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Centre and APHC shatter hopes of peace
By Our Srinagar Correspondent

Abdul Ghani BhatHurriyet Conference has not closed the doors of negotiations. It is ready to talk if the aim is to resolve the Kashmir dispute, said Hurriyet chairman Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat in an exclusive interview to the MG at his residence. It was his first interaction with the press after the Hurriyet Conference rejected the 'unconditional' talks offer made by the central government negotiator KC Pant. Prof Bhat blamed the Centre for shattering the peace process. He added that Hurriyet was not responsible for the same in any way.

Replying to a question, the Hurriyet chief said that India backtracked on its promise to allow the Hurriyet delegation to visit Pakistan. He termed this as a ‘worst retreat.’ ‘This attitude of the central government has shattered the confidence of the people of Kashmir,’ Prof Bhat said. When asked how was the refusal, to allow Hurriyet leaders to visit Pakistan, responsible for rejecting the offer, the professor-turned-politician replied in his particular style, saying: ‘If you miss one link in the chain, the whole net is shattered.’

The Hurriyet chief alleged that the central government had made a commitment to allow Hurriyet leaders to visit Pakistan, but till date the promise remains unfulfilled. Asked why the Hurriyet insists so much on its proposed Pakistan visit, Professor Bhat replied that the visit will consolidate the peace process and it will be a right step towards solving the Kashmir issue. He said no miracles should be expected from the tour, adding quickly that this will however lead to opening of doors to explore possibilities of a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem.

Replying to another question, Professor Bhat said that Hurriyet Conference does not propose to make, from its side, any fresh offer of talks to the central government but the leadership of the amalgam would be meeting again shortly to discuss the post-rejection scenario. When asked 'has not an opportunity been lost?' the chairman said that nothing is lost in politics. ‘There is no finality in politics; rather it is a process to continue exploring possibilities to achieve maximum positive results.’ He added that Hurriyet Conference recognizes its role in exploring such opportunities. He said that the Hurriyet Conference is serious about negotiations but these should be purposeful, result-oriented and aimed at resolving the Kashmir issue. He claimed that no peace could be restored without addressing the basic issue of Kashmir dispute. He added that brining peace without solving the dispute was ‘day dreaming.’ He said that on day one the Hurriyet reacted to Mr Pant’s offer when we said that there should be no crowd. According to Professor Bhat, the central government invited every Dick, Tom and Harry to make it a big tamasha. ‘Hurriyet cannot be part of such a directionless tamasha’, the Professor said. When asked if only separatists, including the Hurriyet, are invited for talks, will you join them?' the chief of the 23-party-separatist alliance said that Hurriyet has always expressed its willingness to enter into any dialogue aimed at resolving the Kashmir dispute, and we continue to be ready for that. Replying to another question, the Hurriyet chairman made it clear that Pakistan was a party to the dispute adding that no two parties, out of three, can solve the issue, by keeping any one of the three out. However, he said that Kashmiris were the principal party and enjoy the status of judges and arbitrators in the whole affair. He denied difference among Hurriyet leaders over the issue of talk offer. According to Professor Bhat, all constituent leaders expressed almost the same kind of views on the offer and the final decision was taken accordingly. He said that media sometimes represents difference out of proportion and said that difference was a sign of ‘good health.’ The Hurriyet chairman expressed the hope that some more steps in future will pave the way to solve the issue.

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