IK Gujral

I K Gujral, the 12th Prime Minister of India (April 1997-March 1998) had a long history of involvement with Kashmir even before he became India’s chief executive. In 1989 he, along with Kuldeep Nayar, was part of the sit-in protest in Srinagar against passage of a bill that restricted freedom of the press. He participated in every protest during his stay in Srinagar and later mobilized public opinion in Delhi against the sham bill that Dr Farooq Abdullah was desperate to implement. As pressure mounted from Srinagar to Delhi, the bill was finally withdrawn.

IK Gujral
IK Gujral`

In 1995 when the Hurriyat Conference opened its office in Delhi, Gujral was one of the many dignitaries who were seated in the first row. In fact, there is not a single separatist leader who has not had more than one sitting with Gujral, before he became Prime Minister and even after he demitted office. As PM, he decided against announcing a package for Kashmir that had become a fashion in Delhi. His wisdom was that if the package is not meant to be implemented, there is no fun of creating jokes.

During his leadership, albeit on a weak foundation, it was Gujral Doctrine that was part of the foreign policy. The doctrine was specifically about the immediate neighbours that surround India. During his talks with Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharief, it was Gujral who suggested that Islamabad should sell energy to India – something that Nawaz was keen to do but his bureaucracy rejected right in the meeting., Gujral, a former foreign minister, engaged Pakistan on lot of bilateral issues including Kashmir but these could not progress because of the weak government he was heading.

As PM, Gujral visited Kashmir many times. On October 19, 1997, Gujral inaugurated an ‘International Investors Conference’ in Srinagar that witnessed an impressive participation of 81 business houses from Indian mainland besides 14 foreign business delegations. Nothing much happened. It was in his reign when the basic spade work for the Dal project was done. In 1998, he flew to announce the start of Mughal Road following laying the foundation of the Kashmir railways in July 1997. The same years he inaugurated the National Winter Games at Gulmarg. However, his most important visit was on February 9, 1998 to a remote village in Doda called Qalantara. In this village nine Muslims were killed and 40 others injured – seven of them with crippling effects, by the Army men while resisting a “search operation” on Eid. Gujral flew to the remote hamlet and offered nation’s apology.During a visit to J&K, his home minister, Indrajit Gupta. announced that one of the options available is to divide the state on regional basis in three states. This was a varnished version of the Sir Owen Dixon plan who as head of United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan had suggested trifurcation as a way out. After hue and cry, Gujral government issued a denial.

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