Clinton under pressure for a meeting with Hurriyat leaders
13 March 2000
B L Kak
New Delhi: Kashmiri expatriates in the United States have mounted pressure on President, Mr Bill Clinton, in support of the demand for a meeting between him and a delegation of Kashmir’s All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) when he visits India later this month. The Government of India has received reports confirming the involvement of Washington’s Kashmiri American Council (KAC) in the task of persuading US State Department officials to arrange an audience for the Hurriyat leaders with Mr Clinton in New Delhi. These reports divulged that the KAC’s Executive Director, Dr GN Fai, who is widely known for his unconditional support to and sympathy with anti-India lobby in Kashmir, has had a series of meeting with some senior officials of US State Department for the purpose. Significantly, following the receipt of encouraging response towards the end of last week, Dr Fai was reported to have contacted the APHC leader, Mr Abdul Ghani Lone, urging him to be in New Delhi along with two to three other Hurriyat leaders. Mr Lone was contacted on telephone by Dr Fai, on more than one occasion, since the arrival in Washington of a letter addressed to Mr Bill Clinton from the All-Party Hurriyat Conference towards the end last month. The letter, though meant to persuade the US President to grant an audience to a delegation of Hurriyat leaders, highlighted two issues, namely, the demand for grant of self-determination right to the Kashmiris and the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir valley. Even as the letter to the US President stressed the relevance of self-determination in Kashmir, it called for a ''meaningful dialogue'' on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan with ''full representation of the Kashmiri people''. And the APHC communication has also called for Mr Clinton’s active role in organising the ''meaningful dialogue'' with a mediator from either the United Nations or the United States. Mr Abdul Ghani Lone and two other secessionist leaders are in touch with the US chancery in New Delhi. US Ambassador has informed Mr Lone that the Hurriyat request for an audience with Mr Clinton has already been forwarded to Washington. Mr Lone is reported to be relying on US-based Dr Fai, who is a well-connected person in Washington circles. At a time when Pakistan’s military ruler, Gen Parvez Musharraf, has chosen to link the US President’s visit to attempts to find a peaceful solution to the dispute over Kashmir, a high-profile team of US experts has emphasised the need for a dialogue between India and Pakistan. The team has pointed out that India’s potential to play the ''sort of role it would like'' can be realised only through a dialogue for peace with the neighbouring country(Pakistan). These experts include, among others, senior members of the Brookings Institute, Mr Richard N Hass, Mr Stephen P Cohen and Mr Michael O’Hanion. At a reception organised by the US mission in New Delhi the other day, Mr Cohen and Mr Hass stated that it was imperative for India to overcome its distaste for dealing with a military regime in Pakistan and enter into specific issue-related agreements. It may be recalled that the Brookings Institute had earlier this year suggested four specific points to raise America’s ''engagement in the dispute over Kashmir by several notches''. In fact, Mr Cohen had, in a paper prepared for the Institute, suggested the appointment of a special American coordinator for Kashmir as one of the four recommendations. Mr Cohen, who advised the US State Department on foreign policy, has said that Mr Clinton should ''keep his peace-making efforts private'' during his visit to the region. And he had a significant point to make: ''And privately I hope he will tell the Indians to reduce the level of violence in the Valley, stop killing of Kashmiris and tell Pakistan to stop the jihadis from going into the Valley''. While diplomatic sources expect Mr Bill Clinton to focus on Kashmir in his meetings with political leaders and emphasise the need for a speedy resolution of the problem, Mr Cohen has, significantly, underlined the US President’s interest in Kashmir saying: ''he has said several times that we have to do something about it''.