However, they cautiously suggested it could be discussed as one of several options as and when the two sides, along with representatives of the local population, sit across the negotiating table.

 

At the same time, most leaders interviewed by Aljazeera.net on Tuesday expressed unhappiness over Musharraf's failure to acknowledge what they insisted was the irrefutable fact of the people of the state being the "principal party" to the 57-year-old dispute.

 

"I don't understand why he failed to mention the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir without whom no solution can prove lasting," said Mirwaiz Umar Farukh, Kashmir's chief Muslim cleric and leader of the moderate faction Hurriyat Conference.

 

Flexibility

 

Another leader of Kashmir's main alliance of separatist parties Professor Abd al-Gani Butt said: "The terrible twins of the partition are embracing each other with warmth and have, therefore, now introduced an element of flexibility in their attitudes and approach."

 

Musharraf has suggested new
proposals on Kashmir

General Musharraf had on Monday suggested that his country and India should consider the option of identifying some "regions" of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control, the de facto border.

 

These regions, he said, should then be demilitarised and granted independence or joint control or placed under UN mandate.

 

Butt said that Musharraf's plan is to be viewed in the context of his meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session recently.

 

"The two had expressed a desire to write a new chapter in the history of relationship between their two countries," he said.

 

People

 

"I think he has set the process of exploration in motion. Let India respond positively," he said.

 

However, Mirwaiz Umar wants both India and Pakistan to involve the people of the state in any discussion to resolve the dispute.

 

Professor Butt (R) viewed
the development positively

"History tells us the two countries have failed to resolve the dispute. All the agreements arrived at between them proved too fragile to stand their mutual bickering," he said.

 

He said the Hurriyat Conference was not against a negotiated settlement on Kashmir. But he asserted that various options including the one suggested by  Musharraf could be discussed at the tripartite talks.

 

"We too have certain suggestions to make but can do that only when we are invited to sit across the negotiating table with India and Pakistan," he said.

 

However, Mirwaiz Umar and others such as businessman Riyaz Ahmad Khan view Musharraf's statement positively.

 

Impressed

 

He is impressed also over Musharraf's identifying both what Islamabad calls Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas as being disputed. The two regions were prior to 1947 part of undivided Jammu and Kashmir state but are under Islamabad's control now.

 

"It is important that his formula covers Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas," he said.

 

Sayyid Ali Shah Jilani who heads the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference endorsed Mirwaiz Umar on the demand of Kashmiris inclusion in talks saying: "It is not a territorial dispute between the two countries but the question of the inalienable right to self determination of 13 million people of the state and to determine their political future."

 

"Musharraf Sahib may have seen a ray of hope but it could well prove a catastrophe for the Kashmiris"

Statement from separatist leaders
Shakeel Ahmad Bakshi and Mushtaq al-Islam

Meanwhile, in a joint statement smuggled out of prison in Srinagar, two jailed separatist leaders Shakeel Ahmad Bakshi and Mushtaq al-Islam rejected Musharraf's plan saying no solution that does not have the backing of the people of the state would be acceptable.

 

"An orchestrated movement would be launched against any solution thrust upon the people," it said. "Musharraf Sahib may have seen a ray of hope but it could well prove a catastrophe for the Kashmiris."

 

Novel idea

 

Regional National Conference president and former junior foreign minister of India Omar Abdullah said: "Musharraf seems to have floated a novel idea towards resolving Kashmir. But we have not studied it fully yet."

 

Muhammad Yasin Malik, leader of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front reiterated that Kashmir was not a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan and hence the two countries could not decide the fate of its people.

 

The JKLF leader was on Tuesday in frontier Kupwara district in connection with the party's signature campaign seeking the people's endorsement of the demand that they too be involved in proposed talks on Kashmir between India and Pakistan.