Peace package: Killing two birds with one stone | india | Hindustan Times
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Peace package: Killing two birds with one stone

BY REVIVING the peace process with Pakistan, and giving impetus to a dialogue with the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee appears to have killed two birds with one stone. The 12-point package offered to Islamabad has put Vajpayee's April 18 peace initiative back on the rails. At the same time, by appointing his deputy, L.K. Advani, to satisfy the Hurriyat demand for a high-level political interlocutor, the Prime Minister has bridged the longstanding North Block-South Block divide over his government's Kashmir policy.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2003 01:27 IST
Jay Raina

BY REVIVING the peace process with Pakistan, and giving impetus to a dialogue with the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee appears to have killed two birds with one stone.

The 12-point package offered to Islamabad has put Vajpayee's April 18 peace initiative back on the rails. At the same time, by appointing his deputy, L.K. Advani, to satisfy the Hurriyat demand for a high-level political interlocutor, the Prime Minister has bridged the longstanding North Block-South Block divide over his government's Kashmir policy.

Whatever Islamabad's response, the Prime Minister has apparently timed his simultaneous offer to both Pakistan and the Hurriyat for a mid-course correction of his domestic and diplomatic agendas.

The twin initiative is a message from Vajpayee to the peace constituencies in both Kashmir and Pakistan, and aims at isolating hardliners.

Domestically, Vajpayee seems to want to distance the BJP from the 'Mian Musharraf' campaign rhetoric of hardliners such as Narendra Modi and Praveen Togadia before the next round of assembly elections. Development and governance will be trumpeted, a change from the campaigns in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

For international audiences, particularly the US, Vajpayee has signaled he is committed to a dialogue with Pakistan, Islamabad's bellicosity notwithstanding. It is also a statesman-like response to American nudging to engage Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.

That apart, the appointment of Advani for the Hurriyat dialogue should rope in the Sangh Parivar hotheads within the peaceful ambit of a composite Kashmir peace process that is intertwined with setting up negotiations with Pakistan.

With Advani at the helm for the Hurriyat talks, Vajpayee's agenda in Kashmir should overcome the bureaucratic irritants that marked earlier efforts. His tenure of more than five years has been marked by highs and lows, so he will have the satisfaction of a unified front in engaging moderate Hurriyat leaders. The move should also isolate secessionist hardliners headed by rebel Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

In his new role as a negotiator, Advani may have to walk a tightrope, balancing his known hard line with the flexibility required of an interlocutor. He will be tested as he hones his credentials as an aspirant for the top job. He can neither renege from the commitments to Hurriyat leaders nor blame others for the pitfalls that lie ahead.

It is apparently a win-win situation for the politically astute Vajpayee.