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Hurriyat is no big deal: Natwar Singh
Onkar Singh in New Delhi |
September 10, 2004 11:54 IST
Even as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference is sulking over Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil's statement that talks over Kashmir can only be held within the framework of the Constitution, External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh has told a private television channel that he does not attach much importance to the separatist conglomerate.
Nor is he bothered about Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri meeting separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir.
"For all I care, he could meet them over dinner as well. It does not make a difference. I do not attach much importance to the Hurriyat leadership. The Pakistanis should realize that we have had elections in Jammu and Kashmir where over 45 per cent of the people voted. There is an elected government in place. They should talk to them as well and not just meet Hurriyat leaders. The Pakistanis would have to think about it," he explained.
He rejected the idea that a leader of national stature should deal with the Hurriyat leadership as had been done by the previous National Democratic Alliance government. Former deputy prime minister L K Advani was talking to the Hurriyat leadership for the NDA government.
"We are open to a dialogue with the Hurriyat. It is for them to decide whether they want to engage in one or not," he said while making it clear that the present government would not go out of its way to please the Hurriyat leadership.
When contacted on phone, All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq refused to comment saying he would like to study the minister's statement.
Natwar Singh also sought to downplay the proposed meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf in New York later in September saying not much should not be expected out of it.
"The two leaders would meet each other on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session. It would be followed up by a meeting of the foreign secretaries. In 2005, Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf would meet again during the SARRC summit.
"This is a process and not an event. I have told my Pakistani counterpart that we should proceed step-by-step," Singh said explaining the Indo-Pakistan dialogue process.