Thursday, May 24, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

J&K ceasefire off, PM invites Musharraf for talks
*Farooq calls it logical step * Exercise in futility: VHP 
* Cong backs initiative

Girja Shankar Kaura and Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 23
The BJP-led NDA government today extended a formal invitation to the Pakistan Chief Executive Officer General Pervez Musharraf to visit India at his “early convenience” while calling off the six-month-long unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, New Delhi said bilateral talks with Pakistan would be held only under the existing framework called the “composite dialogue”.

The government said: “India is yet again offering the hand of friendship, reconciliation, cooperation and peace to Pakistan, in the expectation that this opportunity shall be positively and purposefully utilised by them,” and now it was up to General Musharraf to accept the invitation.

The formal invitation, the government said, would be delivered shortly.

The decision was taken today evening at the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by the Prime Minister at his residence. The government, while withdrawing the six-month-old non-initiation of combat operations, said: “we had expected various terrorist groups and orgainsations, mostly foreign, would see reason and recognise the imperatives of peace, dialogue and cooperation, shun violence. Regrettably, they have not.”

Briefing newspersons after the hour-long CCS meeting, Minister for External Affairs and Defence said, “This phase, therefore, is now over. These terrorist groups have hindered the restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir and have inflicted misery on the people of that state. Hereafter the security forces shall take such action against terrorists as they judge best. They will, in the process, continue to exercise maximum care that no harassment is caused to civilian population.”

The process of dialogue initiated by Mr Vajpayee through its interlocutor K.C. Pant would continue unhindered, Mr Jaswant Singh said. He stressed that the process for peace started by the NDA government was not off and all groups wanting to come for talks were still welcome.

“Our invitation to all sections in Jammu and Kashmir to join this dialogue is reiterated,” he said.

Asked if the decision to invite Mr Musharraf was a negation of India’s stand on Pak-backed terrorism, Mr Jaswant Singh said India’s fight against terrorism would continue without any let-up.

It is, however, apparent that the review of the ground situation undertaken by Home Minister L.K. Advani and External Affairs and Defence Minister Jaswant Singh has compelled the BJP-led NDA not to extend the unilateral ceasefire announced last year coinciding with the holy fasting month of Ramzan.

Mr Vajpayee’s peace initiative in the hands of the chief negotiator K.C. Pant has failed to make any headway in opening a purposeful dialogue so far with a wide section of public opinion, including the militants outfits in the valley.

Impartial observers here view the non-extension of the unilateral ceasefire as a victory for the hawks in the Saffron brigade and the Sangh Parivar in particular. The government could not also overlook the widespread resentment in the middle and lower ranks of the security forces that the ceasefire had virtually passed on the advantage to the militants in J&K.

It is in the context that the invitation to General Musharraf assumes importance. New Delhi, which had gained international recognition for its restraint during the May 1999 conflict with Pakistan and subsequent developments, wants to give peace in South-Asia another chance.

The invitation to General Musharraf is in keeping with the spirit of the 1972 Simla Agreement and the Feb 1999 Lahore Declaration.

General Musharraf is already under intense pressure from major western powers to resume the stalled dialogue with India. On its part, India is taking yet another calculated risk in inviting Gen Musharraf, hoping that wiser counsel will prevail in Islamabad in reducing tension spots in this subcontinent.

Before the CCS meeting on security, the Prime Minister had taken into confidence Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi and key alliance partners, including Chandrababu Naidu, Bal Thackery and George Fernandes while Home Minister L K Advani spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, sources said.

Among those present at the CCS meeting were Mr Advani, Mr Jaswant Singh, Mr Pant, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, Army chief General Padmanabhan and some senior officials.

Agencies add: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday termed the invitation from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Gen Pervez Musharraf as a “logical step in the peace process.”

“This is the next logical step in the peace process initiated by the Prime Minister during Ramzan in November last year,” Mr Abdullah told PTI over phone from Srinagar.

He said after all it was between India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute.

He expressed the hope that General Musharraf would indulge in a meaningful dialogue and make efforts for resolution of the dispute.

The Chief Minister also hailed the Centre’s decision to continue with Mr K.C. Pant as the interlocutor on Kashmir and gave a call to all Kashmiri youth to join the national mainstream.

The Sangh Parivar outfits welcomed the Centre’s decision to call off the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir and demanded immediate termination of the dialogue with militant groups and a “free hand” to the security forces to restore peace in the trouble-torn state.

“The government has acted like a government. We welcome the Centre’s decision,” a jubilant Acharya Giriraj Kishore, senior vice-president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) told PTI.

He, however, said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s decision to invite Pakistan military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf for discussions in New Delhi would be “an exercise in futility”.

The Congress meanwhile has supported the government decision to invite Gen Pervez Musharraf for talks to revive the stalled Indo-Pak dialogue but asked it to explain the reasons for not extending ceasefire.

Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy said the Congress was supportive of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s political initiative to have talks with the Pakistani Government.

“However, we do not know the reasons why the ceasefire has not been extended in Kashmir. The government should take the country into confidence about the results of the ceasefire which was operative from November,” Mr Reddy said on Wednesday.Back


Pak positive; USA sees chance for peace

Islamabad, May 23
Pakistan today said it would respond positively to India’s decision to invite Pakistani military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf for peace talks on Kashmir.

“Pakistan will respond positively if and when it (the invitation) is received,” state-run Radio Pakistan quoted Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq as saying.

The USA has welcomed the invitation, saying New Delhi and Islamabad have an “oportunity to make real progress” towards reducing tension and resolution of their differences. State Department spokesman Phil Reeker said in Washington, “we applaud India’s invitation to General Musharraf to come for talks. We have encouraged both countries to engage in a process of dialogue. They have an opportunity to make real progress toward reduction of tensions and resolution of their differences.” Reuters, PTI


Shabir hails govt move, APHC mum

Srinagar, May 23
The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) today adopted a “wait and watch policy’’ to the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s invitation to Gen Musharraf for talks on Kashmir while the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) welcomed it.

However, both said that withdrawal of unilateral ceasefire meant nothing.

The Chairman of the APHC, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, reacting to the Prime Minister’s invitation to Pakistan Chief Executive Gen Musharraf for talks on Kashmir, said: “We will wait and watch before reacting on the issue.’’

On withdrawal of the six-month-old unilateral ceasefire, Prof Bhat said, “It means nothing as it never happened in Kashmir.’’

DFP chief Shabir Ahmad Shah said it was a bold, timely and welcome step taken by Mr Vajpayee who had invited Gen Musharraf for talks on Kashmir. UNIBack


DFP decision on Pant’s offer tomorrow
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 23
With only two days left for deciding whether or not to respond to Mr K.C. Pant’s fresh offer, the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) of Shabir Ahmad Shah is working on a “national consensus” on the issue. An executive committee meeting of the DFP would announce its decision on its response to the fresh invitation from Centre’s chief negotiator, Mr K.C. Pant, here on Friday.

The Chief Executive of Pakistan, General Parvez Musharraf, meanwhile has received a letter from DFP chief, Mr Shabir Ahmad Shah, yesterday morning, a senior party leader told TNS here.

Without commenting on the latest visit to Delhi, Mr Saleem Geelani, said that General Parvez Musharraf had received the letter from Shabir Ahmad Shah on the Central government’s talks offer yesterday morning.

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