January 25, 2020
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Knight Up, Sizing Up The Board

Knight Up, Sizing Up The Board
With Pakistan proposing counter Confidence-Building Measures (CBMS) last week, the big question was: will the L.K. Advani-Hurriyat talks take place? Both sides have been tightlipped and no definitive response seems to be on the anvil though some moderate Hurriyat factions have welcomed the government move to anoint Advani as negotiator. At a Diwali luncheon hosted by Delhi BJP chief Madan Lal Khurana, Advani did give an indication that conditions for talks —as expected by the Hurriyat—may not well be there. "I have already said what I had to...any question of a continuing dialogue (with the Hurriyat) is out of the question," Advani told Outlook. Asked later whether he even expected the talks to take place, the deputy PM just shook his head.

Clearly, there seems to be no meeting ground. While Advani has made it clear that any dialogue has to take place within the parameters of the Indian Constitution and that it should envisage ‘decentralisation’ of power in J&K, the Hurriyat position is that Pakistan has to be made a party, not necessarily in the first phase, but later. That position may not be acceptable to the Indian government and Advani in particular.

Officially, the government says it is waiting for a suitable respnse from the Hurriyat. Home ministry sources, though, say so far they haven’t received any directives to prepare for talks. The government also believes that with the Hurriyat greatly marginalised, it would be in its interest to initiate talks. Even so, with Vajpayee’s commitment to peace and talks, Advani is amenable to the idea of talking with the Hurriyat since "there was no harm in listening to what they have to say". Advani is aware that there can be no preconditions since even the framework for talks is yet to be drawn up. Already one faction of the Hurriyat, headed by Syed Ahmed Shah Geelani, has broken off from the amalgam calling the proposed talks a non-starter.

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