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Keep US, UK out of Kashmir: Hurriyat

July 13, 2003 22:26 IST

In a major policy shift, the Hurriyat Conference on Sunday said the United States and United Kingdom should be kept out of any attempt to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Instead, it suggested drafting Iran or former South African president Nelson Mandela to act as facilitators to help end the imbroglio.

"Countries like the United State and United Kingdom should be kept out of Kashmir as they have the power to impose their solutions on New Delhi and Islamabad," Hurriyat's new chairman Maulana Mohammad Abbas Ansari told PTI in Srinagar a day after taking over.

"It will be a shame if a big power comes and tells India and Pakistan what to do. The two countries should be able to resolve the issue between themselves," he said.

"India and Pakistan basically belong to the same soil. If the two countries displayed maturity, they can resolve the Kashmir problem through dialogue without third party intervention," the Hurriyat chairman said.

On his choice of Iran as facilitator, the first Shia head of the Hurriyat said,

"Tehran is a well wisher of India and has friendly relations with Pakistan too. The two countries can seek services of such common friends to resolve the dispute," Ansari said.

New Delhi and Islamabad can also approach the Non-Aligned Movement or the SAARC countries for help, he added.

Asked if was ruling out mediation, Ansari said, "A mediator is needed only as a witness so that the parties to a dispute do not go back on their words and that whatever agreement they reach cannot be disputed later on."

Citing the Simla Agreement as an example, he said India claims talks were held on the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control while Islamabad made a contrary claim, because there were no witnesses.

"Indications are that talks (over Kashmir) will start soon. The resumption of the Lahore-Delhi bus service, diplomatic ties and other exchanges augur well for the peace process," he said.

If India is serious about solving the Kashmir issue, a similar bus service should be started between Rawalpindi and Srinagar to allow divided families to meet each other, Ansari said.

"There is also difficulty in getting visas. India should look at the humanitarian aspect of the problem," Ansari said.

"The Kashmir issue is not a border dispute between India and Pakistan but a humanitarian problem. It cannot be solved using the gun but by negotiations. Kashmiris, being the principle party to the dispute, should be included in any talks aimed at resolving the issue," the 65-year-old Shia cleric and leader of the Ittehadul Muslimeen said.

"However, we are not insisting for inclusion at the outset of the dialogue process between India and Pakistan, but we have to be at a later stage," he said.

The new Hurriyat chairman sought to downplay differences within the amalgam saying. "The People's Conference did not participate in the assembly polls and the leader who did, has been expelled from the party."

Ansari said his aim would be to keep the Hurriyat Conference united and at the same time try to bring back those who had left the conglomerate.

More reports from Jammu and Kashmir

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