Prime minister-designate Narendra Modi's decision to invite Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif for the upcoming swearing in ceremony has raised hopes among weary mainstream and separatist parties of Kashmir.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah was the first in the valley to welcome the BJP's move but with a jibe. “Excellent move by @narendramodi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pak PM for his swearing in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks (sic)," wrote Abdullah, once a rabid critique of Modi, on microblogging site Twitter.
Just minutes after, junior Abdullah was quick to add: "At the same time I can't help wonder what BJP would have said if a PM-designate Rahul Gandhi had done the same thing."
Peoples Democratic Party, Kashmir’s largest opposition party, which won all the three parliament seats of Kashmir valley, also praised Modi for the gesture. "It's a positive beginning and would generate hope among the people belonging to the large peace constituency in South Asia. He (Modi) has actually sent out an encouraging signal that he is serious to follow the (former prime minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee initiatives of friendship towards Pakistan,” said PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who won the polls from Anantnag constituency.
She expressed hope that the Pakistan Prime Minister, who already has extended invitation to Modi to visit his country, would respond positively to the invite. "Nawaz Sharif has already been part of a significant initiative on Indo-Pak front when he hosted Vajpayee in Lahore and should now respond positively to the Modi invite as also the loud clamour for peace in his own country that is facing tremendous problems of violence," she said.
"Pakistan and Kashmir have historically been the two major challenges that all prime ministers have faced and it augurs well that Modi has recognized the importance of Pakistan as a neighbor at the outset and had set the ball rolling for a meaningful engagement," she added.
Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also is watching the move closely. "It is too early to say that Modi will follow the footsteps of Vajpayeeji. But any move to create conducive atmosphere for a fruitful dialogue is welcome. The Hurriyat always welcome better relations between India and Pakistan, which should pave for permanent solution to the dispute," said the Mirwaiz.
However, hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani remains critical of Modi. "The change in guard is immaterial to people of Kashmir. They are different sides of the same coin. New Delhi should accept Kashmir as international dispute to start a dialogue process," said Geelani.