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Ceasefire, prisoners' release key issues in Hurriyat talks

January 21, 2004 19:43 IST

A ceasefire with militant groups and release of political prisoners, besides facilitating the return of some expatriate Kashmiri leaders are some issues likely to feature in the first-ever meeting between the Centre and the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference on Thursday.

The talks to be held between Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and a five-member Hurriyat delegation led by its Chairman Maulana Abbas Ansari at North Block is the first between the two sides since militancy began in Jammu and Kashmir 14 years ago.

Advani is likely to be assisted during the talks by Union Home Secretary N Gopalaswami and the Centre's mediator on Kashmir N N Vohra.

Both sides have preferred a "low-key" approach to the dialogue, saying it should be kept away from media hype.

The Hurriyat Conference, which ignored threats from various militant groups for the talks, is said to be planning to adopt a two-pronged strategy for the talks -- preliminary steps like a visit by them to Pakistan to talk to militant groups and gaining some confidence building measures from the Centre for Kashmir.

"We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy -- discussing resolution-oriented steps for finding a solution to the vexed Kashmir and bringing some relief to the people of the state," said former Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who is part of the delegation. 

Abdul Gani Bhat, Fazal-ul-aq Qureshi and Bilal Lone are the three other delagates.

The Mirwaiz did not elaborate on these measures saying "such things need to be kept for the discussion table."

The Hurriyat is expected to emphasise that a visit to Pakistan could be beneficial in finding a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Government sources said the Centre was not averse to the idea and may allow the Hurriyat team to visit Pakistan.

The Hurriyat delegation will also advocate measures including a ceasefire with militant groups besides the release of some political detenues languishing in jail without any case being filed against them.

Government sources said a positive view was likely to be taken on the issue of release of detenues through an assurance that the screening committee in the state government would be asked to expedite the cases.

As far as the ceasefire with the militant groups was concerned, the sources said a view would be taken only after examining the ground-level situation and in all probability something like Non Initiation of Combat Operations could be announced.

Hurriyat had sent feelers seeking such a measure. The leaders are also likely to raise the issue of the return of expatriate Kashmiri leaders facing arrest warrants against them for seccessionist statements.

The delegation will also stress the withdrawal of special powers granted to the Indian Army to tackle militancy in the state.

"We are not expecting a decision tomorrow itself. But at least the process has begun...it is indeed a breakthrough in the recent turbulent times of the history of Kashmir," the Mirwaiz said.

He said the process should go on and "if the Centre shows some seriousness, the Hurriyat Conference will extend all co-operation. We have come with hope and we sincerely want to further the peace process between India and Pakistan that has been started in Islamabad."


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