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Kashmiris expect little from Indo-Pak talks

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
September 04, 2004 15:57 IST
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Kashmiris expect very little to emerge from the two-days talks between External Affair Minister K Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, which begin in New Delhi on Sunday.

This was not the case when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was engaged with Pakistan.

Now that it is the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in power, locals expect little headway.

"Nothing will come out of this latest round of talks. They will stick to their irreconcilable positions on Kashmir," says a Kashmir observer.

Singh's image in Kashmir is that of a hardliner.

"He has been saying repeatedly that the accession of Kashmir to India is a fact of history that cannot be wished away. It is the same old cacophony about Kashmir being an integral part of India," says Mushtaq Ahmad, a college lecturer in Srinagar.

Politicians echo the sentiment.

"They did not allow us to even legislate under the existing Constitution. How can there be negotiations that move beyond the limitations imposed by Delhi," asks a National Conference leader.

He was referring to the Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill, which was defeated in the assembly. The Congress was opposed to the bill, which sought to deny property rights to women if they married outsiders.

Also read: Indo-Pak talks: Warm up for PM-Musharraf meet

"We had great expectations from [former prime minister Atal Bihari] Vajpayeeji. He had done the necessary groundwork for these talks to move forward. He wanted to solve the problem once and for all. But I have little hope now that the Congress is ruling the country," says Mohammad Amin a shopkeeper.

"My basic resistance to a bilateral dialogue between Indian government and Kashmiri separatists stems from the fact that India believes in buying time and tiring rivals," says separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Also read: 'Softer' LoC: How feasible is it?

Former chairman of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, is keeping his fingers crossed.

He fears that Indo-Pak relations could be on short fuse. "We cannot ignore the complexities involved and if anything goes wrong, which is a possibility, it may spell total disaster. Hopefully, the leadership in India and Pakistan will avoid getting caught in such a dangerous situation," he says.

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar