Saudi Arabia''s Peace Proposals For Jammu And Kashmir Rattle ISI
19 September 2000
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
New Delhi: Islamic fundamentalists as well as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan are reported to have been rattled by the most significant and unexpected move of the ''super'' Muslim country, Saudi Arabia, seeking stoppage of ''mindless'' terrorist violence in Kashmir. The move, significantly, has also been endorsed by the United Arab Emirates. According to highly-placed intelligence sources, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, known for their ''warm'' relations with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, have sent out unambiguous signals to Islamabad with regard to their ''desire'' for restoration of peace in Muslim-majority Kashmir. These signals, it is now revealed, were sent out in mid-1999. This was followed by the ''quiet but serious'' movement by some Indian officials-their identity has been kept a secret for obvious reasons-not only in Jammu and Kashmir but also in some foreign countries, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates included. Indian officials'' ''loaded'' movement was followed by the unpublished discussions by some Muslims of consequence on the question of starting negotiations to end the terrorist violence and pave way for restoration of peace and normalcy in Kashmir. These Muslims of consequence included, among others, Abdul Majid Dar of Hizbul Mujahideen and Farooq Kathwari and Mansoor Ijaz, both of them based in the United States. Hizbul Mujahideen''s operations commander, Abdul Majid Dar, began to plan the peace process after his secret consultations with one of his closest relatives in the United Arab Emirates. And this female relative of Majid Dar was, before these consultations, contacted by a couple of representatives from the US. Majid Dar''s peace process became an open secret on July 24 this year when he announced a unilateral cease-fire declaration. Why and how the cease-fire declaration was withdrawn by Pakistan-based Hizb supremo, Syed Salahuddin, on August 8 has already become part of history. It is also now revealed that Majid Dar had, in a message to the Indian Home Secretary, Mr Kamal Pande, held out an assurance that he himself would be present during the talks with the Indian team. The talks, which took place in Srinagar on August 3, were not attended by Majid Dar. The central advocate of the cease-fire had handed over responsibility to his subordinates. Dar had met both the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leadership and his senior commanders before announcing the cease-fire. However, Majid Dar''s choice as interlocutor of his old colleague in the Tehreek Jihad-e-Islami, Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, had incensed the APHC leadership. Both Dar and Qureshi had their political roots in pro-Pakistan People''s League, not the Hizbul Mujahideen''s parent, the Jamaat-e-Islami. And neither had any real connection with senior leaders in the APHC. The choice of Qureshi had marginalised the APHC almost entirely, opening up the prospect that it would be left out of any eventual political settlement. The work of an invisible hand was, indeed, evident in the events that Abdul Majid Dar set in play. And the hand was that of the United States. The United States, it can be said without any fear of contradiction, applied intense pressure to ensure that the cease-fire was realised. However, Pakistan''s military establishment ostensibly felt that events were proceeding too fast. If a cease-fire was given shape before the political dialogue began, there was a chance that the Hizbul Mujahideen would enter into independent negotiations with the Government of India. And even as teams were named on the morning of August 3 for further talks, Syed Salahuddin, acting at the behest of his hosts in Pakistan, announced an August 8 deadline for the involvement of Pakistan in the negotiations. The cease-fire offer collapsed on August 8 itself. And the development clearly suggested that Syed Salahuddin was just under too much pressure to agree to any compromise. Abdul Majid Dar, though not confined to one place in Kashmir since the collapse of the cease-fire declaration, is said to be in touch with his ''contactmen'' and ''friends'' in New Delhi as well as in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Significantly, his ''friends'' in these two countries have not disowned him even after Pakistan''s three-member team, sponsored by the ISI, spent a fortnight in Saudi Arabia and UAE recently and made frantic efforts to convince the authorities in the two countries that the ''holy war'' in Kashmir required to be supported by all Muslims.