“No signifigant move on Kashmir issue before India and Pakistan elections”

Indian-controlled Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah

By News Desk

Srinagar, Indian-Controlled Kashmir

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah Sunday said he was ready to take up the matter of officially inviting Hurriyat Conference leaders for a dialogue, with New Delhi, “in case they show an indication of willingness for talks with the Government of India”. In an interview, he said that he doesn’t see any signifigant move on Kashmir issue before India and Pakistan elections.

“If the Hurriyat people give us an indication that they are ready for talks and are waiting for an invitation, I will definitely go to Delhi and talk to the PM and others to convince them and invite the Hurriyat Conference leaders,” said the Chief Minister on Saturday.

“They have always rejected invitations. They were asked to meet interlocutors and others but they were not ready. If they are ready for talks, then we will definitely get them an invitation from New Delhi. If they can’t say that ‘publicly’, they have to at least give us an indication that they are ready for talks,” said Omar adding “It should not be the case that we get them invitation from New Delhi and to become heroes among people here they reject it”.

On Hurriyat’s 5 preconditions for dialogue

While reacting to the five pre-conditions set by the Hurriyat Conference factions for entering into a dialogue with New Delhi, the Chief Minister said they (Hurriyat) have so far failed to submit their demands to the Government of India.

“Where are their 5 points? As far as I know when they met the Prime Minister last time, he (PM) had asked them to give their demands in writing in the form of a memorandum but that written version never came” Omar said adding “Perhaps GoI is also waiting for those demands from the Hurriyat leaders’ side”.

On AFSPA revocation

Omar said that talks with different quarters in the Government of India were going on for initiating revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Jammu and Kashmir.

“The talks are on. I have said this is assembly that I want revocation of AFSPA within this tenure. I said it was my desire. I don’t say it will be completely revoked but there has to be a beginning”, added Omar. He said they were very close to beginning of revocation of the controversial act in year 2011 ‘but due to some reasons the army stepped back’. “However, we are talking internally and let’s see what comes out of the talks”.

No significant breakthrough on K-issue in near future

Reiterating his stand that the Kashmir issue was a bilateral issue to be resolved by India and Pakistan taking wishes of Kashmiris on board, Omar Abdullah said he did not expect any significant breakthrough or headway in the near future as far resolution of Kashmir issue was concerned.

“Kashmir issue has international dimension. Internal dialogue is important but it has to be agreed upon by the two countries, till then the problem will remain. There are going to be elections held in both the countries. I don’t see any significant move forward ahead of the elections in the two countries. Hopefully UPA will come back to power and Pakistan will form its government. Then talk’s can be intensified and we can hope for some breakthrough”

Autonomy: not just NC agenda, a document owned by state

While reiterating the resolve of his party to work for restoration of autonomy to the state, Omar Abdullah said ‘it is a document owned by the state through its assembly and is not just an agenda of the National Conference’.

“We should not forget that there have been only two such documents passed in the state assembly. One is the J&K constitution and the other is the autonomy document. It belongs to both houses of the assembly and is owned by the state and its people”, he said.

UNMOGIP presence or non-presence won’t affect Kashmir issue

Reiterating his call for return of United Nation’s Military Observer’s Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) from Kashmir, Omar Abdullah said the presence or non-presence of the group in Kashmir does not affect the Kashmir issue in any way.

“Can any sane Kashmiri tell me what UNMOGIP has given to Kashmiris and how they have benefitted us? We have still fought wars. Their presence or lacks of it cannot affect Kashmir issue in any way. When the two countries have agreed through the Simla agreement that it is a bilateral issue, there is no third party role. It is the people’s wishes and the two countries that have to decide”

Want someone from outside Abdullah family to head NC

While stressing that giving representation to unrepresented areas in the state cabinet was the basic driving force behind the recent cabinet reshuffle, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is also the working president of the National Conference said grooming a second line leadership in the party was on his agenda.

“It is very important for us to develop a second line leadership as I can’t be here for ever. It is not necessary that someone from Sheikh Abdullah’s family would head the party and become Chief Minister of the state. I am waiting for the day when leadership of NC will be given to some one from outside the family of Sheikh Abdullah and it is important for that to develop leadership and give opportunities to different people to come forward and perform,” said Omar.

Cabinet Reshuffle:

The Chief Minister said the recent state cabinet reshuffle was inevitable and had become a compulsion for him in view of non-representation of certain areas in the state cabinet over the last four years of the coalition government.

“Many areas hadn’t got representation in the state cabinet so far and I felt it necessary to give them representation for the next two years. Since some areas had been represented for about four years by their leaders, it was time for them to give others an opportunity to represent their areas. This was the main idea behind the cabinet reshuffle”, said Omar.

Disgruntled elements: Could get back berths after 2014 elections

While ruling out that certain leaders in the party were angry over being left out of the cabinet after the recent cabinet rejig, Omar Abdullah said that those who are disgruntled with the party decision should work hard for the upcoming elections to regain ministerial berths.

“Feeling of being left out is a natural thing for human beings. However, the real soldiers of NC and those who really believe that government is formed by a strong party will understand, but yes those who believe otherwise might be angry they should understand that there is not much time left. In less than 2 years there would be elections and if they wish to become ministers again, then they will strengthen the party and make the party successful. They can again become ministers”, the Chief Minister said adding “It is no big deal for them to work for party and allow others to work for their areas for the time being”.

Close aides: Volunteered to work for party

He said the recent reshuffle had been done on the basis of a formula keeping certain important objectives in mind. “I have not done anything based on personal likes and dislikes. Some people thought that without Mr Devender Rana and Mr Nasir Wani, I cannot work. Some felt they won’t be kept out of the government and won’t accept it but they were the first to volunteer to work for the party. They said if they were allowed to work for the party, others would not feel aggrieved. If I had kept them there (in govt) then people would have said that I did everything based on personal likes and dislikes,” Omar said, hoping the cabinet reshuffle would benefit the common people and reorganization in the party would benefit the party to grow and strengthen further.

Balance between Govt, party

The Chief Minister said that striking a right balance between the needs of the party and the state government was one of his key concerns while reshuffling his cabinet recently. He said while strengthening the party was a key issue in wake of 2014 elections, “governance of the state could not be taken for granted.”

On why senior ministers in the cabinet Abdul Rahim Rather and Ali Muhammad Sagar were not entrusted with party responsibility in view of the upcoming elections, Omar Abdullah said, “They are very senior politicians and members of the cabinet. We could not have taken the functioning of the government for granted. If it was a matter of 6 months may be we would have asked them to work for the party but it is a question of 2 years. Since there is time left for us to serve the people, we cannot undermine governance.”

“Rather Sahab has been one of the most efficient Finance Ministers. Sagar sahib has done very well and got Panchayat elections held when we haven’t even been able to conduct urban local bodies’ polls. We wanted able senior people in the government. There had to be a balance between party and government to keep both running smoothly”, he added.

2014 Coalition

When asked whether the coalition partners in the state government – National Conference and Congress – would fight the upcoming 2014 assembly elections in alliance, Omar Abdullah said the decision would be taken by the high commands of the two parties. “High commands of the two parties would take the decision at the right time. We have left it for the working committee of the party which has entrusted the party president to take a final call. Since Farooq Sahib is in the union cabinet and keeps meeting the congress high command, he will take the decision in consultation with congress and the party will work accordingly”, Omar said. The Chief Minister ruled out the possibility of early elections and said the coalition was committed to complete its full term of six years.

Electricity the biggest impediment in state’s progress

The Chief Minister said that deficiency or lack of sufficient power generation and supply was the biggest hurdle in development of the state. He however, castigated the main opposition party PDP for not having initiated new projects of power generation during their tenure.

“I hold the opposition responsible for the power scenario who are coming to streets on the issue. They will have to answer for their achievements in six years when they held finance and planning department under their control apart from the Chief Minister-ship for 3 years. How many new projects did they establish or initiate. They claim credit for money from centre, ERA, PMRP, CBMs,  bus service to PaK, but how many power plants did they start,” he asked.

The Chief Minister said his government will start work on power projects of 2 to 3 thousand mega watt capacity during its tenure. “We will Inshallah become self reliant and even export electricity in next 5 to 7 years. Without electricity you can do nothing. You can’t establish industries even hospitals don’t function properly without it”, he added.

Panchayat Empowerment

The Chief Minister rued the fact that people were weighing power in terms of money only. “People weigh power in terms of money as to how much they could spend and on what. We have given the panchayats powers in 14 departments. They should use these powers. Money alone is not power”

Sticks to Darbar Move reversal

The Chief Minister stuck to his comments on micro-blogging website twitter, where he had said the movement of Darbar from one part of the state to other should be reversed.

“We are public servants, but surprisingly when people are in distress and need us the most we leave them. In Jammu they need us in scorching heat of summer; similarly in Kashmir they need us in harsh winters. We cannot stop darbar move exercise, but we should not run away when people need us”. (KNS)

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