The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi cautious on Valley talks

New Delhi, Dec. 28: Despite deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s assurance of the Centre’s willingness to begin talks with elected representatives and militants in Kashmir, Delhi is in no hurry.

Advani was reiterating the government’s position on the talks. Delhi is keen on a dialogue, but says the time has to be right. The Centre wants the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government to settle in before plunging into talks. It would like to give Mufti time to win the hearts and minds of people before talks are held.

“This is the time for the nitty-gritty of getting the administration in place, for developmental projects and getting the tourists back to the Valley. Once the economy looks up, it is time to sit down for negotiations,” an official dealing with Kashmir said.

Delhi realises the importance of getting across to those sections who boycotted the polls — the separatists and the Hurriyat Conference leadership. But this will take a lot of preparations. The Centre draws hope from people coming out to vote during the recent Assembly elections.

Officials say the ideal time would be in spring next year, just before infiltration from Pakistan begins. The Centre would like a mechanism for talks to be in place before then. Delhi knows how difficult the talks would be and wants to be ready for a long-drawn out bargaining, which would satisfy both sides.

Local militant groups have already indicated to Delhi their willingness to take part in the discussions.

The Hurriyat has also welcomed Advani’s suggestion that the Centre will talk to those who did not take part in the polls.

However, Hurriyat leaders have said Pakistan must be brought into the picture. “We are ready to hold talks with anybody to find a durable and long-lasting solution to the Kashmir issue,” senior Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said. “It is necessary to involve Pakistan and Kashmiri people, who are both principle parties to the dispute.”

A home ministry official wondered who the people’s representatives were. “The Hurriyat is playing spoilsport. They refused to take part in the elections and yet are not prepared to accept that people came out and voted to get their representatives into the state Assembly. The MLAs are the representatives, not the Hurriyat, which waits for dictation from Pakistan.”

The ruling Congress-People’s Democratic Party coalition has finalised a coordination committee to supervise the state government’s functioning, state Congress chief Ghulam Nabi Azad announced in Jammu today.

Police shuffle

In the first major shake-up in the police department after the PDP-Congress coalition government assumed office in Jammu and Kashmir, 47 officers of the level of senior superintendents and superintendents, including district police chiefs of Jammu and Srinagar, were transferred today, says a PTI report.

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