Tuesday, May 29, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Talks only solution, says Pant
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 28
Mr K.C. Pant, today expressed the hope that the initiation of talks with various Kashmiri groups would lead to “the restoration of peace and development” which was necessary to move towards a political settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir problem.

“I hope talks will be to try to understand the hopes and aspirations of the people here... and try to understand their problems and generally to see how together we can make progress to write a new chapter”, said Mr Pant while talking to mediapersons on his arrival here today. He is scheduled to visit various parts of the trouble-torn state and meet various groups and individuals to initiate a dialogue for the restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir. This is his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir after having been appointed as chief negotiator to hold talks with Kashmiri groups.

On his arrival here today, Mr Pant met the Governor, Mr Girish Chander Saxena and is scheduled to meet other top officials of the state administration. His scheduled meeting with the Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah could not take place today as he was reportedly indisposed. Mr Pant said he would try to meet all shades of people as all shades of opinion were “necessary... even the individuals differ”, he said adding that “the whole approach has to be one of understanding”.

Answering questions, Mr Pant said he would be meeting senior separatist leader, Shabir Ahmad Shah, who had earlier in the day set forth certain conditions before entering into any dialogue with the Centre. Shah had, however, welcomed an “informal” meeting with the Centre’s chief negotiator on Kashmir. Mr Pant said it was for the separatist Hurriyat Conference to respond to his invitation for talks. The Hurriyat Conference has already expressed its inability to enter into a dialogue with the Centre.

Giving an outline of his visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Pant said he had been talking to various people in Delhi and “now I have come to Srinagar to continue this task”. Recalling his long association with Jammu and Kashmir beginning with his first visit to the state in the company of his father, the then Home Minister, Mr Pant said this visit would be to “renew old friendships and to make new friends.”

Mr Pant said the Prime Minister had taken the initiative following the six-month-long non-initiation of combat operations against militants, which had been extended thrice. During the period there were many contacts at various levels and with various individuals and groups in Jammu and Kashmir.Back


Review decision on truce: Shabir Shah
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 28
Expressing willingness in principle to negotiate with the Centre as a basis for tripartite talks to resolve the Kashmir issue, Shabir Shah today sought to review the decision of the withdrawal of the unilateral ceasefire for a more “conducive atmosphere”.

“If the Government of India is sincere, it should create a conducive atmosphere for talks”, Shabir Ahmad Shah, chief of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), said at a press conference while announcing the decision of the executive body of his party here on Monday. “There is always a ceasefire before any talks are held to resolve an issue”, he said.

On the one hand the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, had invited Pakistan Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf and on the other hand, he had announced the withdrawal of ceasefire, Mr Shah claimed. He said if the government was “really serious” the Disturbed Areas Act and special powers to the security forces be withdrawn and ‘pro-movement’ leaders be allowed to move about freely. Mr Shah sought the release of all detainees and an end to house to house searches, crackdowns and identification parades.

Describing the role of Mr K.C. Pant, Centre’s chief negotiator as a “mediator” between the Kashmiris and the Centre, Mr Shah said he was ready to informally talk to the former. “If he calls on me at my residence, he is most welcome”, Mr Shah said. He added that a “formal dialogue” could be held only on agendas.

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