As the national security adviser-level dialogue between India and Pakistan has been called off, National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah spoke to Tarun Upadhyay about Pakistan’s gameplan for insisting on a meeting with the Hurriyat and the firm stand by the Narendra Modi government on Kashmir and separatists such as the Hurriyat.
Why you think the Pakistan is insisting on meeting the Hurriyat?
The Hurriyat Conference has been a creation of Pakistan, but in it also there is a division. Pakistan continues to fund them and so does India, which is now clear after the book by former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat. Except for them (Hurriyat leaders), no mainstream party will speak to Pakistan. It uses the Hurriyat and separatist leaders such as Asiya Andrabi to keep its flag flying in the Valley, showing them as representatives of Kashmir.
Does the Hurriyat have a representative character?
How can they be the sole representative of Kashmir? They haven’t dared to contest elections. But the tragedy is that the Indian government doesn’t recognise those (parties) who stand for it. They should get the same preferential treatment that Pakistan is giving to the Hurriyat.
But it’s not for the first time that they are meeting the Pakistani leadership?
They have been meeting them for quite some time. Even during my time, they were holding meetings. We know they go, they talk, collect money by hawala or otherwise.
Then why do you think India is now putting pre-conditions?
I think with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi in full control of power, he wants to show to Pakistan and to the world that the Hurriyat has no standing. That is why he has taken a strong posture against the meeting (of the Hurriyat) with Aziz. When the two countries agreed to hold talks in Ufa, it was made clear that they will be about terrorism. I think it’s the army in Pakistan, which for its own relevance, is insisting that talks be held with the Hurriyat.
Why you think Modi is sending the message about non-relevance of Hurriyat?
Whenever the Kashmir issue is to be discussed, the Indian government has to take on board parties from all three regions of the state: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. And in that the Hurriyat can also come. But these talks are not for the Kashmir issue, they are about terrorism, from which both the countries are suffering.
Do you think this shift in policy is good?
For the first time, the Government of India has taken a stand, which is firm. And I congratulate Modi for it.
So do you think the Centre is now putting more premium on mainstream political parties?
I am not seeing that recognition on the ground. National Conference workers are under threat and the security of its workers has been taken away by the present state government. I have spoken to the union home minister on this but there has been no change on the ground.
Why you think Hurriyat is vitiating the atmosphere, as you have said?
They want to show their existence and Pakistan is giving them weight and probably they will get some money.
So there is a division in policy-making in Pakistan?
The real power is with the army, which has killed many important leaders in the past, including Benazir Bhutto. It’s the army and not the civilian government that will give permission to any leader to travel outside the country and it put the conditions for it.