Singh to resume talks with APHC
* Invites Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for the meeting
* Mirwaiz says invitation not received yet but APHC will attend the meeting
NEW DELHI: The Indian government and the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) are all set to resume the stalled dialogue process on September 5.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had agreed to extend a formal invitation for the talks to APHC Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Though British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also scheduled to be in New Delhi around the same time, the PM’s Office said that Dr Singh would be able to spare time to jump start the stalled dialogue process which would then be taken over by Home Minister Shivraj Patel.
Sensing the drift that had become more apparent with massive public presence at the hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani’s recently held rally in Srinagar, the Indian prime minister has sidelined all interlocutors and security advisers on the issue and has entrusted the duty to a top political personality from the state, sources said.
Kashmiri leaders taking part in the talks include all those who had visited Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. However, Muhammad Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), has decided to stay away.
Mirwaiz-led APHC held a closed-door ‘informal’ executive council meeting in Srinagar on Tuesday as part of its pre-talks exercise. A meeting of the APHC general council has also been called on Thursday to discuss the upcoming talks. APHC had two rounds of talks in 2004 with then deputy prime minister LK Advani. The third round of talks was delayed after the change of government in New Delhi. The APHC leaders had insisted that they be allowed to visit Pakistan and hold talks with the leadership there.
AFP adds: The APHC has confirmed the meeting with the Indian prime minister, which will mark their first interaction with the Congress-led government since it came to power in May last year.
However, APHC Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said that the group had not received the invitation yet but that they would attend the meeting. “We have accepted the invitation in principle,” Farooq said. “We will discuss all aspects of the meeting tomorrow during a meeting of the working committee, executive council and the general council,” he said. “We had asked for the meeting at the highest level and our request has been accepted. That is what we wanted: a meeting with the prime minister,” he said.
“As far as the agenda is concerned, we want to address the political issue of Kashmir,” Farooq told NDTV satellite news channel.
“Already there is a dialogue between India and Pakistan. We have said Kashmir is not a bilateral issue and people should be involved in it. We had discussions with the (previous) government in 2004 and we look forward to continuing from there,” he said.
Hardline separatist politicians who have the backing of the militants have branded talks with New Delhi “meaningless” and “a disservice to the cause” of Kashmiris.