- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

The main separatist alliance in Kashmir wants to engage the Indian government in "structured dialogue" that would later include Pakistan, the founder and senior official of the group said in an interview last week.
A government elected before talks address the fundamental issues of the disputed state will not be accepted by the Kashmiri people, said Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, the founder and senior executive of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of more than a dozen separatist parties. The group is boycotting the current legislative elections in the state.
"Kashmir is not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan but a human problem that requires a durable, acceptable and honorable solution," said Mirwaiz Farooq during a visit to Washington.
Mirwaiz Farooq, who has been participating in talks with a New Delhi-appointed Kashmir Committee, says his group would consider an "alternative negotiated settlement" giving greater autonomy to the Kashmiri people, even if it doesn't lead to an independent state.
The separatists and the committee, headed by former federal Cabinet minister Ram Jethmalani, have agreed that all parties will have to give up rigid demands and violent measures.
Thousands have been killed in more than a decade of the current insurgency. Indian army and paramilitary forces have been accused of using excessive force to put down the violence, arresting and killing innocent civilians.
Pakistan, which opposes Indian control over the Muslim-majority state, has been accused of providing material and moral support to the militant groups.
The second phase of elections in the Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir state begins tomorrow amid increased violence. At least two candidates, including the state's justice minister, have been killed, and four others have escaped assassination attempts.
Indian officials and U.S. Ambassador to India Robert D. Blackwill say infiltration of Pakistan-based militants into Kashmir has increased since the election campaign began two months ago, which Pakistan denies.
The Hurriyat Conference is boycotting the elections because New Delhi did not meet demands to allow international observers to monitor the elections and let human rights groups such as Amnesty International visit the state.
In Washington last week, Mirwaiz Farooq met with officials from the State Department and the National Security Council. He said the U.S. officials promised to urge India to focus on the fundamental issues of Kashmir.
However, Washington has stressed that Pakistan must stop the flow of militants into India before larger talks resume.


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