The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kashmir talks

New Delhi, Feb. 21: N.N. Vohra, the Centre’s pointman for Kashmir, today called on deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, reports our special correspondent.

During the meeting, Advani is said to have etched out the broad parameters for the Jammu and Kashmir dialogue process. The preliminary rounds are expected to focus on meeting various political and citizens’ groups to assess their views on what needs to be done.

“Remember, it will only be the start of the process....he will ascertain views of all those who believe in a negotiated solution of the Kashmir issue,” a senior home ministry official said.

Vohra, who has been tight-lipped since his name was announced on Wednesday, told journalists that he would also meet Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant and Union law minister Arun Jaitley to get an idea of their efforts in talks with Kashmiri groups.

Pant had travelled to Srinagar two years ago to meet representatives of various Kashmiri outfits. The Hurriyat refused to meet him, and Pant’s efforts eventually fizzled out.

Jaitley was appointed last year to begin devolution talks with the National Conference. The law minister’s efforts just before the elections were, however, more in the nature of pleasing Farooq Abdullah, an ally of the NDA government in Delhi.

Abdullah won the last elections on the platform of autonomy. The party rode to power on a massive mandate and the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a resolution demanding more autonomy for the state. Advani had then rejected the demand.

However, ahead of last year’s assembly elections in Kashmir, the government wanted to humour Abdullah and appointed Jaitley, then the BJP general secretary, to hold talks with the NC.

Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has welcomed Vohra’s appointment as interlocutor. Mufti is said to have known Vohra for many years and has confidence in his abilities to deliver.

Vohra, the former home secretary, is also trusted by the government. He was selected by the Group of Ministers to head a task force on internal security, while compiling the report on reforming the national security system.

Having been a bureaucrat all his life, Vohra is discreet and not prone to talking. “A perfect combination for a man dealing with Kashmir,” said a home ministry official.

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