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A woman walks behind a fence of a security installation in SrinagarIn a significant gesture, the government on Thursday said it was ready to 
"welcome" Kashmiris who had gone to Pakistan-occupied

Kashmir (PoK) if they were ready to return after giving up militancy.

"The idea that any Indian who had crossed over to PoK and wishes to return India
is certainly welcome," home minister P Chidambaram told reporters backing the proposal
mooted by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.

"The idea is accepted... This idea must now be translated into a scheme,"
the home minister said, adding it was one of the recommendations of one of the
Working Groups appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for recommending measures to
address problems of Jammu and Kashmir.

Traditional dancer from Jammu and Kashmir on the state tableau during the press preview of the forthcoming Republic day parade
Replying to questions at a briefing after meetings of the Cabinet and Cabinet
Committee on Economic Affairs, Chidambaram said the return could be facilitated
through a scheme which will entail identification, screening, travel, debriefing,
rehabilitation and reintegration.

Noting that "PoK is actually an Indian territory", he said the government
"should facilitate the return" of those who had gone across the Line of Control
for "some reasons".

Significantly, his statement counters the view of his Cabinet colleague and former J
and K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who has questioned the idea of allowing the
return as he apprehended that they could come here to "create trouble".
Thousands of Kashmiri youths had crossed over to PoK from 1989 to join militant ranks.
While many of them infiltrated back, a large number have not returned.
Around 800 of them are understood to have conveyed their desire, through various
channels, to return home. Several feelers have been received by the state government
about their pathetic condition.

"We will consult all sections of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir,"
Chidambaram said noting that there were two parties, National Conference and Congress,
in the ruling coalition in the state.

The Leader of Opposition in Jammu and Kashmir would also be consulted on this issue,
he said, adding "Then we will formulate a scheme. It will take time."

Chidambaram said this when asked to comment on Abdullah's proposal that a surrender
and rehabilitation policy should be formulated to allow Kashmiris to return from PoK.

Abdullah had said at the chief ministers' conference on internal security here
last Sunday, "To encourage more militants to return to the state and manage their
transition to civilian life, a new surrender and rehabilitation policy of militants
is under active consideration of my government".

However, Azad questioned the idea, apprehending it could be used as a cover by
Pakistan to push foreign militants into India.

"Who will take guarantee of these youth willing to return? How can you prove that these
are the same youth who had gone to that side for arms training and are now willing to
come back on their own choice? Some foreign terrorists can take advantage
of this move," said the Union health minister and senior Congress leader from the
state on Tuesday.

"Pakistan has not handed over the accused involved in the Mumbai terror attacks so far.
Who can trust them in this case? There are chances of adopting a strategy
to push militants (into India) taking cover of this surrender policy," he said.


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