Talks to resolve the Kashmir issue should be held by India and Pakistan before modifying visa rules or trade policies, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tells Tahir Ali in Islamabad.
All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq believes that the burgeoning trade between India and Pakistan and the liberal visa regime are positive signs, but resolving the core issue of Kashmir, which remains a bone of contention between the two countries, should be their first priority.
Talking to rediff.com during his visit to the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, Mirwaiz said, "We favour trade relations between the two countries. We are not against the decision to grant India the status of Most Favoured Nation. But first India should assure Pakistan that it will take some measures for the benefit of Kashmiris and the first initiative should be the demilitarisation of Kashmir."
Farooq is leading a seven-member delegation of the APHC for a week-long visit to Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. The APHC delegation included Abbas Ansari, Professor Abdul Ghani Bhatt, Bilal Ghani Lone, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, Agha Syed Hasan al Moosvi and Mussadiq Adil.
Mirwaiz said, "India and Pakistan both have some compulsion regarding trade. I can't say that Pakistan is deviating from its stance on Kashmir by granting MFN status to India, but trade should continue only after Indian forces stop the violence and torture of innocent people in Kashmir. The struggle of Kashmiris should not be put aside and Kashmiris should be made part of every kind of talks."
He said progress would be possible only when the two nations establish a relationship of trust.
"Trust deficit will remain until the core issue is resolved," he said.
Responding to a question about the impact of the recent India-Pakistan talks over the issue of Kashmir, he said, "The issue has not gained any importance during the recent dialogues between Pakistan and India; we don't see any progress. The Kashmir issue should be discussed before holding talks on modifying rules for visas and trade policies."
During his visit, the APHC chairman emphasised that the people of Kashmir should be recognised as the third party during the dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue.
"The dialogue should not be bilateral. It should be trilateral as Kashmir is the main party; it is not an issue that India and Pakistan can sit on and find a solution to. Until Kashmir's leaders are not involved in resolving this issue, no progress will be possible," Mirwaiz said.
When he was asked which leaders could represent Kashmiris if they were indeed included in the process, he replied, "Kashmiris have made numerous sacrifices for the cause and those who have made those sacrifices will represent Kashmir."
While expressing optimism about the response of the Pakistani leadership to his suggestion about trilateral talks, he said, "Yes, Pakistani leadership will take it seriously. It is necessary for Pakistan to make the Kashmiri leadership a party in the process. We are hopeful that the Pakistani government will take our suggestion seriously."
Earlier, Farooq delivered a speech at the Institute of Strategic Studies on the 'Prospects of resolving the Kashmir dispute: View from the APHC', which was followed by a question-and-answer session. During his speech, Mirwaiz suggested that apart from the United Nations resolution, other options could also help resolve the issue. He also mentioned the necessity of holding tri-literal talks and a 'new mechanism'.
He said, "There is no question of deviating from the United Nation's resolution but one has to keep multiple options in mind."
Mirwaiz said that many changes have taken place since the dispute over Kashmir started 65 years ago, so some decisions needed to be made in accordance with new developments.
"Pakistan and Hindustan should first define what Kashmir is. The two nations have divergent views about Ladakh and Gilgit Baltistan region, so these are some issues that need clarity. The UN resolution has its own worth but when we talk about alternative settlements like trilateral talks, that it is also an option through which we can lead to the settlement," he said.
While talking about new mechanism he said, "When there are talks about the future of Kashmiris, involve Kashmiris in them as well. Under the new mechanism, both India and Pakistan should start talking to Kashmiris."