Hurriyat offers to bow out to end Indo-Pak talks deadlock


APHC chief Mirwaiz says role of Kashmiri resistance in negotiations can be taken up later

No word from Kashmiri leader Ali Shah Geelani, Pak High Commission on Mirwaiz’s statement

Kashmir’s All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), at the heart of the four-month long diplomatic standoff between India and Pakistan, has suggested what may be a face-saving formula for the resumption of talks between the two neighbours, by offering to bow out from the dialogue process for now, The Hindu has reported.

The paper quoted APHC chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as saying in an interview that the role of the Kashmiri resistance in the negotiations could be taken up at a later stage.

The Indian government had called off talks with Pakistan in August, objecting to Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Delhi Abdul Basit’s meeting with Kashmiri leaders, including Mirwaiz.

“If they don’t talk and the problem gets prolonged, we are the ones at loss,” Mirwaiz said. “For the Hurriyat, we want to be seen as contributors, not as spoilers. So it doesn’t matter to us whether the Pakistanis talk to us later or in the beginning… as long as we are in the loop. We want to talk to both New Delhi and Islamabad but now we would urge them to start talking, and offer our full support to the process,” he added.

A spokesman at the Pakistan High Commission declined to comment on the interview. There was no word from the hardline Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Mirwaiz’s proposal.

Asked whether he would be fine even if Pakistan did not talk to Hurriyat before it resumes its dialogue with India, Mirwaiz said, “Exactly. We are happy with it. The whole idea of Hurriyat meeting the Pakistanis is not to present our point of view; it is to give strength to the whole process. It gives credibility to the whole process. May be we are not directly involved at this stage, but eventually we would like to be involved, as part of a tripartite or whatever mechanism one would call it, where everyone is talking to everyone. But if India and Pakistan can make the start, we support that,” Mirwaiz reportedly said.

The APHC leader was, however, critical of the Modi government’s Kashmir policy that he is still “waiting and watching.” “New Delhi wants to quarantine the Hurriyat and shrink the space for peaceful resistance,” Mirwaiz reportedly said.

“It is moving on the beaten track; with the same old rhetoric,” he added.

“When Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to Indian PM Narendra Modi’s swearing in, it presented a great opportunity, which has been wasted,” Mirwaiz said.

Asked to comment on the Indian army recently making a rare gesture by admitting to its mistake in shooting of innocent civilians, Mirwaiz said, “If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shows political wisdom, as it did in this case, we welcome it. But there are several other issues — the AFSPA (The Armed Forces Special Powers Act), the overwhelming military presence itself. We were hoping that BJP will follow Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approach to the Kashmir issue but Modi appears to have a different agenda. The BJP wants to be in power in the state. It is creating polarisation which may help it in the short run but will be dangerous in the long run,” he said.

The Hurriayt leader expressed hope that the notion signalling the Indian administration’s realisation to take people of Kashmir into confidence was “genuine” and not merely a political point-scoring gimmick by BJP.