The moderate separatist group in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday urged the top political brass of India and Pakistan to ensure that “rabble-rousers” in both countries are not allowed to vitiate the “atmosphere of peace” emerging after the recent thaw in Indo-Pak relations.
The Hurriyat Conference headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq hoped that the leadership in both the countries will carry forward the peace process in a “bold way” and resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir. It also said that it would not shy away from talks with the government, adding that any dialogue should be “with an open mind and heart”.
Keenly watching the developments, Mirwaiz Farooq, who is also a Muslim religious head, feels that the Friday meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Lahore has given a fresh hope not only to people of the two nations but to the entire South Asian region.
“I only hope that the process, which has been initiated after many speed breakers, gains momentum and both nations sit together and find solutions to all the outstanding issues including Kashmir by involving the Kashmiri people,” Mirwaiz told PTI.
He, however, expressed apprehension that radical elements, who are inimical to peace in the region, would try and make desperate attempts to sabotage the peace process.
“Both the Prime Ministers are democratically elected and have a strong mandate in their respective countries. If they are to carry forward a peace process and take historical steps, it is important that the process has broad support from the political opposition and general public in both countries.
“Any party or group that stands in the way of attempts to achieve peace are enemies of the people of South Asia. The leadership in India and Pakistan should invite and involve all the stakeholders – especially the people of Kashmir – to contribute and be a part of this process.
“The rabble-rousers should be reined in so that issues can be addressed and peace becomes the order of the day in the South Asian region,” he said.
When asked that certain separatists groups including his one time ally Syed Ali Shah Geelani were considered as hawks, Mirwaiz said, “Everyone in Kashmir supports meaningful dialogue and engagement. My point is simple that we in the Hurriyat Conference believe that Kashmir is a political issue which needs be resolved through dialogue.”
“We in Hurriyat Conference would like to walk an extra mile for ensuring that peace process can succeed. I have said it many times that we wish to see Kashmir as a bridge of friendship between India and Pakistan rather than a bone of contention,” Mirwaiz said.
To a question whether the Hurriyat Conference was willing to talk to the central leadership, he said, “We have never shied away from dialogue aimed at addressing the Kashmir issue be it with India or Pakistan.
“We held talks with the then Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh as well as Pervez Musharf and even gave some suggestions in order to move forward. Hurriyat would not shy away from any serious process aimed at resolving the Kashmir issue involving all stakeholders”
To a question about statements from Union ministers that talks with Hurriyat would be held within Indian Constitution, the Mirwaiz claimed it was Vajpayee who spoke of holding unconditional talks under the ambit of ‘insaniyat’ and vowed that India “shall not traverse solely on the beaten track of the past”.
“Talks need to be held with an open mind and heart,” the Mirwaiz said.