Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday said it was ready to “welcome” Kashmiris who had gone to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) if they were willing to return after giving up militancy.

“The idea that any Indian who had crossed over to PoK and wishes to return to India is certainly welcome,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram told journalists here.

“The idea is accepted. This idea must now be translated into a scheme,” the Minister said, adding it was one of the recommendations of one of the Working Groups appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for recommending measures to address problems of Jammu and Kashmir.

Answering queries by reporters, after a briefing on the meetings of the Cabinet and Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, he said the return could be facilitated through a scheme which would entail identification, screening, travel, debriefing, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Observing that “PoK is actually an Indian territory,” he said the government should facilitate the return of those who had gone across the Line of Control for “some reasons.”

Mr. Chidambaram’s statement came after his Cabinet colleague and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, questioned the idea of allowing the return as he apprehended that the returnees could foment trouble.

“We will consult all sections of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir,” the Home Minister said noting that there were two parties — the National Conference and the Congress — in the ruling coalition.

The Leader of the Opposition in Jammu and Kashmir would also be consulted on this issue, he said, adding, “Then we will formulate a scheme. It will take some time,” he said.

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