Change of heart rolls in with bus - Hurriyat Conference mulls meeting with Manmohan and Musharraf without formal invitation

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By ALOKE TIKKU in Srinagar
  • Published 5.04.05

Srinagar, April 5: One full day remains before the bus from Srinagar moves towards Muzaffarabad, but it already appears to have set the peace ball rolling.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, which was reluctant to meet Manmohan Singh when he last visited the Valley, is mulling over a plan to seek a meeting with the Prime Minister and Pervez Musharraf when the Pakistan President is in India.

And, this time, the separatist conglomerate is not insisting on an invitation from South Block.

Instead, senior leader Abdul Ghani Bhat says the Hurriyat may not have a problem in even sending a written request to seek the appointments.

The government had opened back channels ahead of Singh?s last visit to the Valley to fix a meeting of separatist leaders with the Prime Minister.

The plan was dropped because of the Hurriyat?s reservations.

The India-Pakistan dialogue had not yet gained momentum and the Hurriyat was wary of entering into discussions with Delhi when it was not too sure how the talks between the neighbours would go.

It had, nevertheless, accepted an invitation to meet the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, over a dinner, a meeting that caused much heartburn in Raisina Hill.

The reopening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus route after 57 years, however, has raised hopes that the dialogue process is not without direction.

?When we see a forward movement on the part of India and Pakistan, we cannot lag behind. If we cannot move faster, we have to move as fast as them?. We have to keep pace,? Bhat told The Telegraph.


Bhat, who taught Persian in a Valley college till he was dismissed for his separatist activities, said he believed the Musharraf-Singh meeting after restarting the bus service was not an ?opportunity? the Hurriyat should lose.

?If you lose the opportunity, you lose the battle,? he said. ?When two great people meet, it is a great opportunity. Why not seize it??

Elaborating on what his colleagues had in mind, Bhat said the proposal to be taken up by the Hurriyat over the next few days involved meeting Musharraf and Singh separately.

Bhat is unwilling to let the nitty-gritty of whom they would like to meet first come in the way.

?It does not matter, we want to meet both of them to exchange ideas,? he said.

But that is not where Bhat intends to stop.

?If they are as frank as we choose to be (during the discussions), we might end up sharing perceptions as well,? he said. ?If you are good listeners, so are we?. We will listen to them. Hopefully, they, too, will listen to us.?