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February 23, 2001
The Rediff Interview/Former prime minister Inder Kumar
Former prime minister Inder Kumar
Gujral had written to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asking
for a further extension of the cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmir when Special Correspondent
Onkar Singh met him this week.
Gujral feels there is a need to hold talks
with Pakistan, but insists the meeting should
take place bilaterally.
"We have not met
bilaterally to sort out this issue," he said. Gujral,
along with three former prime ministers -- Vishwanath Pratap Singh,
Chandra Shekhar and H D Deve Gowda -- had sent Vajpayee a message, after the unilateral
cease-fire was announced.
"We had written a letter extending our
support to the bold initiative taken by Prime
Minister Vajpayee," Gujral said.
Gujral feels there is a need to hold talks with Pakistan, but insists the meeting should take place bilaterally.
"We have not met bilaterally to sort out this issue," he said. Gujral, along with three former prime ministers -- Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Chandra Shekhar and H D Deve Gowda -- had sent Vajpayee a message, after the unilateral cease-fire was announced.
"We had written a letter extending our support to the bold initiative taken by Prime Minister Vajpayee," Gujral said.
Do you think the courageous step taken by Prime Minister Vajpayee in announcing a unilateral cease-fire, and its subsequent extensions, is working out at the ground level?
When Prime Minister Vajpayee announced a
unilateral cease-fire, we former prime ministers
wrote him a letter, expressing our support.
What else needs to be done to consolidate this peace initiative?
I personally feel one more initiative needs to be taken. That is to activate the SAARC contacts. We must hold talks with Pakistan on a bilateral basis.
But you met Nawaz Sharif a number of times.
Even Vajpayee met Sharif in Sri Lanka at the SAARC meeting. Then he went to Lahore and we all know what happened after that.
This was the only bilateral meeting between the two heads of state.
Do you think such meetings hold any meaning, when so many innocent people are being killed in Kashmir by the militants? And if the intentions of the enemy is always suspect?
The intentions of your enemy are always suspect. But if you want to avoid war, and avoid acrimony, then the only way is to open other avenues.
What have been the net gains of the cease-fire?
The net gain is that the world, as a whole, and the international community, at large, has appreciated India's restraint.
Talks were going on. Five, six rounds have taken place which have identified the issues.
The main issue, which I have been saying, again and again, is not Kashmir. But India and Pakistan's relationship.
What is of importance is: Can we live as good neighbours, or not?
We should pursue this goal and we should not shy away from holding talks. We have never done so in the past and should not do so even today.
There have been having piecemeal extensions of the cease-fire in
Jammu and Kashmir. But there is an indefinite extension in Nagaland. Why
can't we have the same rule here?
Pakistan is using this as a pretext to intervene internally. So the two situations cannot be measured with the same yardstick.
Another suggestion being offered is for the trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir. Do you support this kind of solution?
Under no circumstances. We cannot, and should not, compromise under any circumstances on our national integrity and our secularism. This was my opinion when I was in office and I hold the same view even today.
These two issues are non-negotiable and this must be understood by both friends and foes.
Kashmir is a mini India. It is not a valley that we are dealing with. We are dealing with the whole problem of Jammu and Kashmir. It is composite and unified by its diversity. And hence we cannot possibly break that.
But the hawks within the government say that innocents have been killed. And that the terrorists are holding the state to ransom, hence the cease-fire should be called off.
I have already said the issues involved are complex.
Secondly, it is an intervention in the internal affairs of our country by Pakistan. The intervention is on several fronts.
First, at the Line on Control.
Second, the infiltration of jihadis into Kashmir who come from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But we have to work out our strategies to counter these things.
If you were at the helm of affairs, would you allow
the Hurriyat leaders to go to Pakistan?
Besides, they come from diverse groups and represent diverse cultures and thoughts. What is most important is, who do they represent? When they came to meet me, I asked them, who gave them the authority to represent Kashmir? They cannot represent the Government of India.
The people of Jammu and Ladakh want separate identities for themselves.
Every part of India has an identity. All regions are examples of unity in diversity. Ladakh and Jammu are no exception.
Design: Lynette Menezes
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