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HindustanTimes Thu,25 Dec 2014

Singh's key Kashmir decisions as he bids goodbye to the chair

Peerzada Ashiq Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, May 24, 2014
First Published: 21:07 IST(24/5/2014) | Last Updated: 21:18 IST(24/5/2014)

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who left the office on a very low note, took two decisive decisions on Kashmir as he bid goodbye to the country's top political chair.

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On the evening of April 25, just a day after the polls ended in south Kashmir's Anantnag parliamentary constituency, the Valley's largest opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed called up Singh's residence in New Delhi for an audience, which the prime minister granted immediately.

The conversation continued for around 10 minutes. Sources said the PDP patron sought Singh's intervention to put their apprehensions of "tactical rigging" by the ruling coalition National Conference-Congress to rest.

The PDP, which later won all the three parliamentary seats in the valley, brought to the attention of the former prime minister a pattern emerging from polls conducted in south Kashmir, where they told him that the state machinery, particularly the police, "helped implement boycott in PDP-dominated assembly segments while assembly segments represented by the Congress and the NC saw smooth polling".

"The prime minister's office did intervene. The change in approach of the state machinery, particularly the police, was visible on the day of polling in Srinagar," said a senior PDP leader on condition of anonymity.

Sources in police confirmed that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had approached the office of director general of police in Srinagar and directed ensuring fair polls in Srinagar by acting in an impartial manner.

The PDP chief, in one of his conversations with Singh recently, did refer to the visit of former national security advisor in 2008-09 to spur victory of Abdullahs in the valley and warned against repeating any such attempt that "damages well-earned fair democratic process in Kashmir".

Besides ensuring a fair election in Srinagar, the valley also saw a surprising visit of two-decade old hand on Kashmir, Satinder K Lamba, who worked closely with Singh on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Lamba's lecture on May 13, though organised by Kashmir University, was first ever in the valley since he embarked on track II diplomacy in 1994. The function was also attended by chief minister Omar Abdullah and National Conference (NC) patron Farooq Abdullah.

Sources said it was a last-ditch effort of Singh to claim ownership of the contours of a solution reached between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. It was for the first time Lamba claimed that the backchannel efforts on Kashmir did not stop despite the 26/11 Mumbai attack, an indirect credit to the outgoing prime minister.

Lamba reiterated Singh's stand on Kashmir that borders cannot be redrawn, but advocated self-governance and joint consultative mechanism between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as contours to resolve the Kashmir problem.

Lamba was part of backchannel diplomacy between former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf and Singh between 2004 and 2007. Sources said Singh has been keen all along to see better relations with Pakistan and a resolved Kashmir issue, but regrets failing to deliver on these two fronts.

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