Hurriyat’s US Agents Try For Clinton Meeting
2 March 2000
New Delhi: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference is lobbying hard to ensure a meeting with US President Bill Clinton when he visits India later this month. Kashmiri expatriates in Washington have been pressed into service to persuade US state department officials to arrange an audience with the US President. The Kashmiri American Council in Washington is being utilised for this purpose. The executive director, Dr Fai, who is a known lobbyist for Pakistan, has been in touch with senior officials of the US administration for this purpose. He is a well connected person in Washington circles. The Hurriyat leaders have also written to President Clinton requesting an appointment. The letter has stressed the Hurriyat demand for self-determination in Kashmir. It has highlighted the alleged human rights violations in the Valley, and has also suggested that a “meaningful dialogue” on the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan should be arranged with full representation of the “Kashmiri people.” Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone, at present in New Delhi, said that if the meeting materialises, the Hurriyat will plead with President Clinton to organise the “meaningful dialogue” with a mediator from either the United Nations or the US. Mr Lone said the US state department had still to respond to the request. Mr Lone admitted that the response would depend on what extent “they (US) are willing to annoy their hosts here.” He said the government of India was strongly opposed to any such meeting. “After all, the government here has been trying to stop President Clinton from visiting Pakistan, and they will not like him to meet with us,” he added. The Hurriyat has been in touch with the US embassy here. Senior leaders of the organisation have met US ambassador Richard Celeste in Srinagar. Visiting US officials, think tank groups and others have made it a point to meet APHC leaders during their frequent visits to Jammu and Kashmir. Lately, however, there has been a cooling of relations between the Hurriyat and the US administration which has kept the former at a deliberate distance. The Kashmiri American Council, on which the Hurriyat is at present relying for an audience with President Clinton, is an active body in Washington. It has a high profile and has organised several meetings on the Kashmir issue. Members like Dr Fai have taken a lead in projecting the alleged “suppression” of the people of Kashmir to influential sections in Washington. The Vajpayee government will not take kindly to any recognition of the Hurriyat by the visiting US President. At present, several APHC leaders are in detention in Jodhpur jail and the Union government has refused to have any dealings with the organisation.