As he plans to visit China, Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq kicked up a controversy on Friday by saying that Beijing has a "direct link" with Kashmir issue, drawing strong objection from the government to his views.
The government asserted there is "no room" for any third country in resolution of the Kashmir issue which is confined to India and Pakistan. It said it has no objection to Farooq travelling to China or anywhere else but he would be stopped if his visa is stapled on a separate sheet of paper instead of the passport. "China is a global power and has huge influence in the region and as such China also has a direct link with Kashmir because certain parts of Kashmir are in Chinese control which have been given by Pakistan to them -- Aksai Chin and those areas," Farooq said in Srinagar.
"I believe that China is not a party to the conflict (over Kashmir) but China has a stake as far as peace in the region is concerned. So, the Hurriyat Conference welcomes the approach adopted by China and America jointly in terms of addressing the issue of Kashmir in South Asia," Farooq said. He was referring to the Sino-US joint statement issued on Tuesday after a meeting between President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, which said they "support the improvement and growth" in relations between India and Pakistan and ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia.
Rejecting the Mirwaiz's view, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said in New Delhi that "with regard to Jammu and Kashmir issue, the scope of resolution is restricted between India and Pakistan and there is no room for any third country. The Mirwaiz said he was visiting China at the invitation of an NGO which wanted him to speak from the Kashmiri point of view on the Kashmir issue and South Asia."I would go and present the Hurriyat point of view which is basically that Hurriyat wants to address the Kashmir issue politically," he said.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said "he (Farooq) is free to travel wherever he wants" and that the MEA encourages such visits whether these were to "Pakistan or China". To a similar question at a press conference later, Rao said "we have stated on many previous occasions that we have not prevented Kashmiri leaders from travelling abroad." She, however, said if the question was in the "context of approach taken by the Chinese government of issuing visas to Indian citizens who are residents of Jammu and Kashmir (on separate sheets of paper instead of passport)", the Indian government does not "subscribe to this approach which discriminates on the basis of domicile." She did not elaborate but sources made it clear that the Mirwaiz should carry a proper visa on passport and if the Chinese Embassy gives him visa on stapled paper, he will not be allowed to travel.
However, Farooq criticised the government's decision of not acknowledging stapled visas and said the Centre should allow Kashmiris to visit China on the basis of such documents. "It is unfortunate that Government of India has restricted the travel of Kashmiris to China on the stapled visa being provided by the country to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Let the Kashmiris, including students and academics, be allowed to visit China on stapled visa," Mirwaiz told media-persons outside the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.
China has started the practice of giving stapled visas apparently to make a point that it does not consider Jammu and
Kashmir a part of India, which annoys New Delhi.