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Cricket' Yes; Kashmir' Oh, yes

New Delhi, March 17: Pervez Musharraf will be keen to meet leaders from Kashmir during his visit to New Delhi on April 17, Pakistan high commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan said today.

Musharraf is expected to be in Delhi on the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ostensibly to watch the one-day international cricket match between India and Pakistan.

Musharraf's meeting with Kashmiri leaders had led to a row during his last visit to India.

Though India has not officially described the Musharraf-Singh tete-a-tete to be held probably on April 17 as a 'summit meeting', Khan said the talks will touch upon most subjects. 'When leaders meet, they discuss everything,' he added. He did not respond to the question if the Pakistan government will invite leaders from Kashmir to meet Musharraf.

'Pakistan has said umpteen times that a solution for Kashmir should be acceptable to the people of Kashmir. President Musharraf will be happy to meet Kashmiri leaders and will want them to be associated with the peace process,' Khan said at an exhibition hosted by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief, Yasin Malik, this morning.

Malik himself will be seeking an appointment with Musharraf and Singh to 'present the demand of the Kashmiri people to be consulted in the peace process'.

In the exhibition of photographs and video clips, Malik was showcasing a two-year campaign during which he mobilised 15 lakh signatures from people across Kashmir. The signatures have been put on a one-line petition to the governments of India and Pakistan: 'We demand our active involvement in the process relating to resolution of Kashmir dispute'.

The inauguration of the JKLF-hosted exhibition in the city today was designed to present an alternative voice on the Kashmir issue. Malik was critical of both New Delhi and Islamabad and said that the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was a 'good confidence building measure' but the people of Kashmir could not be 'psychologically associated' with the peace process unless they were included in talks. Chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, he said derisively, did not represent the voice of Kashmir.

He added that Mufti, according to election commission figures, had secured 252,000 votes in the 2002 Assembly elections, and here he (Malik) was presenting 15 lakh signatures and demanding inclusion in the dialogue process. Malik, who said he had renounced violence, wanted the governments of India and Pakistan to recognise the demand 'otherwise I will become a laughing stock in Kashmir' and 'the people of Kashmir will become fidayeen (suicide militants)'. Malik said a dialogue process that did not bring on the table representatives of the Kashmiri people was 'corrupt'.

Author and activist Arundhati Roy supported Malik's demand and said: 'How sad is a situation when Yasin Malik has to collect 15 lakh signatures to ask the governments why won't you consult us on our lives'

Roy also said while the Gandhian ideal of non-violence was cherished, it was often held as exemplary for resistance movements but not for the state. The Indian Army in Kashmir, she said, was 'an occupation force'.

'Democracy has been hollowed out,' she added and argued for an alternative to a cynical cycle of unresponsiveness from governments. 'We need to make space for dreamers in radical politics. We have to be a little bit less tired, a little bit less boring, a little bit more imaginative. All polite talk helps nobody but the status quo,' she said.

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