The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti-Delhi rift clouds fate of talks offer

Jammu, Jan. 12: Fissures between the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government have cast a shadow over talks that the state administration is keen to start to achieve “peace with dignity” for the state’s residents.

The undercurrents of tension between the two sides are palpable. Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has taken exception to the Centre’s decision to impose foreign travel restrictions on All-Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and other separatist leaders.

Such steps will not help, Mufti told reporters in Pulwama yesterday.

This is not the first falling-out between the two sides. The state government feels the Centre is trying to undermine its efforts at starting the dialogue process.

Mufti has been consistently insisting that simultaneous dialogues should be initiated between “elected representatives” and “others”, defined as those who question Kashmir’s accession to India, a reference to separatists such as the Hurriyat.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had defined “others” as those “who did not take part in the (Assembly) elections”, which some interpreted as an unmistakable reference to the Hurriyat. But Advani clarified that the Centre would not talk to those patronised by Pakistan, a clear reference to the separatist conglomerate.

Any confusion on whether the separatists were being offered a seat at the negotiating table was removed when the Centre banned the Mirwaiz from travelling abroad and served a notice saying his passport had been suspended.

The travel ban was announced three days before the Hurriyat leader, who is married to an American-born Kashmiri, was scheduled to fly with his family to the US.

Mufti disagrees with such methods. “How is going abroad by these leaders and attending seminars on Kashmir harm Indian policy on Kashmir'” he asked.

The fissures punch holes in Mufti’s claims that there was complete understanding between the Centre and the state over the dialogue issue.

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