Thursday, February 22, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

J&K truce extended
All parties support decision
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Parliament Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan and Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi attend a multi-party meeting .
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Parliament Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan and Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi attend a multi-party meeting about the troubled Kashmir situation in Parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Reuters photo

New Delhi, February 12
The Centre tonight decided to further extend ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir with some conditions attached to it, informed sources said.

A decision to this effect was taken “unanimously” by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and attended among others, by the Home Minister and the Defence Minister.

The exact decision of the meeting was not officially disclosed tonight by the government, following the convention of not announcing such a decision when Parliament is in session.

“It would not be appropriate on my part to disclose the exact decision as Parliament is in session,” the Union Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani, told newsmen while emerging out of the meeting.

The CCS meeting, held a few hours after the all-party meeting unanimously supporting the extension of the truce, took the decision after 80 minutes’ deliberation at the Prime Minister’s residence this evening.

Mr Advani said the Prime Minister would make a detailed statement in both Houses of Parliament after question hour tomorrow.

The Army Chief, Mr S. Padmanabhan, who was also present at the meeting, apprised the CCS of the finer details of the ground situation in the Kashmir valley, following the announcement of unconditional ceasefire for the first time in November.

The CCS reviewed the ceasefire issue while taking into account the recent terrorist killing of innocent people.

The meeting was attended by the Union Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani, Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha and the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary, Mr Brajesh Mishra, amongst others.

Briefing newspersons on the conclusion of a two-and-a-half-hour all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, said there was unanimity among the leaders of all political parties that the ceasefire should be extended.

Even as Mr Mahajan claimed that “there was no opposition to the government’s initiative of ceasefire”, the National Conference maintained neutrality on the issue, saying that its main concern was to ensure the security of the common people, strengthen patriotic forces and seek greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir.

“Ceasefire or no ceasefire is not our main concern. Our concern is the security of the people”, the National Conference leaders, Mr Sharifuddin Shariq and Mr Abdul Rasid Shaheen, who represented their party at the meeting, said.

To take all political parties into confidence, the government held today’s meeting ahead of the Cabinet Committee on Security. At the beginning of the meeting, the government made a presentation that showed the positive side of continuing with the ceasefire.

The meeting began with the Intelligence Bureau giving a 35-minute presentation on the latest ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Then, the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, briefed the leaders about the government’s assessment of the situation arising from the ceasefire which he said had found support of the people of the state.

The ceasefire had also found favour with the international community and resulted in the isolation of Pakistan.

Further, there was virtually no exchange of fire along the border, Mr Advani said, informing the leader and added that militancy still continued as was evident from the incidents at the Red Fort here and the massacre of Sikhs in the state.

While political leaders on one hand urged the government to ensure the protection of the lives of people who had become soft targets for foreign mercenaries, on other hand, they wanted proper publicity and a drive against militants which had resulted in the killings of 215 of them in the past three months alone as it was necessary for restoring confidence of the people.

For the first time, all political parties were told about the ground realities in the valley where cross-border firing had subsided significantly, although militant activity, particularly by foreign mercenaries, continued. People in the valley were also satisfied with the ceasefire.

Mr Mahajan said the decision of the CCS would be announced in Parliament tomorrow and pointed out that of the 30 leaders present at the meeting, as many as 25 expressed their views, with no one opposing the ceasefire extension.

No one even suggested any time limit for the extension, Mr Mahajan said in reply to a question and added that they also asked the government to keep the dialogue going with the Hurriyat Conference, National Conference, Congress and other parties and the people of the state to find a permanent solution to the problem.

However, there was no discussion on the issue of giving visas to Hurriyat leaders to go Pakistan to hold talks with militant and terrorist groups there.

The ceasefire should not remain “an end in itself”, the leaders stressed.

“We are satisfied with the government’s presentation,” Mrs Sonia Gandhi said after the meeting and added that the meeting had been primarily called to inform political leaders about the “positive effects” of the ceasefire.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Dr Manmohan Singh, while supporting the peace move in the state, said the Congress had made it very clear that the extension of the ceasefire was not an end in itself.

Public opinion should be ascertained and the people of Jammu and Kashmir taken into confidence, he said.

The Lok Shakti leader, Mr Ramkrishna Hegde, said while most of leaders were fully supportive of the government’s initiative on Jammu and Kashmir, they also cautioned the government that it should ensure to protect “soft targets”.

The Nationalist Congress Party leader, Mr P.A. Sangma, said most of the political parties wanted extension of the ceasefire, but they felt that it was up to the government to decide.

His party was “quite satisfied” with the government’s presentation on the issue, Mr Sangma said, adding that there seemed to be a communication gap between the government and the people.

Apart from Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani, those in the meeting from the Government side included the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, the Information Technology Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mr S.S. Dhindsa, Minister for Water Resources, Mr Arjun Sethi.

Those from other parties attending the meeting included Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh from the Congress, Mr Vijay Kumar Malhotra from the BJP, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), and Ms Mayawati (BSP). Others included Mr K. Yerranaidu of Telugu Desam, Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mr D.P. Yadav and Mr Jai Narayan Nishad (JD-U), Mr P.A. Sangma (NCP), Mr Sudipt Bandopadhyaya (Trinamool Congress), Mr S.R. Bommai (Janata Dal), Marxist leader, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, Mr J. Chittaranjan (CPI), and Mr Satish Prasad (Shiv Sena). 


US caucus backs India’s truce
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 21
The peace initiative by the Vajpayee government in Jammu and Kashmir today received support from the US Congressional Caucus on India when its Chairman and Republican from California, Mr Edward Royce, backed it, saying that the Bush administration should lift the economic sanctions imposed on India in the wake of the nuclear tests in May, 1998.

Speaking to reporters after meeting the Prime Minister, Mr Royce said the 123-member India caucus, the second-most powerful group in the US Congress, would push hard to get sanctions against India, including on dual-use technology, lifted.

Mr Royce, along with Mr Joseph R. Pitts, Republican from Pennsylvania and Democrats, Mr David Bonior, representing Michigan and Mr Jim Mcdermott from Washington, conveyed this to Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.

“Our hopes (on the issue) are with the Prime Minister,” Mr Royce told reporters.

The Prime Minister told them that despite repeated efforts by India to bring about peace in the valley, Pakistan had not shown any inclination to reciprocate India’s initiatives. The US delegation had also met three leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Abdul Ghani Lone and Sheikh Aziz last night.

Mr Royce said the proposal to lift sanctions against India had been articulated by the US Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell, on grounds that the restrictions proved counter-productive.

The Congressional delegation, which also visited the quake-devastated areas in Gujarat, was impressed by the rehabilitation efforts of the Indian and international authorities and said they would talk to the World Bank, USAID, US Congress and others to ensure that the relief needs are not forgotten. Back


APHC leaders meet US team
M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 21
Influential American Congress men are said to be mediating to resolve the stalemate between the Government of India and the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) over the grant of passports to the five-member Hurriyat team for visiting Pakistan.

The passport issue has been hanging fire for the past two months and the APHC leaders have left it to the government to decide whether it is keen to restore peace to Kashmir by allowing them to visit Pakistan, where they will discuss with Islamabad and leaders of various militant groups the Kashmir issue to find a suitable settlement.

Reports received here said that already one meeting had taken place between some APHC leaders and the American Congress men in Delhi. Since Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mr Abdul Gani Lone and Molvi Umar Farooq were already in Delhi, the JKLF chief reached Delhi by air yesterday to join these leaders and Sheikh Aziz in their discussion with the American diplomats.

According to these reports, an influential lobby in the USA is in favour of allowing the APHC leaders to visit Pakistan and for giving another extension to the ceasefire which has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir since November 27.

The reports said that the American diplomats would discuss the issue with the central government leaders after their talks with the top brass of the APHC ended.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Jamait-e-Islami, Mr G.M. Bhat has said in an interview that the Government of India should not make an issue of grant of passports to the five-member Hurriyat team.

He has said that if the government did not want to issue a passport to his party colleague, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the others should be allowed to visit Pakistan. He has favoured the APHC team’s visit to Pakistan to explore the possibility of finding a solution to the Kashmir issue.

When the APHC Chairman, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, was asked whether he would “wait and wait”, he quipped, “We have no wings to fly to Pakistan.” He said in reply to another question, “We have no other alternative but to wait as we do not want to be blamed for sabotaging the peace process.”

When asked whether the APHC would agree to send a four-member team in case the government did not issue travel documents to Geelani, Prof Bhat said, “the issue would be decided only by the Executive Committee of the APHC.”

Asked whether he favoured extension in the ceasefire, he said, “The government should spell out the rationale behind announcement of ceasefire and its extension.” He said, “If the government wanted to score a diplomatic victory then we have nothing to gain from the ceasefire.”


PoK men to attend conference
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 21
Over 60 political leaders and prominent personalities from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the northern areas have given their acceptance to take part in a conference on Jammu and Kashmir issue which is being held in Jammu on March 17 and 18.

According to the chairman of the organising committee, Mr Muzzafar Shah, the ‘J & K conference in search of peace and solution’, convened by former Chief Minister GM Shah, has received a response from the leaders in PoK, Gilgit, and Baltistan.

The leaders, including JKLF leader Amanullah Khan, Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan and Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry have approached the Indian authorities for visas to be able to take part in the conference. The former Chief Minister has also invited over 250 leaders, prominent personalities and intellectuals of Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir region for the conference, besides human right activists.

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