Thursday, February 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

N.N. Vohra interlocutor on J&K
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 19
Former Union Home Secretary N.N. Vohra has been nominated by the Centre as its representative to initiate a dialogue with elected representatives in Jammu and Kashmir.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani announced this in the Rajya Sabha during question hour today.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to carry on the dialogue process, as announced by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on August 15 last year, Mr Advani said Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had also welcomed the suggestion.

How and when the dialogue process would start, entirely depended on Mr Vohra and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Replying to supplementaries that any dialogue would have to be at a political level, considering the situation in the state, the Deputy Prime Minister asserted that the decision taken would indeed have to be implemented at the political level.

The suggestions given by Mr Vohra would be implemented, he added.

Asserting that the Centre was not “resiling” from its commitment of holding a dialogue with the elected representatives in the state, Mr Advani said communication had been going on with the state government and he had indicated to the Chief Minister the decision to nominate Mr Vohra.

Admitting that there had been certain difficulties in the past and the process had taken some time, Mr Advani said it had all along been felt that a dialogue was absolutely necessary. The Chief Minister had been conveyed the need to expedite the process and he had also agreed.

He also refuted the charge that the Centre was not serious about holding a dialogue as many interlocutors had been appointed so far, including Mr K.C. Pant and Mr Arun Jaitley, while Mr Ram Jethmalani had suo motu taken an initiative. Now a person had been nominated and whatever recommendations he gave, would be implemented.

Mr Advani said last year’s Assembly elections in the state had provided another “window of opportunity” for improving the situation in the state.

Mr Ram Jethmalani, who was Chairman of the Kashmir Committee that held a dialogue with various groups in the valley, described Mr Advani’s reply as “most unhealthy”.

He said during yesterday’s special mention on the issue in the House, Congress member Saifuddin Soz had said the people in the state were disappointed that no dialogue had been started.


Mufti says it is good news

JAMMU: With the appointment of Mr N.N. Vohra as the Centre’s interlocutor for holding a dialogue with various groups to hammer out a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio the long standing demand of the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has been met.

Other groups have also hailed his appointment who has the distinction of handling many ticklish issues when he was the Union Home Secretary. He is now a trustee of The Tribune.

Mufti Sayeed said the appointment of Mr Vohra would provide a good opportunity for a meaningful dialogue with the elected representatives and other sections. He described the appointment as “very good news”.

Expressing his gratitude to the Prime Minister Mufti Sayeed said the people and all groups should avail of this opportunity of dialogue to restore peace with dignity in the state.


Parties welcome Vohra’s appointment
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 19
The appointment of former Union Home Secretary N.N. Vohra as the government interlocutor on Jammu and Kashmir was welcomed today by the political parties while the All-Party Hurriyat Conference chose to maintain a studied silence on the issue.

Welcoming the move, the National Conference expressed the hope that the separatists, who have been shying away from talks, would come forward and work for the restoration of peace in the state.

Party President Omar Abdullah said “We hope that the new interlocutor will talk to all sections of people and not just confine himself to mainstream political parties.”

At the same time, the people of the state would like to know the fate of earlier interlocutors like Mr K.C. Pant, Mr Arun Jaitley and Mr Ram Jethmalani, who held talks with the political and separatist groups in the state, Mr Omar Abdullah said.

Senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said Mr Vohra was a “good choice” as he had the requisite expertise, but what remained to be seen was “the terms of reference set by the Centre.”

Hurriyat Conference chairman Abdul Gani Bhat was not forthcoming for an immediate reaction, saying that “the executive group will sit and discuss the issue threadbare.”

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