The separatist and the mainstream political leaders of Jammu & Kashmir gave an unenthusiastic response to the revival of engagement between India and Pakistan on Friday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.
In August 2014, the Union government suspended the process as Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit turned down the call of the then Foreign Secretary, Sujata Singh, to refrain from meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders here.
The highlights of the Ufa meeting were Mr. Modi accepting Mr. Sharif’s invitation to visit Pakistan for the SAARC summit in 2016 and the two nations taking a pledge to combat terrorism jointly.
The absence of references to Kashmir did not go down well with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hard-line separatist group Hurriyat Conference, who told The Hindu that both countries lacked the political imagination to resolve the decades-old dispute.
“Kashmir is the genesis of all the disputes,” Mr. Geelani said.
“Such meetings have happened for more than 150 times, and what did the two countries achieve? Three wars at three crucial stages of history.”
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), a moderate separatist group, welcomed the revival of dialogue, but maintained that the two nations should include Kashmir on their peace agenda.
“I think it’s a great step,” he said. “There was a position when the doors had been shut on both sides. With this move, both countries have a great opportunity to pick up the thread from where Mr. Vajpayee [former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee] and Mr. Musharraf [former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf] had left.”
PDP, NC hope dialogue will help Kashmiris
From the mainstream camp in Jammu and Kashmir, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party expressed the hope that the revival of talks between India and Pakistan would yield benefits for the people of the State.
“We warmly welcome the initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,” said Naeem Akhter, senior PDP leader and Education Minister. “We laud the efforts made by our Prime Minister and also the bold response offered by his Pakistan counterpart.”
However, Nasir Aslam Wani, the senior leader of the Opposition National Conference, said: “We still have to find out what has happened in the [Modi-Sharif] meeting.”
“If the two countries come closer, that is good for Kashmiris, if they go apart, that is bad for Kashmiris. So they cannot afford to close their eyes on the Kashmir issue, and they must keep Kashmiris in loop.”