no reason to doubt” Geelani’s statement, which should be “accepted at the face value” and that he would welcome if he also joins the dialogue.
Geelani, has recently appealed for peace in the valley and said there should be no stone-pelting and damage to public property. Talking about his disrupted “quiet dialogue”, Chidambaram said it had “contributed largely to peace” in the state before the current spell of unrest. “I will resume the political process. I have impressed upon all interlocutors that I am willing to resume the quiet dialogue. We have to find courage that allowed holding dialogue. We have to get on,” he said and “sincerely hoped” that the separatist leaders, including Geelani, would come forward for talks.
“We will pick up threads, reactivate the political process so that a solution can be found with equity, justice and honour,” he said.
On the government’s part, he said it had made promises and “it is important to deliver on our promises”.
Talking about the controversial AFSPA on which the government is divided as to whether or not to revoke in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “it will be my endeavour to find a way how we can deliver on promise on AFSPA.”
Chidambaram has been in favour of dilution of AFSPA which many sections feel gives extreme powers to security forces. However, the Defence Ministry opposes any dilution or revocation of the Act, saying it was required to give legal protection to armed forces while operating in peculiar situations in militancy-infested areas.
He said the immediate priority at the moment was to restore peace in Kashmir as no government can allow law and order to collapse. At the same time, the Centre would like to reduce the presence of security forces in the state if the situation improves as was done last year.
“If the situation warrants, we may have to send more forces. But if the situation warrants, we may withdraw forces,” Chidambaram said. Talking about the situation in Kashmir since 2004, he said there were times when youth there were demanding IITs and IIMs. “Unfortunately, those voices have been muted by voices of ‘Azadi’ (freedom). I hope it is a passing phase and we will again hear those voices (for IITs and IIMs).”
He said he hoped Kashmiris would again say that their destiny lies with India and want to be part of India.
Disagreeing with some members that the security personnel had used excessive force, Chidambaram said the armed forces have acted with “great degree of restraint” although 1000 personnel suffered injuries in “raining” stones.
“We will continue to advise the security forces to exercise restraint,” he said.
The Home Minister said the current situation demands a “firm action” by security forces along with the state government reaching out to the people. “I think, some lessons have been learnt. The Jammu and Kashmir government is reaching out to the people. The Chief Minister has visited the injured in hospital,” he said.
Noting that there has been a declining trend in violence in Kashmir, he said, “I am not saying it is beginning of the end (of unrest).” He said if there is even one civilian death, it will diminish the credibility of the governance.
The Home Minister said there have been demands for a delegation of all parties from Jammu and Kashmir meeting the Prime Minister, who has agreed to meet them and it could happen as early as Monday next. “We are also contemplating convening a meeting of leaders of political parties in Parliament. The date and time will be decided by the PMO,” he said.
On demands by members that an all-party delegation be sent to Kashmir, Chidambaram said the government intends to take “all on board”. To concerns expressed by a Congress member over some adverse comments on Kashmir attributed to UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, the Home Minister said the reports in this regard were wrong. “The UN Secretary General did not make the statement attributed to him. It was made by one of his staff who happens to be a national of Pakistan,” Chidambaram said.
He also rejected demand by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley for abrogation of Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, saying it did not offer a political solution to the problem that has been festering for 63 years.
An NDA delegation had made this demand when it met the Prime Minister yesterday.
Meanwhile, BJP today said the situation in Kashmir valley is “slipping out of control” and warned against any “knee jerk reaction” by giving a political package.
“Any concession made at this stage will further dilute the sovereignty” and will lead to separatists’ dream that their aims are going to be realised some day, leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha.
Several members, including Saif-ud-Din Soz (Congress), demanded that a delegation of MPs should visit the valley to build confidence among the people. Jaitley said the situation (in the valley) is “slipping out of the control” and attacked the Omar Abdullah government saying it “has increasingly got alienated from people within the valley. The chief minister is getting alienated from his own party and allies.”
Jaitley said the Working Group on Centre-State Relations constituted by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh functioned in a “farcical” manner. He said the “quiet diplomacy” begun by home minister P Chidambaram has not yielded results.

Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST

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