NEW DELHI: Congress bigwigs like former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former finance minister P Chidambaram gave a miss to the launch of party leader Saifuddin Soz's book on Kashmir after the grand old party red flagged his controversial remarks related to autonomy.
As per the invite, Chidambaram was to formally launch the book "Kashmir: Glimpses of history and the story of struggle" and later take part in a panel discussion along with experts like journalist Kuldeep Nayar, former union minister Arun Shourie and former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah. But Chidambaram chose to stay away. Manmohan, who was invited separately, too chose to skip the event days after the Congress distanced itself from Soz's controversial remarks related to autonomy saying it aimed at getting some publicity for the book. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh however attended the event.
Soz, a former Jammu and Kashmir chief, has been under fire over the past few days for his reported comments that Kashmiris wanted autonomy and that he had endorsed the peace formula of having no border suggested by former Pakistan president Pervez Musharaf who had tried to find a solution to the vexed issue with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
"People tell me I talk of Musharraf formula. It is not my idea. It is recorded that after the lahore declaration Musharraf had told his generals that no freedom for Kashmir was possible and that Kashmir will never be part of Pakistan.that Kashmiris will opt for Azadi but that was not possible...he gave the formula of no borders...Musharraf's generals, bureaucrats and the political class there understood him," Soz said recalling the events around the 2001 Agra Summit.
Former PM Manmohan too was close to finding a lasting solution to J&K by visiting Pakistan in 2007 but the Lal Masjid blast in Islamabad and the cycle of violence that followed marred his chance. Noting that "Kashmir was the laboratory for the Idea of India," Soz said the best course of action was for the government and the Congress-led national opposition was to open a vigorous dialogue for lasting peace in the crucial border state.