M A I N   N E W S

PM says autonomy to be discussed 
Proposes group on Centre-State ties
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 25
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorically said today that the issue of autonomy and self-rule will be discussed by one of the five groups to be constituted to deal with various aspects of the problems of Jammu and Kashmir.

Without dwelling into the aspect of how he would define autonomy and self-rule for Kashmir, Dr Singh explained this would be taken up by the group dealing with Centre-State relations along with other related aspects.

At a press conference here after the conclusion of the second Round Table to work out a solution to the protracted Kashmir issue, the Prime Minister dwelt on the specific aspect of dealing with those in detention who had not committed any heinous crimeas well as missing persons cases, the separatist Hurriyat Conference not attending the Round Table and his willigness to meet anyone who abjured violence.

Even though there was no discussion on screening cases of detention, Dr Singh observed this aspect could also be taken on board by one of the groups on the anvil. There was scope for discussion about the missing persons issue which could be made as on of the terms of reference.

On the issue of those youths who had been misled and had crossed over now keen on returning to lead a normal life, the Prime Minister noted “there should be scope for that. All these issues can be taken up in the various groups. Self-confidence has to be built.It is our responsibility to strive for practical and pragmatic solution to the problems.”

Acknowledging that he did not meet the Hurriyat leaders this time, he recalled they had met him as a group and also invidually. The firm impression gained by him was that they were in favour of continuing the dialogue process.

“I was left with the impression that they (the Hurriyat Conference) will be participating in the Round Table in Srinagar. It is a matter of regret that they did not. It will, however, be to the advantage of all if we pool the knowledge and wisdom for putting an end to the sad chapter of the past.”

Asked about the criticism that the Round Table was only being attended by those considered to be pro-India, Dr Singh affirmed that the constitution of the five groups was official with the approval of the Union Government. These groups will report back to the Round-table conference which will take stock of what has emerged.

To another suggestion that the talks could not succeed till the militants came on board the Round Table, the Prime Minister observed that plans at uniting the militants to arrive at a ceasefire of violent acts had proved elusive so far.

In this context, he maintained that he was willing to talk to anyone or any group which gave up terror and was keen on finding ways of resolving the issue. “I have not lost hope and reason that good sense and reason will prevail in working together for peace.”

To Another question, the Prime Minister stressed that the armed forces were not occupation forces.They were in J and K to protect the life and liberty of the people. “I am not denying that there are no aberrations. There should be zero tolerance for human rights violations.”

At the same time, Dr Singh said, “we can consider all options. If terrorist acts go down, there is no reason for us to keep the armed forces in such large numbers. We are constantly reviewing the matter. We are looking at all these questions.”




5 groups to go into J&K ills

In a significant step forward for resolving the vexed Kashmir problem, the second Round Table Conference, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, endorsed the constitution of five Working Groups to look into all issues affecting Jammu and Kashmir in all its aspects.

These Working Groups will work towards finding common ground and forging a consensus on specific issues through a time-bound result-oriented approach, according to a brief statement adopted at the end of the conference here this evening.

The five groups to be constituted in due course will deal with specific matters: Group I will oversee confidence building measures across segments of society in the state; Group II pertains to strengthening relations across the Line of Control; Group III will oversee confidence building measures across segments of society in the state; Group II pertains to strengthening relations across the Line of Control; Group III will focus on economic development; Group IV will ensure good governance and Group V will work towards strengthening relations between the state and the Centre.

Importantly, Group V will also deliberate on effective devolution of powers among different regions to meet regional, sub-regional and ethnic aspirations. The groups can co-opt experts if they so desire and the state government will provide the logistic support.

The Prime Minister underlined the need for establishing credible mechanism for carrying the dialogue forward. He proposed that the groups can comprise members from amongst those present at the conference or those nominated by the parties and groups who could look more closely at the broad issues and problems.

Dr Manmohan Singh made it clear that he was not minimising the difficulties that lie ahead but believed that would be a good beginning and a substantive contribution of the conference. “Once the Working Groups have completed their task, we could discuss their recommendations in another Round Table Conference.”

In his concluding remarks, the Prime Minister said the peace process with Pakistan as discussions at the Round Table had revealed had generated high expectations. “I am glad that this process has received demonstrable public support. We are awaiting Pakistan’s response on some concrete suggestions which we have made”

He touched upon the concern of the speakers about the problem of detention under various acts. “I will request the Home Ministry to periodically review on a quarterly basis all such cases of detention and release those who can be released. Let this not be linked to meetings and conferences but an ongoing process. My own office will monitor this every quarter”. On the displacement of persons, the Prime Minister has asked the state government to expedite the issue of identity cards to migrant families in a time-bound manner in the next six months. Strongly advocating a step-by-step approach, he stressed “we must have the courage to see each other as supporting the other for the realisation of a better tomorrow for all people of India and Pakistan. I have a vision that the peace making process must ultimately culminate on our two countries entering into a treaty of peace, security and friendship to give meaning and substance to our quest for shared goals”.


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