When BJP came to power, many separatists especially the moderates hoped that the party will carry forward the initiatives started by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. There were a few feelers too. In Srinagar, the Union minister for minority affairs Najama Heptullah said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is following in the footsteps of Vajpayee.
“He (Modi) is treading the path shown by Vajpayee,” Heptullah said. “No other prime minister in the world has traveled in a bus to other country with a message of friendship. Vajpayee went to Pakistan and offered a hand of friendship. I am sure, had Vajpayee won again in 2004 elections, the situation in Kashmir would have been different”.
But the optimism lasted only for a day. On Monday, the Centre called off Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan terming the Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s invite to Kashmiri separatists ahead of the talks as a “provocation”.
This is not for the first time that separatists have met the Pakistan High Commissioners or political heads before the talks. It is a 20-year-old practice started in 1994 by the then visiting Pakistan president Farooq Leghari – and since, these meeting have been a regular feature both during the NDA and UPA governments.
When Vajpayee invited the then Pakistan president and Kargil architect Pervez Musharraf for talks in Agra, before meeting Vajpayee he met and consulted with the separatists in New Delhi. Vajpayee didn’t see it as a provocation.
By canceling the talks, the Centre has overreacted to the outcry raised by the opposition Congress – which allowed the Hurriyat leaders to visit Pakistan for consultation with Islamabad before starting a dialogue process with New Delhi in 2005. The separatists see the Congress reaction to the Pakistan High Commissioner’s invite to separatists as double standards and say that in past Congress “facilitated” such meetings.
“These are the double standards,” pro-independence leader Yasin Malik told The Indian Express. “When they (Congress) are in power, they facilitate such meetings and when they are in opposition, they oppose it”.
The calling-off of talks with Pakistan has only given credence to the view of hard-line separatists that New Delhi is not sincere to resolve Kashmir issue through dialogue and has once again discredited the moderates who had shown optimism once BJP came to power.
“It has vindicated our stand that India is not sincere in resolving the Kashmir issue peacefully,” Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani said. “There is nothing new in it (meeting with Pak high commissioner). It only shows that the new dispensation in New Delhi is not politically mature”.
The decision to cancel talks has provided ammunition to the people who have been opposing any kind of talks with New Delhi. In fact, the separatists have already been saying that by choking the channels of dialogue, New Delhi is pushing youth towards violence.
“They (Centre) have decided to choke all kinds of stage for Kashmiri movement,” Malik said. “By this, they are pushing the new generation to pick up the gun”.