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Cancellation of Talks With Pak Demoralising for People of J&K: Omar

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today attacked the Narendra Modi government for suspending talks with Pakistan over a "cup of tea" with separatist Hurriyat Conference and said India has set up a difficult benchmark for resumption of talks.

Speaking on a variety of issues including the resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council seeking resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, Omar said cancellation of talks with Pakistan was "demoralising" people of his state.

The chief Minister also debunked BJP's 'Mission-44' for the forthcoming Assembly elections, saying it was one of those nice Bollywood glitz slogans like 'love jehad'.

"What BJP is trying to do is to cosy up to separatists so that they can take advantage of boycott call in some seats and basically wrest those seats away into their kitty but the 44 number is a pipe dream, that's not happening," he said.

On the cancellation of talks, Omar said, "It basically just demoralises the people because at the end of the day we only see a solution emerging out of dialogue. We had 25 years of violence, we had wars, we had skirmishes but we haven't seen a solution.

"The closest we have come to the solution is through dialogue, first with the then Prime Minister (A B) Vajpayee and (former Pakistan President Gen Pervez) Musharraf and then with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Musharraf and with Nawaz Sharif and Singh. We were hoping that process will actually carry on," Omar told Karan Thapar on his programme 'Nothing but the truth' broadcast on Headlines Today.

He said the Modi government had raised the expectations of the people of the state, which bore the brunt of failure of talks.

"You are the ones who were all buddy buddy sending each other shawls and saris and mangoes and all the rest of it. All that you put in Punjabi 'jhapiyan-pappian' (hugs and kisses). What happened to all that? You raised our expectations and hopes that this process was going to go forward and now over a cup of tea you dash them," he said.

The Government cancelled Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan scheduled for August 25 after Islamabad refused to agree to India's demand of not entertaining Hurriyat leaders from Jammu and Kashmir. 

Asked whether Pakistan was interfering in India's internal affairs by inviting Hurriyat for a discussion on Kashmir, Omar said, "Look Pakistan has interfered in India's internal affairs for how long now. This is the point that I make. By suspending the dialogue in the past, have you stopped Pakistan from interfering in India's internal affairs.

"Didn't you stop talking to Pakistan after the attack on India's Parliament. I was a minister in NDA government when we prepared a list of 20 people and said these people need to be handed over to India before we start talking to Pakistan again. How many of those 20 came.

"We stopped talking to Pakistan after 26/11, we said until those responsible for it are brought to justice, we will not talk to you. What happened? Other than hanging Ajmal Kasab, who else have we brought to justice...Here now you are going to say until you don't stop giving cup of tea, we are not going to talk to you," he said.

Omar said both the countries will be on dialogue table someday. "You will go back to the dialogue table today or tomorrow and all you will lose is time."

He said asking Pakistan not to hold talks with Hurriyat was virtually setting up a pre-condition for Islamabad. "At this point and time I don't see a resumption because you are in effect asking Pakistan to surrender its entire foreign policy on Kashmir before the dialogue has produced anything.

"This suspension of support to the Hurriyat would be perhaps one of the achievements of the dialogue process not a pre-condition to the dialogue process and that's the worrying part.

"You set a benchmark or you set a yardstick that I believe is difficult to achieve," he said. Omar rejected the notion that Pakistan was recognising Hurriyat as representatives of people of Kashmir which meant a rebuff to him and other mainstream political parties in the state.

"My locus standi doesn't come from Pakistan. I am not insecure enough to require a certificate of authenticity from Pakistan. My certificate comes from the people of Jammu and Kashmir who participate in elections. The problem is that people like you want me to be recognised or certified from Pakistan, I don't need that certificate.

"I am very comfortable with the certificate of authenticity that is stamped for me by people of Jammu and Kashmir. Now if the Hurriyat need a stamp of authenticity from Pakistan so be it. I would rather wish that they got their stamp from the people as well but they don't have it so that's fine. If all they have is a stamp of authenticity from the Pakistanis, I think that's something they need to be worried about and not me," he said.

The Chief Minister made it clear that whenever the dialogue process started, Pakistan won't be able to ignore mainstream political parties. "They can do so now and they do it in fits and starts."

He said Pakistani envoys have been talking to Hurriyat leaders since 1993 when P V Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. "Now, to suspend the dialogue over this cup of tea....So now you have a chicken and egg story. The dialogue process produces the results that need the tea to stop or does the tea stop the dialogue process."

Told that may be India did not find the right atmosphere for talks in view of turmoil in Pakistan, Omar said, "That's a completely different issue. Now if you told me that you are not talking to Pakistan because you don't know who to talk to. I would understand, I would say we wait till we know who to talk to.

"If you would say that you are stopping the dialogue with Pakistan because of the violation of ceasefire, I would understand that as well...But you have done neither. You have just said that because of a cup of tea I am going to stop talking. Now I am sorry my problem is that I don't see this cup of tea ending.

"And then because of that I don't see the dialogue process resuming. And that's what worries me....A cup of tea that has carried on for 20 years, that's something I find difficult to swallow," he said.

Defending the recent resolution passed by the Legislative Council urging the Centre to resume talks with Pakistan, he said while the legality of the resolution can be answered by the Council chairperson "they have right to an opinion. This is a democratic set up. Why should they be forbidden from expressing their opinion?"

He said the resolution expressed sentiments of people of Jammu and Kashmir who suffered on account of poor relations between India and Pakistan and said people of his state have seen in recent years that every time the dialogue process was suspended for some reason or another, it resumed without the stated objective having been realised.

He, however, made it clear that the state cannot force the Government to talk. "Obviously the decision to talk, who to talk to, when to talk to, that is the decision of government of India. But how can you tell us that we cant express an opinion."

He rejected the charge that the resolution was a stage managed show by ruling National Conference in view of ensuing elections and said the resolution was moved by the Chairman of Legislative Council who belongs to Congress.

"All that is reflected behind this resolution is our dissatisfaction with the way the things are going with our worry that Jammu and Kashmir has always borne the brunt of a breakdown in relations between India and Pakistan. That we see no alternative to dialogue and we, in this case the legislative council, has expressed its opinion," he said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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