In his debut book on Kashmir, senior Congress leader and former union minister Saifuddin Soz has claimed his personal efforts during Congress-led UPA-I brought Kashmiri separatists for talks with the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
The 236-page book entitled 'Kashmir: Glimpse of History and the Story of Struggle', set for release later this month, makes some explosive revelations about how "agencies sabotaged the talks", and how the "decisive meeting" between Singh and Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf couldn't take place in 2007 due to political turmoil in the neighboring country.
A politician of few words, 81-year old Soz told Greater Kashmir at his residence here that it took him six years to write the book.
When the Congress party came to power in 2004, Soz says in the book, militancy appeared to be largely a phenomenon of the past and a good time for a political solution of Kashmir.
That is when, Soz writes, dialogue with separatists "bore some fruit" when Mirwaiz Umer Farooq led a delegation of Hurriyat leaders including Abdul Gani Bhat, Molvi Abbas Ansari, Agha Hassan and Bilal Lone to meet Singh at his official residence on September 5, 2005.
"I was personally in touch with Mirwaiz and other Hurriyat leaders to convince them for the talks. I knew each one of them personally including Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Moulvi Abbas Ansari and others and I played the role," Soz said.
"I wanted them to settle for dialogue and at the same time my advice was available to the Prime Minister."
However, Soz reveals in the book, secret agencies were "deadly opposed" to the meeting even as the Prime Minister had made up his mind.
Singh was much impressed after discussions with Hurriyat leaders, Soz writes, adding sources close to the PM confirmed that Bhat had made good contribution during the discussions.
"After the meeting the prime minister was very happy and he told me that they (separatist) understood the need for moving forward," Soz said. "The way the prime minister was optimistic it (talks) could have led to some solution."
The Congress leader writes the dialogue process could not proceed further "essentially because the security agencies were not comfortable with it".
The veteran leader cites details of how "some senior officers" also tried to sabotage the Kashmir talks.
In January 2004, when BJP-led NDA was in power,Hurriyat leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Bilal Gani Lone, Abdul Gani Bhat, Moulana Abas Ansari and Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, for the first time, met then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani in New Delhi for official talks. That time Hurriyat leaders also met the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
When the Congress-led UPA took over, the Hurriyat leaders held another round of talks with Singh, the one talked about by Soz in his book. Later, on September 16, 2005 Mirwaiz met Musharraf in New York and briefed him about his talks with Singh.
Stating that there was a sustained effort to promote optimism for a lasting peace between India and Pakistan, Soz writes that Musharraf's visit to New Delhi from 16 to 18 April 2005 had strengthened the process of promoting friendship.
"He (Singh) was eager to go to Pakistan for final meeting (on Kashmir). He was happy about the (possible) meeting. He told me we would discuss everything including Musharaff's four-point formula," Soz said.
"But things couldn't move forward because of the role of agencies in 2006 and subsequent crisis in Pakistan in 2007."
Soz's book is published by Rupa Publications India, New Delhi.