The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi buys time on Hurriyat

New Delhi, Nov. 22: The move by some militant groups in Kashmir to cut the Hurriyat Conference to size has pleased the Centre, but the Vajpayee government is wary of reading too much into these efforts.

The home ministry, which prefers to wait and watch how the situation unfolds, believes that the Hurriyat can no longer claim to represent the people of Jammu and Kashmir as the real representatives have been chosen through free and fair elections.

North Block welcomes any effort to minimise the Hurriyat’s influence as the umbrella organisation’s decision to boycott the recent polls irritated New Delhi. Its leaders are increasingly regarded by Indian officials as committed to toeing the Pakistan line for personal gain.

However, the Vajpayee government is in no hurry to play a pro-active role in Kashmir and is keen to let chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed use the opportunity to heal the wounds inflicted by over a decade of militancy in the state.

“We want the Mufti administration to settle down to the nitty-gritty of administration. It is time now to focus on development and give people a clean and efficient administration. All this will take time and we are willing to wait,” said a senior official who handles Kashmir.

The Centre believes that the PDP leader is the best person to handle Kashmir at the moment.

“The Centre does not want to rock the boat and is willing to give the new government all the help it wants,” the official said.

North Block knows that the chief minister will take time to settle down and will realise as he goes along that there are no easy solutions in Kashmir. The signals from the PDP leader to the Centre are reassuring.

Soon after state authorities released Yasin Malik, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L.K. Advani publicly suggested the setting up of a screening committee before releasing political prisoners in Kashmir.

Soon afterwards, the chief minister called a meeting of the unified command and is said to have discussed the issue.

Security agencies that were worried about the PDP leader’s decision to release detainees had advised caution.

At the end of the meeting, the chief minister promised that, though the authorities would continue to release political prisoners, no hardcore militant would be let out.

Though New Delhi is not prepared to take any fresh initiative in Kashmir now, devolution talks between the state government and the Centre’s representative — Arun Jaitley — will take place around March next year, unless the state government is keen to begin a dialogue earlier.

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