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Posted at: Dec 8, 2017, 1:04 AM; last updated: Dec 8, 2017, 1:04 AM (IST)

Separatist Bhat defends meet with Sharma, says not saleable

Ishfaq Tantry

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, December 7

Defending his recent meeting with Centre’s interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma, former Hurriyat Conference chairman Abdul Gani Bhat said his party Muslim Conference was “pro-dialogue” and that he was “not a saleablecommodity”.

In a freewheeling interview with The Tribune days after he had a late-evening meeting with Sharma at his Wazirbagh residence on November 27, Bhat warned of a “nuclear holocaust” if India and Pakistan “failed” to resolve the vexed Kashmir issue.

Sharing his impressions about the possibilities of the future engagements between India and Pakistan, the two nuclear armed neighbours, Bhat said the “NSA dialogue holds the key”. He said time had come that “all sides to the Kashmir dispute prepare their outline” for a fruitful and result-oriented engagement over Kashmir.

Referring to the recent statement of Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Nasir Janjau that India and Pakistan “will have to tear apart the curtains and come out”, Bhat said other than coming to the table there was “no way” out for the two countries.

Though he refused to divulge the details of his meeting with Sharma, Bhat said he could “sense a realisation” among the Indian establishment on “how to get rid of the Kashmir issue”.

He warned both India and Pakistan to see the “undercurrents of historical forces” at play in South Asia and the “conflicting interests” of the two big powers — China and America — in the sub-continent, which he said were “bound to push” the two neighbours towards the dialogue table.

Commenting on the “non-engagement policy” adopted by the joint resistance leadership towards interlocutor Sharma, Bhat said: “If you don’t talk or engage with the adversary, how you are going to judge the sincerity of his offer? First you need to engage and then decide whether to proceed ahead or disengage.” He said “dialogue and engagement” were in the “best interests” of Kashmiris.

“Talking to Sharma does not mean that Prof Bhat is a saleable commodity. No, you are mistaken,” he said, while trying to deflect the criticism surrounding his meeting with the interlocutor.

He said that in the past India was ready to accept the four-point Musharraf formula, but the leaders from Kashmir had confronted and opposed the idea.

“I say today that India can be ready to accept not only four but five points but for that you first need to demonstrate your intent to engage and negotiate. The other side is not an idiot, it also understand what you are up to,” he said with reference to the stand adopted by the joint resistance leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik vis-à-vis engagement with Sharma.

Should have gone with forum: Mirwaiz 

On separatist leader Abdul Gani Bhat’s meeting with interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma, moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwiaz Umar Farooq said: “I don’t know about the meeting. Prof Saheb did not inform me. If the report is correct, he should have abided by the forum’s decision on it (meeting Sharma).” 

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