Converting LoC into International Border: Farooq steps into minefield

The National Conference supremo is under fire from hardliners in J&K and ultra-nationalists outside the state

After stating that that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) belongs to Pakistan, National Conference supremo Farooq Abduallah has said that if the BJP-led NDA government abrogates special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir, then everyone in the state will start clamouring for ‘azadi’.

Abdullah’s earlier statement followed Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s rejection of the idea of an “independent Kashmir”, saying it was not based on “reality”.

The proposed solution to the Kashmir conflict that the Line of Control (LoC) be turned into International Border, according to observers, was emphasised during the Shimla conference between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. However, there is a parliamentary resolution in India that lays claim to entire Jammu & Kashmir, including Pakistan occupied Kashmir and the northern territories.

On Saturday, the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said the part of Kashmir held by Islamabad will remain with Pakistan and part of Kashmir with India will remain with India. “That won't change even if India and Pakistan keep fighting wars,” he said, asserting that Jammu and Kashmir needed more autonomy.

Maintaining that Kashmir is landlocked between nuclear powers like India, Pakistan and China, he rejected the idea of an independent Kashmir.

In an interview to PTI, Abdullah also made it clear that his party had said nothing against accession to the Indian Union. “Never have we asked for azadi,” he said, recalling a statement made by former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, who had once said in Parliament that other than “azadi”, the sky was the limit as far as autonomy was concerned.

“Where is that sky,” asked Abdullah.

People of the state, he said, were aware of the “agenda of the BJP and RSS” of abrogating Article 370. “But let me warn you, it will further aggravate the situation. Nobody will be here for autonomy... everyone will shout for ‘azadi’. At that time don't blame me,” he said.

Abdullah said “to the best of his understanding”, granting autonomy would be “the best possible solution” as it was within the provisions of the Constitution.

“Now there are some problems as far as autonomy is concerned. We have repeatedly said we can discuss (them)...If there is anything in that autonomy report which will not (be of) benefit...we can look into them, either they (the Centre) convince us or we will convince them,” he said.

“When I talk about the Kashmir issue, I mean the entire Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This is not only a developmental issue, but also a political issue, and this political issue also involves Pakistan, as a part of this state is with them,” he said, adding that unless Pakistan was taken on board, “whatever we decide with Delhi will not carry any weight”.

“The skirmishes between the two countries at the border are only leading to death and destruction. This needs to be stopped,” he said.

Asked why he did not meet Dineshwar Sharma, the Centre-appointed pointsperson on J&K, who was on a four-day visit to the Valley last week, Abdullah told PTI, “I thought it's of no use until Delhi makes it clear that he has some powers and that whatever he finally recommends will be taken up in Parliament. That is the only way forward.”

The Member of Parliament also requested Modi to rein in Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat. “Of late, we have seen the Army chief making political statements and this practice is not good for democracy. I am sure one day the Prime Minister will ask him to focus on our borders and look after the welfare of our Army,” he was quoted by the news wire.

Farooq, however, is finding himself between a rock and a hard place after his recent comments. On one hand, he is being criticised by ultra-nationalists outside his state. On the other, he is under fire from hardliners in his own state.

“Farooq Abdullah should see how his predecessors were forced to beg for chief minister's berth after being sacked from prime minister's status,” Hurriyat separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani said.

Omar Abdullah, Farooq’s son and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, took to twitter and reacted that “Can Geelani show me his reaction to the Pakistan PM who has repeated many times recently that Azadi is not an option for Kashmir? Hypocrisy is a Geelani trait.”

“While Farooq Abdullah’s ancestors were engaged in a struggle this man was fighting elections and cosying up to Janata Party. It’s not surprising that the separatist camp has chosen to react to what the NC president has said and not to what the Pakistan PM said,” he added.

Commenting on the recent developments, senior journalist of the state Bashir Manzar wrote on twitter, “From Geelani to Farooq Abdullah, we have a luxury to say anything and everything against India, ridiculing it for rejecting our right of self-determination, independent Kashmir, autonomy, self-rule etc. But when Pakistan rejects all these things, we turn into non-speaking species. Are we more scared of Pakistan than India?”

“Nobody ridiculed Pakistan PM, but Farooq was tainted as ‘political joker’. Isn’t it absurd?” he wondered.

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