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Mufti praises Atal Pak offer

Srinagar May 3: Chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed today said the peace initiatives being taken by India and Pakistan have “vindicated my stand that dialogue was the only way to solve problems”.

“Whatever is happening is our vindication,” Mufti told reporters in reply to questions on the recent developments in the subcontinent. “My stand was proved correct that dialogue was the only answer and the healing touch philosophy the only strategy to address the Kashmir problem,” the chief minister said.

“The walls of hatred between India and Pakistan are collapsing,” Mufti said, adding that still “there was much to do to further improve the relations between the two countries”.

Praising Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s extension of the hand of peace to Pakistan, the chief minister said the “offer of friendship by Vajpayee to Pakistan from the soil of Kashmir was a historic one”. Kashmir “has been a bone of contention between the two countries” and Vajpayee chose “this place to make a new beginning in the mutual relationship of the two south Asian neighbours”, he said.

Mufti also welcomed Pakistan’s positive response to Vajpayee’s offer and said “confidence-building measures were being taken to take the process further”.

Asked if he favoured inclusion of the separatist conglomerate, the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, in the dialogue, the chief minister said “the talks will be held between the two countries”.

Stressing on improvement of bilateral relations, Mufti said the “greatest beneficiary of peace would be the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its people”.

When his attention was drawn to the recent statements of his predecessor Farooq Abdullah that the present government would not last long, Mufti said “his government enjoyed the support of the people which sustains governments... As long as I have the confidence of people, nothing else would matter”.

Earlier, addressing a special function at Kashmir University, the chief minister said “a historic opportunity” had been created with the Prime Minister’s bold initiative and it was important for the two countries to build on it. “The mood is fast catching up with the international community about the urgency of peace in Jammu and Kashmir following a lot of bloodshed in the state over the years,” Mufti said, emphasising the seriousness of the “Indian offer of friendship to Pakistan”.

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