India To Skip Controversial Kashmir Meet
21 July 2003
The Hindustan Times
Washington DC: An 'international conference on Kashmir' to be held on Capitol Hill this week has raised eyebrows in Indian circles here. It is being perceived as an attempt by groups with pro-Pak links to give a platform to India bashers and advance their own agenda on Kashmir. Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh has made it clear that he will not attend the July 24 meet which, among other things, will discuss the 'way forward' and 'alternative scenarios' on Kashmir. His Pakistani counterpart Ashraf Jahangir Qazi is slated to attend. While the Indian government will keep off the conference, there will be other Indian representation though. Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, Rajmohan Gandhi and some other Indian American academics have reportedly confirmed their participation. Three Hurriyat leaders - Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Abdul Ghani Bhat and Yasin Malik - are among the invitees to the conference, which has been organised by the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council and the San Francisco- based Association of Humanitarian Lawyers. It is unclear if any of the Hurriyat leaders will be able to make it. Indian American activists remain deeply suspicious about the conference's motivations. They say the very choice of Congressman Joseph Pitts and Senator Tom Harkin to host the programme has betrayed the intentions of the sponsors. Both are regarded as India baiters, notably on the Kashmir issue. The conference sponsors, however, vehemently deny the charge that the underlying idea is to provide an anti-India platform on such a sensitive issue in the heart of US Capital. Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmir American Council asserted: 'We don't need one more conference for this purpose (of attacking India). What we are looking for is a way forward on Kashmir. We want Indians,Pakistanis, Kashmiris on both sides and other experts to present their views in a constructive way.' The conference's professed theme is: 'Beyond the Blame Game: Finding Common Grounds for Peace and Justice in Kashmir.' The meet, Fai said, will serve as 'a platform for diverse and varied presentations'. Indian sources see this as a bait for wider participations so that the conference will get a measure of credibility 'instead of being dubbed an out and out Pakistani show, which it is.' The conference sponsors have circulated a long list of invitees, most of whom are not expected to attend. The names include V.P. Singh and Madeleine Albright.