Clinton rejects Hurriyat invitation to visit Kashmir
NEW DELHI: The US President, Mr Bill Clinton, has shot down the pleading from All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) for his visit to Kashmir valley after his arrival in Indian capital, slated for March 20.
It was officially stated here on Wednesday that a message from White House made it abundantly clear that the US President had declined to accept the invitation from a top Hurriyat leader to visit Kashmir.
The US Ambassador to India, who is known for his personal equation with Mr Clinton, is reported to have indicated to the Hurriyat leader, Mr Abdul Ghani Lone, that the American President has no plans to include Kashmir in his itinerary being worked out for his forthcoming visit to India.
Mr Clinton’s ‘no’ to ‘requests’ for his visit to Kashmir next month also came after desperate attempts by pro-Hurriyat lobbyists in the United States for a fact-finding mission by him in the Valley.
The Delhi-based US Ambassador has received requests from several Kashmiri separatist leaders and human rights activists, including four Srinagar-based lawyers, for meetings with the American President during his visit to India.
Giving this information, a functionary of the Delhi-based US chancery said that requests from more than 15 Kashmiri leaders, including four from a Kashmiri Pandit organisation, had so far been received-all emphasising the need for interaction with the US President on the Kashmir crisis.
The American diplomat declined to identify the Kashmiri separatist and Pandit leaders who have requested for audience with the US President. He, however, divulged that two leaders of Kashmir’s All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) had identified the issues they wanted to discuss with Mr Clinton.
According to diplomatic sources, the US President is likely to visit Pakistan, although efforts continue to prevent his visit to Islamabad. Mr Clinton, these sources said, seemed to have changed his mind in the past some days after the receipt by him of a message from the Pak military ruler, Gen Parvez Musharraf.
Gen Musharraf’s message, while assuring Washington that Islamabad would wage a battle against terrorism and work with the US administration in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons, cautioned Mr Clinton that his refusal to visit Pakistan would strengthen the hands of Islamic extremists.
Gen Musharraf’s message is also reported to have informed the US President that Islamabad had started consultations with the Taliban leadership on the future of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan military leadership has, at the same time, argued that results cannot be expected in just one day. The Osama factor, the message urged, should not be linked to Mr Clinton’s visit to Pakistan.
Significantly, at a time when the US President himself stated that the Indian subcontinent had become the most dangerous place in the world because of the confrontation between the two nuclear armed neighbours over Kashmir, Gen Musharraf’s message has asserted that it was important for the US President to visit Pakistan as it would "provide a unique opportunity to discuss and promote a peaceful solution" to the Kashmir problem.
Diplomatic sources revealed that the arrival of Gen Musharraf’s message in White House took place at a time when some officials of the US State Department had been found eager to find a formula that would enable Mr Clinton to touch down in Islamabad even for a few brief hours, and at a time when Mr Clinton himself emphasised, while receiving the letter of credence from Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Ms Maleeha Lodhi, the significance of "historically close ties" between America and Pakistan.