Special Correspondent

`Rise above domestic politics and strengthen Kashmir peace process'

NEW DELHI: Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), on Wednesday urged the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to rise above the pulls and pressures of domestic politics and strengthen the ongoing Kashmir peace process.

In an open letter to Mr. Vajpayee, the JKLF chairman drew his attention to the recent statements and signals given by him and his party colleagues which were not at all conducive to the peace process. "This peace process is your baby and you cannot call it an illegitimate child," Mr. Malik reminded Mr. Vajpayee while urging him to play the role of the elder statesman of South Asia.

Bold steps needed

"If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared the current peace process "irreversible," then bold steps are inevitably needed sooner rather than later. Knowing your persistence for peace and your desire for a solution to the Kashmir issue, it is not unrealistic for me to expect that you will build political will in India and publicly urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seize this opportunity and move forward creatively and boldly with the current peace process," Mr. Malik said.

Expressing distress over recent public comments of senior BJP leaders, including those of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, L.K. Advani, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Jaswant Singh, the JKLF chief said their statements had questioned the Prime Minister's moves on the peace process and raised alarms about its direction.

Mr. Malik reminded Mr. Vajpayee that as a seasoned and experienced statesman "you are well aware of how difficult it is to exercise political will and take visionary steps, and most importantly, how challenging the follow-through is to ensure. As a leading opposition party, the choices that you and your colleagues make have a direct bearing on the agility of the present government in Delhi to move forward in bold ways. You have an important role and great responsibility as opposition to build political will for the weighty decisions yet to be made on the peace process."

The JKLF chairman recalled Mr. Vajpayee's declaration of unilateral ceasefire and offer of talks "under the constitution of insaniyat [humanitarian]."

At that time, the united Hurriyat Conference, under the leadership of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, had supported the dialogue process to be carried forward.

During that time, Mr. Malik recalled meeting Dr. Singh who took a Congress party delegation to Mr. Vajpayee and openly endorsed the Vajpayee-government's initiative to start a serious peace process.

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