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`Peace process becoming Kashmir-centric’

Friday 17 June 2005

Special Correspondent

Vajpayee writes to Manmohan Singh raising objections

Objects to the growing demand for `trilateral talks’, `international guarantees’ `Allowing Hurriyat leaders to travel to Pakistan without passports has made India the target of international mockery’ Pakistan is being allowed `to slip’ out of its commitments

NEW DELHI: In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has expressed concern over the handling of the peace process with Pakistan. The peace process was becoming "Kashmir centric," he said.

After consultations in the party, including with the party president, L.K. Advani, Mr. Vajpayee wrote the two-page letter to Dr. Singh on Wednesday objecting to the growing demand for "trilateral talks," "international guarantees" for a settlement of the Kashmir issue, and permission to the Hurriyat leaders to travel to Islamabad via the bus service to Muzaffarabad without Indian passports.

He also brought up the recent terrorist attacks in Pulwama, Kashmir, and said Pakistan was being allowed "to slip out of the commitments it had made in the January 6, 2004 statement that terrorism shall be eschewed, that there shall be no third party, and so on."

Releasing the letter to reporters here on Thursday, the former External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, pointed out that the recent statements by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and others on India recognising Kashmir as a disputed territory had "gone unchallenged" by the External Affairs Ministry. Allowing the Hurriyat leaders to travel to Pakistan without passports had made India the target of international mockery.

Several trends and statements, pointed to the India-Pakistan dialogue becoming more "Kashmir centric." Mr. Elaborating, Mr. Vajpayee referred to the "demand for trilateral talks" with the Hurriyat as the third party other than India and Pakistan; he referred to some statements calling for "international guarantees" in the event of a settlement of the Kashmir dispute; and he referred to the disclosure by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik that the Pakistan Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid, had in the past organised training camps for so-called `jihadis’ and said he hoped the Government would not allow Mr. Rashid to visit India.

Asked why Mr. Advani had not raised the issue of the Hurriyat’s travel arrangements when he himself was in Pakistan at the time, Mr. Sinha said the party wanted to take a view of the Hurriyat visit in its totality after it was over. "If Mr. Advani did not respond to the Hurriyat visit and statements in Pakistan, it does not mean we should not comment now," Mr. Sinha said.

In response to other questions, Mr. Sinha said: "You cannot point to our mistakes to justify what is happening now." He admitted that it may have been wrong and a mistake to invite Gen. Musharraf after the Kargil war, but that did not mean that the Manmohan Singh Government should commit the same mistakes.

See online : The Hindu

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