Friday, May 25, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak for talks but denounces truce withdrawal
Advani rules out intermediary role for Hurriyat; letter to Musharraf soon
Tribune News Service

Islamabad, May 24
Pakistan today promised to respond in a “positive spirit” to India’s invitation to Gen Pervez Musharraf for talks but denounced New Delhi for calling of the unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir describing it as a “carte blanche” to continue “state terrorism” against the people there.

Nearly 24 hours after India made the surprise announcement inviting General Musharraf, Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar told mediapersons there would be no delay from their side in responding to the invitation.

“The summit will provide an opportunity for dialogue aimed at a permanent settlement of the long-standing Kashmir problem,” he said.

Mr Sattar faced a barrage of questions at the press conference. A seasoned diplomat, he chose his words carefully.

He said Pakistan would make every effort to “preclude any avoidable delay” in responding to the invitation which had not been received yet.

At the same time he was not short of harsh rhetoric in expressing shock over the end of “sham” ceasefire, saying “India has removed even the pretence of restraint and given the Indian armed forces a carte blanche to continue state terrorism against Kashmiri people”.

Mr Sattar insisted that New Delhi should allow a delegation of the conglomerate of separatist groups to visit Islamabad as “true representatives” of Kashmiris.

India today said a formal invitation to the Pakistan military ruler would be extended “very shortly”, but an External Affairs Ministry spokesman declined to specify any timeframe for the summit.

Replying to a question, he said the eight-point composite dialogue process, which included the Kashmir issue, could form the starting point for the dialogue.

Asked whether India still maintained that Islamabad was responsible for militants’ violence in Kashmir, he said “there are terrorist groups which are operating from Pakistan”.

“There is no question of climbing down on the issue of terrorism,” he said while replying to a spate of questions on yesterday’s government announcement.

NEW DELHI: The Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, on Thursday asserted that the ceasefire call off in Jammu and Kashmir had not ended its pursuit for long-lasting peace in the valley and expressed the confidence that Islamabad would respond positively to New Delhi’s invitation for talks on the vexed issue.

The Home Minister also ruled out “any intermediary role” for the Hurriyat Conference in the proposed dialogue between India and Pakistan.

“The new initiative is aimed at conveying two messages - though moratorium against pro-active actions in Kashmir has ended, our peace process has not ended,” he told newspersons here a day after New Delhi invited Pakistan’s military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf for a dialogue.

On the repeated demand of the Hurriyat to allow its leaders to go to Pakistan, Mr Advani reacted sharply saying “what locus standi they (Hurriyat) have to act as an intermediary in any Indo-Pak dialogue.”

“We have clearly said umpteen number of times that we are totally opposed to tripartite talks on Kashmir issue... If we want to hold talks with Pakistan, we can do so directly,” he said.

However, he pointed out that the Hurriyat could send its suggestions to the government on issues relating to the development and welfare of the people of Kashmir.

On the lifting of the moratorium on pro-active combat operations by the security forces, the Home Minister regretted that despite six months of unilateral ceasefire militancy had not receded and that there was no attempt to rein in the militant groups by Islamabad. However, he acknowledged that the only positive thing was that there was some restraint along the Line of Control.

Asked about government’s sudden decision to invite General Musharraf for talks while it had been maintaining that any dialogue could take place only after Islamabad stopped abetting cross-border terrorism, Mr Advani asserted that “the non-engagement of Pakistan in any dialogue in the past one and a half years, post-Kargil period, has paid rich dividend.”

“In fact, New Delhi’s position had squirmed Islamabad for one-and-a-half-years,” he said adding during the period, India was able to garner support of the international community.

“There is a sea-change in world opinion vis-a-vis Kashmir,” he said.

Defending the government’s decision to invite General Musharraf for talks, Mr Advani said the Pakistani military ruler, when assumed power in October 1999, had rubbished the Lahore Declaration and the Simla Agreement, but in the past two months there had been a change.


Now, ball in Musharraf’s court
Hari Jaisingh

One redeeming feature of New Delhi’s multi-dimensional announcements on Wednesday is the decision to invite Pakistan’s Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf, for talks. South Block has been resisting this for the past 19 months for various reasons, particularly with a view to conveying the message that the military dictator should learn to behave and not play the terrorism card which has not only disturbed peace and tranquillity in Jammu and Kashmir but has also created an atmosphere of tension and instability in the subcontinent.

It is not certain whether General Musharraf will take the Indian message in the spirit in which it is being conveyed. Pakistani rulers are not known for statesmanship. They generally go by their one-point agenda of grabbing Kashmir by hook or by crook — and that too in the name of Islam. They hardly understand Indian sensitivities and the fact that India is a secular nation, which has the world’s second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. So, neither the Muslims nor Islam is Pakistan’s sole prerogative. Once Islamabad learns to recognise this fact, it will find that it has been on the wrong side of the politico-religious divide.

Of course, a dialogue between the two neighbours has to be an essential element of two-way diplomacy. The problem here is of the closed mindset of Islamabad which has been waging a proxy war through jehad — reminiscent of 18th century fanaticism. A meaningful dialogue in today’s world requires an open mind while dealing with complex issues afflicting the two countries. The initial response of General Musharraf seems to be positive. We know about his economic, political and military compulsions. The economy of that country is a shambles. The world community, especially the USA and the European Union, would like to save Pakistan from utter collapse provided it joins the peace process with India.

Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government has certainly established its credentials as a votary of peace. The Indian Prime Minister took a calculated risk by announcing a unilateral ceasefire on the eve of Ramzan last November. He went on extending the truce thrice without achieving anything worthwhile. The futility of this exercise has apparently dawned on the policy-makers and hence the end of the truce. Whether this was mainly prompted by the growing resentment among the security forces or the hawks in the establishment is not relevant. There has been a broad consensus in the country on, first, to open a dialogue with General Musharraf and second, to come down heavily on terrorists and foreign mercenaries. At stake is peace in the valley and the Centre and Dr Farooq Abdullah’s government cannot allow Jammu and Kashmir to become all-time playfields of vested interests funded by the ISI and other foreign agencies. In fact, the time has come for the Pakistani ruling elite to get its acts together. If they do not change their policies and postures, they will be walking into the Taliban’s trap to their peril.

The Vajpayee government cannot go on with soft options for a long time. It has to be clear about its goals and objectives which are as follows:

One, the process of peace has to be speeded up by mobilising world opinion with a view to pressurising Islamabad to start serious negotiations to seek a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem.

Two, a time-bound elimination of terrorist camps across the border. There must not be any room for foreign mercenaries. This exercise has to be done without hurting innocent civilians in the valley.

Three, better house-keeping in Srinagar and beyond supported by massive development efforts for the people’s welfare.

Four, a healthy response to the plight of the people of Ladakh and Jammu, especially the Kashmiri Pandits who have been the worst sufferers in the cross-border terrorism.

Five, coordinated policies and action on the part of government agencies can help in sending the right message.

Six, clarity in thinking and approach needs to be backed by flexibility to get the desired result. Right now there are too many men dabbling in Kashmir affairs. The right hand of the Government of India generally does not know what its left is doing. Herein lies the Indian tragedy. If Mr Vajpayee, Mr L.K. Advani and other functionaries in Srinagar and Delhi act in unison, they will be able to get the desired results sooner than expected.

There are no shortcuts to peace. Nor can the process of peace be divided and subdivided. It has to be viewed in totality. To what extent General Musharraf will be willing to go on the path of peace remains to be seen. Much will depend on his ability to control the ISI and fundamentalist elements who are already gunning for him.

For India, peace has been a gamble. We have seen the offshoot of Lahore bus diplomacy. Mr Vajpayee cannot afford to re-enact his earlier flop show. His statesmanship, sweet reasonableness and diplomatic skills will be on test in the coming months. He enjoys tremendous goodwill at home and abroad. All he has to do is to muster the political will and get into the business of peace and stability. The nation will surely go along with him, provided he plays his card with tact and intelligence.


Security experts cynical of govt move
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
The decision of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government to put aside its earlier policy and invite Pakistan’s chief executive Gen Pervez Musharraf for talks within the ambit of the “Shimla agreement and the Lahore Declaration” brings to the fore serious errors of judgement by the political leadership.

The unilateral ceasefire announced in November-December last year has been revoked after seven months because the initiative had reached a dead-end with the Kashmiri militant outfits being prisoners in the hands of their masters in Islamabad.

Clearly, the union government did not want to take any more chances of tying up hands of the security forces in the fight against the terrorist and secessionist elements in the sensitive border state of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, fatalities among the personnel of the security forces had risen alarmingly after the imposition of the unilateral ceasefire.

With the summer months having set in and snow melting in the higher reaches of the valley, there can be no lowering of guard by the security forces in dealing with infiltration being attempted from across the border.

The ceasefire initiative backfiring, the government wants to revert to what is described as a “multi-strand” strategy in J and K in dealing a crushing blow to the machinations of the Pakistan-backed militants and foreign mercenaries.

Impartial observers and Pakistan experts here emphasise that the BJP-led NDA government had not given due consideration to how the so-called ‘Jehadi’ groups will react to the initiative of ceasing combat operations in the valley against the militant outfits.

Instead of facilitating the peace process, the Jehadi groups got emboldened and stepped up terrorist violence not only in J and K but also struck at the Red Fort garrison of the army as well as in the heart of the national capital.

It is widely apprehended that Pakistan is trying to enlarge its proxy war beyond J and K by targeting other parts of the country.

Even though the union government does not consider the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) the sole representative of the Kashmiri people, its desire to go to Pakistan for consultations had been denied, thereby making it a bone of contention.

The experts are of the opinion that “the Vajpayee government lacked political direction and blundered from the time of announcing the unilateral ceasefire leading to a deterioration in the security environment in J and K.”

They maintain that there should be no ambiguity in Mr Vajpayee’s invitation to General Musharraf to visit New Delhi for talks. Simply put Islamabad must get the message loud and clear that New Delhi will be even more resolute in crushing the terrorist menace not only in J and K, but any other place where it rears its ugly head.

“It is imperative that India is not viewed in Pakistan as having reversed its policy and invited General Musharraf for a dialogue from a position of weakness,” these experts say.

Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant’s role as the union government’s primary interlocutor to evolve a broad consensus in striving for the peace process in J and K will be even more slow now in getting off the starting block.


7 militants killed in encounter
Tribune News Service and UNI

Srinagar, May 24
On the first day after the Centre decided to call off the unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir ending May 31, seven militants of the Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed by the security forces at Langeth in Kupwara.

Elsewhere, militants attacked a security force sector headquarter while six persons, including five militants, were killed and an ultra surrendered before the police overnight.

Security forces captured two Hizbul Mujahideen militants Ghulam Nabi Lone and Ghulam Qadir along with two AK rifles, six magazines and 80 rounds at Chaki-Sudal in north Kashmir last evening.

Official sources said a search party of the security forces was fired upon by militants at Langeth in north Kashmir last evening. The forces retaliated, and in the ensuing encounter, seven militants of the LeT, reportedly foreigners, were killed and a large cache of arms and ammunition seized.

An official spokesman said a joint search party of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Jammu and Kashmir police and the Army killed a Lashkar militant, Abu Zubair, at Dangiwacha in Baramula district last night. One AK rifle, 161 rounds and five magazines were seized from the slain militant.

Militants attacked a security force sector headquarter at Wusan Ganderbal village last evening with automatic weapons.

The spokesman said in the retaliatory action, one Bashir Ahmad Rather, travelling in a tipper was injured. He later died in the hospital.

The police recovered and later defused a grenade at Gowri Bijbehara in south Kashmir last evening.

A foreign militant, Usman Madni, was killed by security forces in an encounter at Dudkul in Kupwara last night. One AK rifle, five magazines and 190 rounds were seized from him.

Two foreign militants were killed by the SOG and security forces at Check-Reshipora last evening while a militant was killed and a police constable sustained injuries at Khodrian Khah in Rajouri district of the Jammu region last evening.

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