Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Former Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Friday claimed that by agreeing to talk directly to Islamabad, the government of India has admitted that Pakistan is a party to the Kashmir dispute.
"So far the government had insisted that it would not hold talks with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Our stand has been vindicated now and Kashmir has once again become an international issue," the Mirwaiz told rediff.com in Delhi.
Asked if the Hurriyat still favoured Kashmir's merger with Pakistan, he said: "When people in Kashmir spoke of azadi in 1948 it meant merger with Pakistan. But after the armed struggle that started in 1989, this concept has changed -- azadi now means an independent state," he said.
Does it mean an independent Kashmir?
"Not necessarily. We, the Kashmiris, want to be the masters of our own destiny. That is why we were saying that we should be allowed to go to Pakistan so that we could sit with our brothers in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and evolve the concept of azadi," he said.
When it was pointed out that the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had said that the talks on Kashmir must centre around either the Lahore Declaration or the Shimla Agreement, the Mirwaiz said: "We are not rigid in our stand. Hurriyat Conference is flexible and wants amicable solution of the Kashmir problem."
He expressed anger at Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani's statement that Hurriyat would have no role to play in the Union government's parleys with Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf if and when he visits India. "How can you hope to solve the Kashmir problem without the involvement of the Kashmiris in the talks?"
He said the Hurriyat Conference did receive a letter from the government interlocutor K C Pant, but it did not say whether the government wanted to resolve the problem of Jammu and Kashmir.
If this clarification is made in the letter then Hurriyat conference has no problem in holding talks with K C Pant, he said.
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