The predominant word in Jammu and Kashmir is to " grab the opportunity" , while others caution and want " to wait and watch " over President Pervez Musharraf's latest statement in which he has made it clear that Pakistan is prepared to give up its traditional stand of 1948. Few others have questioned his authority to do so.
Musharraf has ruled out Plebiscite - the traditional Pakistan's position since 1948 and Independence - the imaginative mantra of the secessionist movement that gained ground in late 1980s, provided India goes in for staggered demilitirisation and self governance and agrees to joint mechanism.
Leaders of national, regional political groups as also separatists have reacted with a varying degree of optimism and also suppressed frustration.
Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was very clear that the "consistency is the key". Azad said that Pakistan needs to show consistency and this should be matched with the scaling down of violence from across. "Good words must match with good intentions and their translation into good actions on the ground."
National Conference President Omar Abdullah felt that it was a "rare opportunity." "This opportunity is being offered by President Musharraf at this point of time. It should not be allowed to lapse. Tomorrow, when Musharraf is not there. It may not be at all there."
"If Musharaff doesn't remain there what is the guarantee that some other politician will talk same things," he told an impressive gathering.
Omar also didn't turn down the joint management of the state by India and Pakistan saying all such suggestions, which were coming for the resolution of the long-standing issue, should be discussed.
"Islamabad is making efforts for resolving the Kashmir issue but these are not bearing fruit," he said.
He also asked New Delhi to concede on its Kashmir stand. "I feel that someone has to loose and if Islamabad has given up its stand of the implementation of the United Nation resolutions, said plebiscite and independence were utopian concepts and accepted that the boundaries cannot be changed, New Delhi too should show flexibility," Omar said.
Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti said that the fact of the matter is: "we should move beyond the stated positions. There is a need for Pakistan to build its stake in peace in Jammu and Kashmir, so far its stake for the past over 50 years has been in the unrest. Something should be done to make Pakistan have stake peace in Kashmir."
"It is important what President Musharraf says, but more important is that there is a surging tide of reconciliation in Jammu and Kashmr. People want free borders. And that is where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf have a wide agreement. Both of them want to make the borders look irrelevant."
Mehbooba Mufti said that, "Our stated position is that we have always said that removing the redlines is the best way to move forward."
Prof. Amitabh Mattoo, Jammu University Vice Chancellor and an expert on international relations, said that it is a major departure from the stated position, and it is also a major departure in explicit term from the major departures itself.
"It shows that he has confidence in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh". "It may be tactical, but it is not purely tactical."
He sees "signs of change of heart" in Musharraf. "People do change". His argument is that Musharraf should not be viewed in the rigid frame of "architect of Kargil" and so on.
All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wholeheartedly welcomed the statement. He said that it offers a way forward, and "we do hope that a solution would emerge out of this by connecting dots between Delhi-Islamabad, Muzzaffarabad and Srinagar"- the four major points in Kashmir solution.
Mirwaiz made it clear that any solution, that may be worked out should be acceptable and applicable to all the five regions of the state, currently on the either side of the LoC.
Particularly hurt were the pro-independence voices. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that had launched the secessionist violence movement in Kashmir in post-1987 Assembly election era sees nothing new in President Musharraf's position. "What President Mushraff has stated is the often stated position of Pakistan. They have their own position on Kashmir, we have our own. It is an accepted fact that Pakistan is a party to Kashmir dispute, so it has right to say what it feels like," JJKLF Chairman Yasin Malik told HT.
"However," he clarified, "We support peace process. And once India, Pakistan and Kashmiris sit across the table, I am hopeful that an amicable solution would be found, which would be acceptable to all the three parties." (With inputs from Faisul Yaseen)
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