NEW DELHI: Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti has called on New Delhi to launch discussions with Pakistan to resolve issues in the disputed region, likening the move to India’s reported role in the intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar.
“If they (Indian officials) can go to Doha and talk to the Taliban, they should have a dialogue with us and with Pakistan, too, to bring about a resolution,” Mufti, who is also president of the People’s Democratic Party, told a press conference on Tuesday.
Local media reports on Monday quoted a senior Qatari diplomat involved in the Afghan peace process as saying that Indian officials were engaged in talks with the Taliban.
Mufti’s remarks came ahead of a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, summoning major parties from the region to discuss the political roadmap of Jammu and Kashmir.
Seven leading pro-Indian Kashmiri parties, under the banner of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declarations (PAGD), accepted Modi’s invitation on Tuesday.
Former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah of Kashmir’s oldest political party, the People’s Conference (PC), and Mufti will attend Thursday’s meeting on behalf of the PAGD.
The talks will be the first major interaction between New Delhi and Kashmir-based political parties in the three years since Modi’s government annulled the region’s special constitutional status.
In a dramatic move in August 2019, India scrapped the region’s constitutional autonomy. It withdrew Kashmiris’ exclusive rights before placing the territory under curfew for several months, and detaining hundreds of political workers and activists. Most political activists and leaders, including Mufti and Abdullah, were put under house arrest for more than a year.
New Delhi also divided the state into two federally administered union territories, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The PAGD was formed ahead of the move in August 2019 to restore Kashmir’s constitutional rights, a condition reiterated by Mufti and other leaders on Tuesday, amid reports that New Delhi might restore Kashmir’s statehood.
“Statehood is the prime minister’s own commitment. They won’t be doing us a favor by giving us statehood back. The PAGD was formed for the restoration of what was taken away from us on Aug. 5, 2019,” Mufti said.
Mufti, who was Jammu and Kashmir chief minister in alliance with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) till June 2018, added that she favored dialogue to resolve the issue before demanding the release of all political prisoners to “create an atmosphere for talks.”
“There are many who are still in jail. We will also seek immediate shifting of prisoners back to J&K jails from various Indian prisons,” she added.
There is no declared agenda for Thursday’s meeting. However, Kashmir’s political parties said they would voice “concerns of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.”
“Our concerns are constitutional rights which have been arbitrarily withdrawn and the downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir as a union territory,” PAGD spokesperson Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami told Arab News.
“What New Delhi did with us was not necessary and has proved counterproductive,” he added.
Abdul Ghani Bhatt, leader of the Kashmir-based pro-freedom alliance the All Party Hurriyat Conference, declined to comment on the meeting when contacted by Arab News on Tuesday.
However, political experts are pessimistic about the outcome of the talks.
“What can New Delhi offer to the political parties in Kashmir now?” Subhash Chander Gupta, a Jammu-based lawyer and political analyst, said.
“New Delhi’s decision to disturb the status quo in Kashmir was not well thought out. The reality is that people in Jammu feel lost and without any power after the loss of Kashmir’s special status,” Gupta said, adding he doubted Kashmir’s special status will be restored.
“The ruling BJP will have to pay politically if they go back on their stand on Kashmir. They will lose the rest of India if they do that,” he said.