July 2003 News

US Asks Pak's Fai To Organise Meet On Kashmir

19 July 2003
The Asian Age

New Delhi: The US, in the process of being isolated by hardline Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders as a facilitator in the India-Pakistan peace process, has mobilised former Pakistani lobbyist and executive director of the Kashmiri American Council Ghulam Nabi Fai to organise an international conference on Kashmir beginning in Washington on July 25. Former Prime Minister V.P.Singh, Janata party leader Dr Subramaniam Swamy, visiting professor Rajmohan Gandhi, India's ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh, All Parties Hurriyat leaders Abdul Ghani Butt, Yasin Malik and Maulvi Omar Farooq are amongst the invitees from India. However, Mr Fai said that while there has not been a 'no' from the Indian government as yet to their participation the organisers had still to receive a clear confirmation. Mr Fai, speaking to The Asian Age over the telephone, insisted that the peace process could not move forward without US 'persuasion.' When comments by the new chairperson of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman decrying an American role in the peace process were brought to his notice, Mr Fai who has been mediating between the US state department and Kashmiri as well as Pakistani leaders, insisted that this was not 'pragmatic.' He said that a country other than the US could act as a mediator suggesting Egypt and Turkey as 'excellent' options. But here too, he insisted, these countries as well would be able to deliver only if they worked in close coordination with the US. The American role in Iraq and Afghanistan appears to have alienated Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and even the APHC that are both on the record to support bilateral talks between India and Pakistan. In fact, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said very clearly that while third party intervention was still welcome, it had to be from a country that was not under US influence and kept the interests of India and Pakistan more in mind than its own. There is growing apprehension now amongst the organisations that had earlier supported, and even pleaded for US intervention in Kashmir, that this could work to their disadvantage given the American record in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Fai, who has rare access to the US state department, has been the conduit between the Americans and the Hurriyat as well as other separatist organisations operating in Jammu and Kashmir. He refused to even accept the possibility of bilateral discussions between Islamabad and New Delhi, insisting that this would just not work without US mediation. 'Only the Americans can take this process forward,' he said, 'and it is not pragmatic to even think otherwise.' The American and Pakistani presence is likely to dominate the conference 'Beyond the Blame Game: Finding Common Grounds for Peace and Justice in Kashmir' being hosted by Congressman Joseph Pitts and Senator Tom Harkin. Pakistan ambassador to the US Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, former Pakistan minister Atiya Inayatullah, former Prime Minister of PoK Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, former minister Mushahid Hussain, former President Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari are amongst some of the representatives from Pakistan expected to attend the conference being organised by the KAC and the San Fracisco based Association of Humanitarian Lawyers. The conference has been dividing into fairly interesting sessions, more because of the participants than the topics. For instance, the first session includes Mr Rajmohan Gandhi, the two ambassadors of India and Pakistan, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan and Hurriyat's Mirwaiz Omar Farooq. It is unlikely that the APHC leaders will be attending the conference as the government is not likely to release their passports. The Americans invited are Senator Richard Lugar, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Senate foreign relations committee Senators George Allen and Sam Brownback amongst others.


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