Tuesday, May 29, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India says no to referendum
Rules out Hurriyat participation in talks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 28
Declaring Kashmir as core of Indian nationalism, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh today rejected Islamabad’s demand for a referendum in the state and ruled out any role for the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) in the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks.

Addressing a crowded press conference, Mr Jaswant Singh said, “The whole of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and that stand remains unaltered. The question of referendum does not simply arise”.

Asked about Islamabad’s contention of a meeting between Pakistan Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf and a delegation of the APHC during his visit to India, the External Affairs Minister said it was a “non-issue”.

Asked to elaborate on his non-issue comment, Mr Jaswant Singh said General Musharraf was coming to meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and ruled out a meeting saying that from where these “additionalities are cropping up is beyond my comprehension”.

Having made the government’s stand clear on Jammu and Kashmir, the minister said India was seeking peace, reconciliation and cooperation with Pakistan.

Explaining the Prime Minister’s invitation to General Musharraf, the minister said India wanted Pakistan to “revert to the path of peace and cooperation”. Mr Jaswant Singh said poverty was “our common and real adversary”, and expressed the hope that Islamabad would rise above contentious issues.

Mr Jaswant Singh, who also holds charge of Defence, said the invitation was “explicit” in picking up the threads of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

However, “we do not wish to enter into any contention with Pakistan before General Musharraf’s visit here”, the minister said.

Replying to a question on the withdrawal of the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir and a spurt in militant activities, he said “it is a fact that terrorism is being encouraged and abetted by Pakistan”.

“We will address the situation of Jammu and Kashmir internally as a domestic issue. When it comes to talks with Pakistan, it is a bilateral issue,”, the minister pointed out.

Asked about the proposed date of General Musharraf’s visit to New Delhi, he said “I am still waiting for a formal response from Pakistan” but said it would be “a balance of mutual convenience of calendars of both Heads of Governments”.

In reply to another question, the minister said India believed Pakistan had taken some steps to create an atmosphere for talks, adding that exchange of fire on the line of control had come down.

“India is very clear about long-term relations with Pakistan. It is for Pakistan to tell as what it wants from long-term relations with India”, he said.

On the issue of the Taliban regime’s decree on dress code for minorities, the minister said India would provide “full shelter” to the Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan in case they left that country .

He said, however, it would be unfortunate in case the Hindus, who were living in Afghanistan, were forced out of that country.

Stating that developments in Afghanistan had “deeply troubled” not only India but the international community as well, he said though New Delhi had not recognised the Taliban regime, it had made efforts to persuade the militia to desist from taking such steps against the minorities.

Speaking on defence-related issues, Mr Jaswant Singh said moves were afoot for the integration of the three services within 90 days and to seek a political consensus for the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) which would work as a single point of advice on strategic affairs.

Refraining to comment whether the CDS would hold a rank higher than the other services chiefs or be first among the equals, and whether the post would be rotational, the Defence Minister said proposed creation of the post would not appropriate the operational and administrative control of the three service chiefs.

Mr Jaswant Singh said under the Group of Ministers proposal accepted, the service chiefs would have enhanced powers of decision making as well as greater decision on finances. He said consultations with opposition parties on the CDS issue had not yet begun as the Prime Minister was out of Delhi and the government was looking at the convenience of opposition leaders.

The minister said the Ministry of Defence had brought out an extensive paper on modalities for the creation of the post of the CDS, integration of three services and setting up of a common defence procurement board to which a Special Secretary had already been appointed.

He said with the timeframe set for the integration of the three services, their headquarters would become an integral part of the decision-making process in the Defence.Back


Cong against tripartite talks

The Congress on Monday opposed any third party intervention in the talks on Kashmir and said the proposed Indo-Pak talks should be confined to Heads of States of the two countries.

Party spokesman on foreign affairs and former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh told a media briefing that the Congress welcomed the Indian initiative for talks with Pakistan, but expressed regret on political parties not being consulted on an important issue like this.

An important move, says Britain

Terming as an “important move” the invitation by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Pakistani military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, the UK on Monday hoped the expected summit would help in “unlocking” the deadlock between the two neighbours and resolve their differences.

The UK had maintained that India and Pakistan should resume dialogue to settle all their differences and Mr Vajpayee’s invitation to General Musharraf was an “important move” in that direction, British High Commissioner to India Bob Young told reporters in New Delhi.

Allow free movement across LoC: JKRF

The Jammu and Kashmir Realistic Front (JKRF) on Monday said allowing free movement across the Line of Control (LoC) and creation of “one geo-political family” of the people living on both sides of the LoC was the only solution to the vexed Kashmir problem.

Front chairman Hilal Ahmad War told reporters in New Delhi that a five-year permit be granted to Kashmiris to move freely across the LoC, besides allowing free trade. A people’s convention should be held after five years, wherein all political parties and recognised leaders of the region should be allowed to express their views to reach a practicable solution to the imbroglio, he said.

Include Kashmiris, says Salahuddin

The chief of the United Jehad Council and leader of Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin on Monday urged India and Pakistan to include Kashmiris in proposed talks between Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf.

Salahuddin told newspersons in Islamabad that Kashmiris were basic party to the Kashmir problem and without their participation talks on the long-standing issue would be “futile.” AgenciesBack

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