Sinha-led five-member team to begin Track-II diplomacy in Kashmir

A five-member delegation led by former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha called on Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani at his residence in Hyderpora in Srinagar on Tuesday

"The talks were held in cordial atmosphere".

"The BJP has nothing to do with this initiative. BJP has nothing to do with this", BJP's National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said in Delhi.

He added that the delegation led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha did not carry any mandate from the central government.

The other members of the delegation are former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and first Chief Information Com-missioner of India Wajahat Habibullah, former Vice-Air Marshal Kapil Kak who is now associated with the Centre of Air Power Studies, journalist (Editor of Catch News) Bharat Bhushan and Executive Director, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation Sushobha Barve.

"Let me make it absolutely clear, as far as Hurriyat is concerned, whether (Syed Ali Shah) Geelani, (Yasin) Malik or me, nobody has ever been opposed to any engagement or dialogue but the problem is dialogue for what?", Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said after meeting the five-member delegation at his Neogene residence.

The octogenarian separatist had on September 4 shut the door on Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury and three other non-BJP MPs who were part of an all-party delegation on a visit to Kashmir. And after two months of detention at a guest-house-turned-jail in Srinagar, the Mirwaiz is now under house arrest at his upscale Nigeen residence.

The visit of former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha and his four-member team to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday is being seen as one of the first step that the Centre has taken to restore normalcy in the Valley.

Habibullah expressed hope that the current impasse in Kashmir will end. "If we can do that, we will consider ourselves fortunate", he said.

At least 92 persons were killed and over 12,000 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces. We are a few people who I must call people of goodwill.

"Our motto is to share the grievances and pain (of Kashmiri people)".

Asked if they had been invited by the separatists, Mr Sinha said, "We do not have an invitation (from Syed Ali Shah Geelani)". "We are doing it at a time which is quite appropriate".

Sources said efforts to break the deadlock gathered pace after feelers were received a fortnight ago by the Centre from the separatists that they were keen to find a way out as people in the Valley were getting " weary" of the unrest.

Geelani, Mirwaiz and Malik are spearheading the ongoing agitation in the Valley and issuing weekly protest shutdown calendars.

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