The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hurriyat for dialogue without any strings

New Delhi/Srinagar, Nov. 20: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference today said it was willing to talk to the Centre provided the dialogue was unconditional and focused on resolving the Kashmir issue.

The announcement followed a four-hour meeting of the separatist amalgam’s general council, called to discuss the Centre’s October 22 offer of talks — led by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani — with Hurriyat chairman Maulvi Abbas Ansari.

The council authorised the Hurriyat’s executive committee to hold talks when invited formally, former chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq said here. The move, however, appeared to be an act of brinkmanship aimed at Advani and one of assurance aimed at hardliners in Kashmir.

Days after he was entrusted to hold talks, Advani publicly said the negotiations would be held within the parameters of the Constitution and would focus on “decentralisation”.

That statement had hugely embarrassed the Ansari-led moderate Hurriyat — already under pressure from militants to reject the offer — as it felt there was no need to lay down the ground rules publicly though it realised the talks would be held within the ambit of the Constitution.

Advani’s statement rankled all the more because pro-Pakistan Syed Ali Shah Geelani had already broken away with the hardline sections of the Hurriyat that had the backing of militants.

Mirwaiz, who has been trying to unite the amalgam ahead of the proposed dialogue, said today: “We are not going to talk for devolution of powers or subsidies or concessions from the Centre. We want a dignified, honourable and long-lasting settlement to the Kashmir issue, which should be acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Home ministry officials privately said the Centre’s rider was expected, considering the Hurriyat is trying to strike a delicate balance by wanting to talk without giving the impression it has sold out to Delhi.

The Centre’s invitation is likely in December first week.

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