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Vajpayee offered Pakistan to keep Azad Kashmir, says Farooq Abdullah

December 04, 2017

HELD SRINAGAR: National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah has said that former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee offered Pakistan to keep Azad Kashmir during his visit to Lahore.

He said he didn’t accompany the former Indian prime minister on his visit to Lahore in 1999 because Pakistan considers him a “red herring”. “When Vajpayee went to Lahore, he proposed to Pakistan that they can keep Kashmir on their side (Azad Kashmir) side of Line of Control and India would keep the territory on its side of Line of Control. But, that proposal could not be implemented,” Abdullah said at a media event in New Delhi on Friday. He said India cannot get Kashmir through war, imploring the US to play the role of mediator between India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute.

“Before going to Lahore, Vajpayee sought my advice. I did not go to Pakistan because I am a red herring for them. Pakistan will skin me if they get me,” he said at the ‘Agenda Aaj Tak 2017’. Referring to the peace established after the Kargil war after the US intervention, Abdullah stressed the need to establish peace along the LoC today.

He disapproved Vajpayee government’s decision to release “terrorists”, including Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar in exchange for 200 passengers in 1999 IC-814 plane hijacking. He also expressed his displeasure over the release of JKLF militants to secure the release of then Indian home minister Mufti Saeed’s daughter Rubiya Saeed before that.

Abdullah visited Pakistan in 1974, in his own words, to “attend a Plebiscite Front conference” in Mirpur city of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. He met JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat there and would later tell the Muzaffarabad-based weekly ‘Qaid’ that he found Bhat “to be a romantic – like Che Guevara.”

Soon after his return, according to a senior Kashmiri journalist and columnist, Abdullah addressed a gathering in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk and threatened an “armed struggle in case the dialogue with Plebiscite Front and New Delhi failed to yield the ‘desired results.’” He alleged that the claims of normalcy in Kashmir made by the central and state governments were "contrary" to the ground situation in the region, Economic Times has reported.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister also claimed that there was a "growing sense of alienation" among the people, especially the youth. "Those claiming things have improved in Kashmir after the mayhem, bloodshed and misery of 2016, are contradicting the ground reality in an effort to escape their own culpability and responsibility.

"The fact remains that our youth today are more isolated and alienated than ever before, and feel hopeless and dismayed," he said at a public meeting in Khan Sahib assembly constituency's Hardpanzoo area in Budgam district. The NC president claimed that the youth were "disillusioned and disenchanted" by the system as several initiatives were left mid-way.

"The lack of political will to engage with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir with a sense of seriousness and honesty has created an enormous trust deficit. This has been further increased by recent betrayals and U-turns," he said.

The Srinagar MP said that India and Pakistan initiate dialogue on outstanding issues, especially on that of Kashmir, in a sincere effort to usher the Sub-continent into a corrective era of stability, mutual cooperation and harmony. "Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and should acknowledge the fact that a nuclear war is out of the question and hence, engagement and innovative conflict resolution is the only option.

"Those advocating violence and war are living in a fool's paradise and their rhetoric is aimed at their own local constituencies. There is no other alternative but to talk and take into account the practical limitations of both sides," he said. "Conflicts are resolved with innovation and imagination, not by shrill slogans and stentorian and moralistic press statements," the NC leader said.

The former chief minister said that the conflict has inflicted enormous human, economic and political costs on the people of Kashmir, and they deserve a resolution now. "We cannot sacrifice the dreams and aspirations of another generation in Kashmir. The time has come for India and Pakistan to understand that they "owe it to the people of Jammu and Kashmir" to resolve this issue once for all, he said. Pakistan will ‘skin me if they get me,’ says Farooq.

JKLF chairman Yasin Malik recently accused the Abdullahs of shunning the “path of freedom” and “sacrificing the interests of Kashmiris for their lust of power” after Farooq dismissed “independent Kashmir” as non-viable. In 2010, addressing a book release function in New Delhi, Abdullah said if India and Pakistan were at peace, he would love to go to Anarkali – Lahore’s oldest bazaar – to listen to ‘mujra’ and old classical songs of Noor Jehan while chewing a ‘paan.’

“But I know I can’t go…because separatist Hurriyat leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani won’t let peace to prevail…they say they will win Kashmir… I don’t know how Geelani will get ‘fateh’ (victory), when his legs are already in the grave,” The Tribune daily quoted Abdullah, then India’s Minister for New and Renewable Energy, as saying at the function.

Speaking at ‘Agenda Aaj Tak’ event, Abulllah expressed his disagreement over Narendra Modi government’s Pakistan policy and said that the two countries would have to talk to resolve the 70-year-old Kashmir dispute. “India and Pakistan cannot snatch the other side of Kashmir. There needs to be a practical solution to the problem. It can come only through dialogue,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah said the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) was formed to achieve greater regional integration in South Asia like that in European Union. “I had asked Mrs Gandhi who said that I want all these nations to progress on the lines of Europe,” said Abdullah.

“India and Pakistan will have to talk with each other. I want to see people visiting Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar,” he added. “These were big blunders,” he said. “If you could not sacrifice the lives of 200 passengers for the sake of the country, then you are doing a great harm,” he said adding that he had registered his protests at the highest level.