National Conference patron and former Union minister Farooq Abdullah on Friday said that India and Pakistan should initiate talks to bring an end to terrorism in the region. Farooq was speaking after a meeting of opposition parties, which he had called at his residence in Gupkar.
His son and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, meanwhile, said the situation in Kashmir remained “extremely worrisome” but attention had been diverted from it because of the tension between India and Pakistan.
“India and Pakistan should hold dialogue. Terrorism will stop itself when there is a dialogue,’’ Farooq said after the 90-minute meeting. “We live in an atomic era. We appeal to both countries that war is no solution and dialogue is the only way forward. Tension will only increase terrorism.”
Urging both countries to move forward, Farooq said, “Friends can be changed but neighbours cannot be changed… Sound policies for the future should be formulated, not temporary solutions.” Abdullah said that the present situation in Kashmir is dangerous for the peace and stability of entire South Asia.
“Kashmir is a political problem. We have to resolve it permanently, today’s government also has this in its agenda,” he said, adding that talks should be held with each stakeholder, including the Hurriyat Conference. Addressing the PDP, he said, “What has happened to the agenda of the government? All political prisoners, including those from the Hurriyat, need to be released… A special session of the J&K assembly needs to be called to discuss the current situation.”
Farooq also sought an inquiry into the killing of civilians in the Valley during the violence that broke out after the killing of militant Burhan Wani. When contacted, PDP general secretary Nizamudin Bhat said his party was on the same page as Farooq. “This is what our party’s agenda is. The current crisis has been an impediment and dialogue has been on hold. We also want India and Pakistan to start a dialogue.”
Congress legislator Ghulam Nabi Monga, who also attended Friday’s meeting, said “many suggestions have been forwarded to the government” to defuse the situation in the Valley. “It was our reminder to the government of India because such an indifferent attitude cannot resolve the situation,’’ said CPM general secretary Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami.
Meanwhile, speaking during a panel discussion at the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival in Kasauli, Omar said, “My fear is that because now our attention has been diverted so totally to the frontiers and the situation between India and Pakistan, J&K has been consigned to the backburner.”
“Nobody remembers that there is a problem (in Kashmir), 90-plus people have died, nobody recalls that time to time, promises have been made which haven’t been fulfilled and unfortunately the anger continues to simmer,” he said, adding that J&K cannot be treated like any other state.
“My worry is that in the corridors of power that matter in Delhi, there is a reluctance to accept the nature of problems in J&K as it exists today. It is either seen in context of Pakistan or in context of a law-and-order problem,” he said.
Referring to J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti invitation to tourists to visit Kashmir, Omar said, “Everyone is shying away from Kashmir… The road to Gulmarg in Kashmir is unstable. The government has no control over it. It is very easy for the CM to come to Delhi and invite tourists. But the CM herself is not in a position to drive to Pahalgam or Gulmarg, so how will tourists come?”
“There are some statements coming from Prime Minister Modi, where he accepted that development alone is not the solution and that we need to think further than that and that means we need to talk. Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav said you can ask for the moon as long as it is within the Constitution… Some parties like mine have asked for less than the moon within the four walls of the Constitution, but we were met with a less than positive response,” he said.
On the Centre’s announcement of an IIM for Jammu, Omar said it was a “wrong decision” that would “cement an imbalance”. “Four new institutions have been announced for the states — three of them are for Jammu and one for Kashmir, and Ladakh has been totally forgotten,” he said.
Omar said that the unrest during his tenure ended because “the Central government announced something for Kashmir”. “Unfortunately, 97 days of current cycle of protests, it doesn’t appear that the Centre is willing to go beyond just words…,” he said.