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Delhi, Hurriyat set talks terms

New Delhi, Aug. 24 (Agencies): The Centre and the Hurriyat Conference set terms on each other for a dialogue as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee readied for his second visit to the Valley this year.

Vajpayee will not “shy away” from meeting anybody when he goes to Srinagar on Wednesday, minister of state for home I.D. Swami said today, but added that separatists, including the Hurriyat, must first talk to New Delhi’s interlocutor .. Vohra for the process to be “purposeful and fruitful”.

The Hurriyat responded in Srinagar this evening. “We will meet Vajpayee if he extends an invitation, accepts the disputed nature of Kashmir and the talks are aimed at resolving the dispute,” the outfit’s chief, Maulana Abbas Ansari, said.

Swami said the government was ready to talk to everybody, even militant outfits like the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, provided they shun violence. “The government’s stand remains that it will talk to everyone who shun violence and air their grievances and say what they want for the benefit of Jammu and Kashmir and its people peacefully.”

The minister said the separatist groups should present their views first to Vohra, “who is the Centre’s official nominee to hold talks”, for speeding up the dialogue process. “They can talk to Vohra in detail, presenting their viewpoint and hearing from him,” Swami said. After the preliminary round, a dialogue could be held at the level of the political establishment, he added.

Asked if the Hurriyat would agree to meet Vohra, Ansari said: “I will send someone to work out the details if the Government of India feels it would help.”

“But it does not befit the stature of the Hurriyat, which is a representative body of aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, to talk to a paid agent of the government. If the Centre is serious about resolving the Kashmir issue, the talks… should be at the highest level.”

Swami noted that there has been a “change in the thinking” of the Hurriyat after the recent change in its leadership and hoped that it would lead to their working for the “benefit of the state and its people”.

Ansari had reportedly said his organisation was ready to talk to the Centre, giving up the condition of trilateral talks involving Pakistan. He had said in an interview that the Hurriyat had “made a change in its policy by not stressing on the inclusion of Pakistan in the dialogue process” and that Islamabad “as a party to the dispute could be involved in the dialogue process at a later stage”.

Atal extends trip

Vajpayee, who was to pay a two-day visit to Kashmir, has extended it by a day to include Jammu in his itinerary, official sources said today.

The Prime Minister will leave for Jammu on August 28 after the inter-state council meet in Srinagar and return to Delhi the next day, they said.

The BJP’s Jammu and Kashmir unit president, Nirmal Singh, said the decision follows demands by state party leaders who met him in Delhi recently.

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