India, Pak must move beyond secret talks, resolve issues through open dialogue: Omar

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Srinagar, Mar 27 (PTI) National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah Saturday welcomed the peace overtures between India and Pakistan but said the two countries must move beyond secret talks and have an open dialogue to resolve all issues including Kashmir.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a party function in Pulwama district in south Kashmir, he said his party has always maintained that the betterment of not only Jammu and Kashmir, but the whole of south Asia lies in the friendship between the two countries.

'It is good that the two countries are talking about friendship rather than threatening each other, but there is still much more to do,' he said.

Referring to reports of secret talks between India and Pakistan, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said the two countries must have an open dialogue to address all issues.

'We have heard that secret talks were held, we wish the day would come sooner when they will sit across the table and have an open dialogue on all issues and there are a lot of issues be it J-K or something else. We want them to resolve all the issues through dialogue,' he said.

Asked about the Enforcement Directorate questioning PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, Abdullah said that is the price one pays for opposing the Centre's policies.

'From J-K to Tamil Nadu, from Assam to Gujarat, Mehbooba Mufti is not the first leader and will not be the last (to be questioned by the ED). Unfortunately, for the last few years, it has been our experience that the price for opposing the Centre's policies is a summon by these agencies. But, wherever these actions take place, they will be fought strongly,' he said.

Earlier while addressing the NC workers at party office 'Mujahid Manzil', Abdullah expressed hope that the positive shift in the relation between India and Pakistan augurs well for long-lasting peace and prosperity in the entire region.

'The renewed engagement between India and Pakistan vindicates the long-standing stand of the NC on the inevitability of dialogue between India and Pakistan. The party has been a strong votary of greater India-Pakistan bonhomie knowing that such a step, if endured positively and sincerely, will have a positive impact on the lives of people of Jammu and Kashmir and the entire region as well,' he said.

Abdullah said the NC has all along maintained that there is no substitute to dialogue and expressed hope that the new opportunity of friendship was not lost.

He, however, said their repeated pleas for dialogue and peacemaking were made a point of ridicule by the ruling party.

'But, finally our stand is vindicated in wake of the fresh diplomatic outreach in terms of DGMO-level talks and IWT meeting between the two nations. We believe that PM Narendra Modi's letter to his Pakistani counterpart is a step in the right direction. I hope that the step further helps in building an environment of trust,' he said.

Referring to the August 5, 2019 measures - when the Centre revoked J-K's special status, Abdulllah said the measures were undertaken at the pretext of ushering in development in Jammu and Kashmir, but the 'government has lost its plot'.

'The state was downgraded, divided and sheared off its constitutional status in the nonappearance of its elected leaders who were caged for months altogether both at in-house and out-house confinement centres to ensure that the Centre had a free walk in bulldozing the state's political identity and other constitutional safeguards,' he alleged.

'But, so far the promised flood of investment, development, infra-upgrade is nowhere visible on the ground. What is it that has been achieved by GOI? Contrary to it, the entire region has been put on the path of terminal alienation and dismemberment,' he said.

He said the striking feature of Kashmir post August 5, 2019 has been marked by administrative inertia, development deficit, crumbling economy, and failure of the administration to even ensure basic amenities like water, electricity and connectivity to people.

'All the promises have deflated and the only thing that the Centre has been able to achieve is to put the entire region on the path of terminal alienation,' Abdullah added.

He said it was told that peace will prevail in the region post the nullification of the state's constitutional status, but the prevailing situation does not attest to what was being claimed. “Asking people to remove 'Pherans' at government functions explains it all. It has never been the case, even in the height of turmoil. Nobody was ever asked to remove their 'Pherans' at government functions. Having such a measure in place now reveals how better the security situation has become,” he said. He said the NC is fighting for truth, justice and restoration of the people's rights.

'We are committed to fight a long drawn battle for the restoration of people's rights and protection of J-K's dignity and identity. We won't budge from that path,' he said. PTI SSB ZMN