M A I N   N E W S

Centre open to Hurriyat’s Pak visit
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, November 6
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil today stated that there were no pre-conditions for talks with any group and indicated that the Centre was ready to grant permission to Hurriyat leaders to visit Pakistan, provided travel documents were “applied” for in a proper manner.

“There is no restriction on travel for anyone (between India and Pakistan). If they (Hurriyat leaders) approach in a proper manner, we can consider it. Why should there be a problem in it?,” Mr Patil, who began his three-day tour of Jammu and Kashmir today, told newspersons here.

Moreover, it was easier to travel between India and Pakistan as there was a bus service, he added. Mr Patil was responding to a question on the pre-condition put by the Hurriyat to allow its leaders to first visit Pakistan for the continuation of the dialogue process.

Mr Patil, however, pointed out that the Centre had not put any condition for talks and it was up to the Hurriyat Conference to decide whether it wanted to talk.

The Hurriyat Conference had held talks with the Centre earlier too and “we are ready for talks,” he said adding, “there is no restriction on travel.”

Asked whether the Centre had extended any invitation to the APHC, Mr Patil said, “It is always dialogue which leads to invitation.”

However, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Mangatram Sharma, who met Mr Patil on his arrival here, told newspersons that “the Centre should not appease the Hurriyat Conference for talks.”

“The Centre has given an open call for talks and if they (Hurriyat Conference) want they can come forward for talks,” Mr Sharma said, claiming that the influence of the Hurriyat Conference had fallen drastically in the Kashmir Valley.

“Whatever influence they (Hurriyat leaders) have is due to support from terrorists,” he charged.

Mr Patil, who was flanked by his deputies Shriprakash Jaiswal, and S. Raghupathy, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Deputy Chief Minister Mangatram Sharma, Centre’s interoculator for Kashmir N.N. Vohra and Union Home Secretary Dhirendra Singh at the press conference, asserted that the situation in Kashmir had improved considerably and that there had been a decrease in infiltration and terrorist incidents in the state.

“The statistics on terrorist violence clearly indicate that there has been a fall in infiltration and terrorist incidents this year as compared to the corresponding period last year,” Mr Patil said, pointing out that positive statements emanating from the neighbouring country could be one of the reasons for the fall.

Mr Patil, who held meetings with the state Governor, Lt-Gen (retd) S.K. Sinha, the Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mr Mangatram, several state ministers, MPs and legislators and other regional groups, said to put the state government on the track of development, the Centre was keen on extending all possible help.

“I don’t want to spell out what kind of a package (the Centre will give to the state government), as it will be good if the same is announced by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who will be visiting the state in the third week of this month,” he said.

“What he (PM) announces will have more weightage and can be more substantial,” he said.

After a day-long stay here, Mr Patil is scheduled to visit Jammu tomorrow morning and do an aerial survey of the fencing work at the border.

He is also likely to meet some migrant groups and leaders of political parties and other organisations before returning to Srinagar en route to Ladakh.


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