Will resume talks, win hearts and minds in Valley, says PC

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 7 2010, 05:59am hrs
Underlining that it is important to win the hearts and minds of people of Jammu and Kashmir, Union home minister P Chidambaram on Friday said the government would resume dialogue and asked separatists, including hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to join the process.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Chidambaram said the Centre was keen on fulfilling its promises, including on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and reduction of security personnel in the state, depending on the situation there.

We will resume the political process. The answer to the problem lies only through the political process, only through dialogue.

He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be receiving an all-party delegation from Jammu and Kashmir, possibly Monday, and leaders of parties in Parliament would also be called for a meeting. Responding to clarifications sought on his statement on Kashmir made on Wednesday, Chidambaram said Pakistan appeared to have changed its strategy on fomenting trouble in the Valley as it seemed to be now relying on civilian unrest for dividends.

Noting that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India in unique circumstances, he said the state has a unique problem and requires a unique solution. We have to put our heads together to find a solution to the unique problem. He said it was his intention to do everything possible to resume the quiet dialogue which he undertook with the moderate Hurriyat leaders before it got interrupted on December 4, 2009 after an assassination bid on one them.

Referring to Geelanis statement against stone-pelting, he said: If it marks a shift of his stand, I dont know. If yes, I would welcome. It is a good sign. He said there should be no reason to doubt Geelanis statement which should be accepted at the face value and that he would be welcome if he also joins the dialogue.

I will resume the political process... I have impressed upon all interlocutors that I am willing to resume the quiet dialogue. We have to find the courage that allowed us to hold dialogue. We have to get on, he said and sincerely hoped that the separatist leaders, including Geelani, would come forward for talks.

We will pick up threads, reactivate the political process so that a solution can be found with equity, justice and honour, he said. On the governments part, he said it had made promises and it is important to deliver on our promises.

On the AFSPA, on which the government is divided as to whether or not to revoke it in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, it will be my endeavour to find a way how we can deliver on promise on AFSPA.

He said the immediate priority at the moment was to restore peace in Kashmir as no government could allow law and order to collapse. If the situation warrants, we may have to send more forces. But if the situation warrants, we may withdraw forces, Chidambaram said.

Talking about the situation in Kashmir since 2004, he said there were times when the youth there were demanding IITs and IIMs. Unfortunately, those voices have been muted by voices of azaadi. I hope it is a passing phase and we will again hear those voices (for IITs and IIMs).

Disagreeing with some members that the security personnel had used excessive force, Chidambaram said the armed forces have acted with great degree of restraint although 1,000 personnel suffered injuries in raining stones. We will continue to advise the security forces to exercise restraint.