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Centre must talk to all: Mufti

February 10, 2003 19:42 IST

The Centre has not decided whether the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, K C Pant, should hold talks with the representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed said in New Delhi on Monday.

"Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a commitment from the ramparts of the Red Fort during his Independence Day speech... I am sure the government will keep its commitment. I have asked the prime minister to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the Kashmir issue," the Mufti said on the completion of one hundred days of his government.

Asked if the All-Party-Hurriyat Conference should be invited for talks, he said, "I said the government should hold talks with all. This includes the MLA's, various political parties of the state and others," he said.

The Hurriyat had spurned the offer of talks when the Centre had appointed Pant as interlocutor, he said.

"We must talk to the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Democracy is all about exchanging ideas," he added.

He asked the Centre not to miss the opportunity to settle the Kashmir issue.

"Militancy has a certain period up to which it can sustain. Thereafter, the people who lend support get fed up. The people of the state have realised that they need peace. They want their representative government to listen to their problems and sort them out. We must remove the causes of alienation. We must set our own house in order within the framework of the Indian Constitution," he said.

Asked if he supported former chief minister Farooq Abdullah's idea of greater autonomy or return to pre-1952 status, he said, "These are the matters that need to be discussed. Jammu and Kashmir has a special status within the framework of the Constitution. We must not let forces that have vested interests in continuing terrorism in the state… People know that the peace cannot come through the barrel of the gun. Even those who picked up the gun know this. We must give jobs to unemployed youth."

Regarding the recent diplomatic tussle between India and Pakistan, he said, "The Union government has taken certain steps and they must be aware of why they have done it. I have nothing to add. Vajpayee has taken a number of steps to initiate dialogue between India and Pakistan. He went to Lahore by bus, invited Musharraf for talks in Agra but they did not respond. Let us first set our house in order and then talk to Pakistan," he said.

He ruled out joint patrolling by the Border Security Force and Pakistani Rangers on the Line of Control. "Accepting this proposal would mean accepting the present border," he said.

On the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, the Mufti said, "We have already started working on two projects. We would like to resettle them at Matton and Khir Bhawani. We will give them full security."

Onkar Singh in New Delhi