M A I N   N E W S

Centre calls Hurriyat for talks on January 22
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 13
The Centre today sent an invitation to the Hurriyat Conference led by Maulana Abbas Ansari for talks with the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, on January 22.

The invitation extended to the Hurriyat Conference said “pursuant to the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security on October 22, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani would like to meet you on January 22.”

A meeting of senior bureaucrats of Prime Minister’s office, Home Ministry and Centre’s interlocutor on Kashmir N.N. Vohra was held last week to discuss the modalities for the proposed talks.

The first meeting was likely to be attended by former Hurriyat Conference chairman Omar Farooq besides Mr Ansari.

Hurriyat leaders are expected to arrive in the Capital early next week.

The issue of Centre’s talks with the Hurriyat had figured prominently during Kashmir Committee’s meeting with Mr Advani before the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Kashmir Committee, headed by Mr Ram Jethmalani, has since held several rounds of talks with the Hurriyat Conference.

Observers here said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s two visits to Jammu and Kashmir had reinforced the impression about Centre’s willingness to hold a meaningful dialogue with various sections in the state.

State Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has consistently favoured talks with the separatists, saying that dialogue was essence of democracy.

The invitation to APHC for talks has assumed new significance in view of improvement in relations between India and Pakistan following the SAARC conference.

Welcoming the proposed Centre-Hurriyat talks, Kashmir Committee convener Ashok Bhan said it was the first step.

He hoped other groups in the Valley, including that of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, would join the talks later.

“Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s recent remarks about setting aside the demand for plebiscite is a positive development. It paves the way for the Hurriyat to look beyond the extreme stand of secession,” Mr Bhan said.

He said former Hurriyat chief Abdul Ghani Bhat had also called for abandoning of extreme stand during his talks with the Kashmir Committee.

According to a report from Srinagar, though the splinter group of the APHC, led by hardliner leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has been left out at present, it is also expected to be included in the due course of time. Several other separatist groups are also expected to be invited for the talks to resolve the Kashmir issue. This was indicated by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who had recently stated that talks could be held even with the Hizbul Mujahideen.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |