National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah has said he didn’t accompany former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his historic visit to Lahore in 1999 because Pakistan considers him a “red herring.”
“When Vajpayee went to Lahore, he proposed to Pakistan that they can keep Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and India would keep this side of Line of Control. But, that proposal could not be implemented,” Abdullah said at a media event in New Delhi on Friday.
“Before going to Lahore, Vajpayee sought my advice. I did not go to Pakistan because I am a red herring for them. Pakistan will skin me if they get me,” he said at the ‘Agenda Aaj Tak 2017’.
Abdullah visited Pakistan in 1974, in his own words, to “attend a Plebiscite Front conference” in Mirpur city of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
He met JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat there and would later tell the Muzaffarabad-based weekly ‘Qaid’ that he found Bhat “to be a romantic – like Che Guevara.”
Soon after his return, according to a senior Kashmiri journalist and columnist, Abdullah addressed a gathering in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk and threatened an “armed struggle in case the dialogue with Plebiscite Front and New Delhi failed to yield the ‘desired results.’”
JKLF chairman Yasin Malik recently accused the Abdullahs of shunning the “path of freedom” and “sacrificing the interests of Kashmiris for their lust of power” after Farooq dismissed “independent Kashmir” as non-viable.
In 2010, addressing a book release function in New Delhi, Abdullah said if India and Pakistan were at peace, he would love to go to Anarkali – Lahore’s oldest bazaar – to listen to ‘mujra’ and old classical songs of Noor Jehan while chewing a ‘paan.’
“But I know I can’t go…because separatist Hurriyat leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani won’t let peace to prevail…they say they will win Kashmir… I don’t know how Geelani will get ‘fateh’ (victory), when his legs are already in the grave,” The Tribune daily quoted Abdullah, then India’s Minister for New and Renewable Energy, as saying at the function.
Speaking at ‘Agenda Aaj Tak’ event, Abulllah expressed his disagreement over Narendra Modi government’s Pakistan policy and said that the two countries would have to talk to resolve the 70-year-old Kashmir dispute.
“India and Pakistan cannot snatch the other side of Kashmir. There needs to be a practical solution to the problem. It can come only through dialogue,” Abdullah said.
Abdullah said the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) was formed to achieve greater regional integration in South Asia like that in European Union.
“I had asked Mrs Gandhi who said that I want all these nations to progress on the lines of Europe,” said Abdullah.
“India and Pakistan will have to talk with each other. I want to see people visiting Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar,” he added.
Referring to the peace established after the Kargil war after USA’s intervention, Abdullah stressed the need to establish peace along the LoC today.
He also disapproved Vajpayee government’s decision to release “terrorists” including Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar in exchange for 200 passengers in 1999 IC-814 plane hijacking. He also expressed his displeasure over the release of JKLF militants to secure release of then Indian Home Minister Mufti Saeed’s daughter Rubiya Saeed before that.
“These were big blunders,” he said.
“If you could not sacrifice the lives of 200 passengers for the sake of the country, then you are doing a great harm,” he said adding that he had registered his protests at the highest level.