M A I N   N E W S

Hurriyat leaders ready to adjust

Kathmandu, December 12
Leaders of separatist groups in India and Pakistan who want the disputed Kashmir region to be independent of both countries, said here today that they would be flexible in their negotiations on the issue.

Representatives from political parties and rights organisations in India and Pakistan have been brought together at the conference to start a dialogue on a people-to-people basis for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.

The participants hailed the event as positive and said they wanted to resolve the dispute, which has seen India and Pakistan go to war thrice, peacefully through dialogue.

Ghulam Rasool Dar, general secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the Indian party that had started an armed movement for the secession of Kashmir, said there couldn’t be an instantaneous resolution of the issue.

“However, we announced a unilateral ceasefire from 1994 and have still adhered to it,” he said.

“Though the ultimate aim is a unified and independent Kashmir, for now we are trying to have confidence-building measures. For that, we have switched over from armed struggle to a fight on the political and diplomatic fronts.”

Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, considered a moderate, said though his party too envisioned an independent Kashmir, it was ready to be flexible.

“All parties have to rise above political positions,” he said.

Farooq suggested a greater role for the Kashmiris in the India-Pakistan talks. “There has to be a broader consensus,” he said. “The talks can be tripartite — between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris — or two parties in dialogue at a time.”

The four-day meeting, which began yesterday, has been organised by Rome-based NGO Pugwash Conferences, which was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1995 for improving contacts between the US and the former Soviet Union, then locked in the Cold War.

Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhary, of exiled former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said though his party supported an independent Kashmir, the decision would have to be guided by the Kashmiris themselves.

While countries that had been former foes were coming together for economic development, South Asia, he said, was prevented from doing so by the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the first-ever meeting of Kashmiri leaders from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) will be held here tomorrow even as hardline pro-Pakistan leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has decided to stay away from it.

This meeting will be held as a part of intra-Kashmiri committee formed during the conference.

This meeting assumes significance as this is for the first time that the leaders from the two sides of Kashmir were meeting at an international forum to discuss the vexed issue.

During the meeting, the Hurriyat Conference team comprising Bhat and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq will present its stand on solving the Kashmir issue through a peaceful dialogue and will seek co-operation from the PoK leaders for making a cohesive and a united stand on the issue. — IANS, PTI

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