India’s line with APHC raises questions
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: India agreeing with the Hurriyat Conference to find ways to “resolve all outstanding issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir” has raised questions whether New Delhi has publicly acknowledged the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Hurriyat Conference may think so as they return to Srinagar satisfied for successfully extracting a commitment from Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani in this regard. Diplomatic circles, however, describe the joint statement issued after the Hurriyat-Advani dialogue on Thursday as a sort of India’s diplomatic scoop in letting the separatists agree to the stand India had taken back in 1993 while dealing with Pakistan. They say Islamabad will apparently be unhappy with what the Hurriyat leaders may drum as their scoring points over the Indian leadership.
Since the Hurriyat has agreed to the formulation of resolving “all outstanding issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir”, diplomatic circles feel India may take the same line in its engagement with Pakistan in February by pointing out that Kashmir’s representatives also want that formulation to be pursued.
Disputing that they have been caught in diplomatic jugglery, former Hurriyat chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, however, said here the related issues included human rights violations, massive concentration of security forces, search operations and killings, besides the larger outstanding issue which was the root cause of all these problems.
Back in 1993, former Indian PM Narasimha Rao had proposed to then Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto “a comprehensive dialogue to discuss all matters of mutual concern, including issues related to Jammu and Kashmir”.
PM Bhutto adopted a hard line, rejecting PM Rao’s letter of October 19, 1993 and wrecked the talks in January 1994, insisting that the term should be “all matters of mutual concern, including the future status of Jammu and Kashmir” rather than “issues related to Jammu and Kashmir”.
Pakistan’s belief was that the phrase “issues related to Jammu and Kashmir” made it an internal problem for India and the related issues could be interpreted as anything like the water problem, power problem or whatever but the disputed status of the region. Disagreement on the terminology to address the Jammu and Kashmir issue had thus derailed India’s efforts in 1993 for talks with Pakistan.
On Nawaz Sharif’s return to power in 1997, the dialogue resumed. A joint statement was issued in Islamabad on June 23, 1997, that is still the basis of any negotiations including the Lahore Declaration. That joint statement had announced a decision to set up a mechanism, including working groups “to address eight issues”. Here both sides agreed to discuss all issues of mutual concern “including Jammu and Kashmir”.