Praveen Swami

Effort to push forward the stalled peace process in J&K

NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir secessionist leaders have held a second round of secret dialogue with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, in an effort to push forward the stalled peace process in the State, highly-placed government sources told The Hindu.

Hurriyat chairperson Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, along with his coalition colleagues Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone, the sources said, met with Mr. Chidambaram for two hours on Saturday. The Mirwaiz, Mr. Bhat and Mr. Lone, the sources said, were met at Khan Market here at just after 12:30 p.m., and driven in an unmarked official car to a government facility in the nearby Lodhi Estate area.

Jammu and Kashmir Police and Delhi Police intelligence personnel, who maintain surveillance on the Hurriyat leadership during their visits to the capital, were instructed to withdraw their watch units before the meeting took place, the sources said.

The Mirwaiz, however, denied he met with Mr. Chidambaram. “No meeting took place while I was in New Delhi,” insisted the Srinagar cleric, who returned home from New Delhi on Monday.

However, he admitted that there had been “some back-channel contacts between the Hurriyat and the government.” He argued that these contacts amounted to “communication, rather than a dialogue.”

Mr. Chidambaram’s office did not reply to queries from The Hindu. The Minister had announced the initiation of a process of “quiet diplomacy” on Jammu and Kashmir, and made clear he would not make its details public.

Earlier this month, The Hindu broke the news that the Mirwaiz and Mr. Chidambaram met in secret in September, before the cleric’s departure for a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in New York.

In recent weeks, the Mirwaiz has appeared in his public pronouncements to rule out direct dialogue with New Delhi, which is bitterly opposed by his hardline opponents, notably Tehreek-i-Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Instead, he called for a “triangular engagement” between representatives of Jammu and Kashmir and India, representatives of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan, and the governments of India and Pakistan. These talks, he said, “should culminate into tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.” The Government of India has for long rejected the notion of a tripartite dialogue, which would erode its sovereignty over the State.

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