Clinton unlikely to meet Hurriyat leaders
14 March 2000
Times of India
Law Kumar Mishra
Srinagar: The Kashmir valley remained paralysed on Saturday and Sunday because of a strike call given by the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) demanding the release of its leaders, but more importantly, a meeting with US president Bill Clinton during his coming visit to Delhi. The APHC also held by rallies and demonstration on Sunday to attract US attention to the Kashmir problem. The APHC leadership has welcomed Clinton''s proposed visit to Pakistan saying that this will help ease tension between India and Pakistan. But it has not succeeded in its efforts for a meeting with Clinton. In fact, reports from Delhi, quoting the US ambassador, said that the US president would not meet any APHC leader. Acting chairman of the APHC Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told The Times of India News Service here they had sent a representation to the US embassy last month seeking an appointment with Clinton. He said the APHC also wanted Clinton to visit Kashmir. However, this was turned down by the US officials. The Mirwaiz said the APHC had also sent a representation to Clinton in Washington seeking his intervention in solving the Kashmir problem. Another separatist leader, Shabir Shah, who heads the All Kashmir Freedom Party, has decided to hold a sit-in outside the US embassy in New Delhi on March 20 to attract Clinton''s attention to the Kashmir problem. The APHC leaders regretted that a meeting with the Kashmiri leaders was not on Clinton''s agenda. They were of the opinion that the US administration was cautious about not allowing the President''s visit to run into any controversy. Only recently, a team of the APHC leaders which visited New Delhi was even denied a meeting with US ambassador Richard Celeste. The APHC leaders were disappointed last month too when a five-member team of MPs from the European countries did not meet them and returned after meeting ministers and officials here. While APHC was desperate to meet Clinton, the National Conference and the People''s Democratic Party, two regional parties here, are somewhat indifferent to his visit. Omar Farooq, National Conference MP and Union minister of state, had dismissed the Hurriyat leaders'' demand as childish and said the US was not the ''godfather of the Kashmiris''. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti also said that Clinton had nothing to do with India''s domestic affairs. And chief minister Farooq Abdullah, in a statement, claimed that Kashmir was not the issue before Clinton. As for the common people, they too are not much enthusiastic about Clinton''s visit to India. Yet, they are aware that the US president is visiting Pakistan also, where ''Kashmir will be discussed''.