Mufti Heads Non-official Team To UNGA
30 September 2006
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Former J&K CM Mufti Mohammed Sayeed will lead the non-official delegation from India to the UN General Assembly this year. The delegation includes Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who is already in the US. Though Sayeed is slated to go to New York at the end of October, many of the 19 members are leaving tonight. There is only one woman in the team - Rajya Sabha Congress MP Mabel Rebello who was recently elected from Jharkhand and is known for her advocacy of social causes in Parliament. The non-official delegation plays a vital role at the UNGA, holding behind-the-scene consultations with representatives of various countries. When India was under attack from Pakistan at the UN in the early nineties, the then PM P.V. Narasimha Rao had sent a delegation headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee to tell the world that the country stood united behind the government on its policy on Kashmir. The choice of Sayeed to lead the delegation reflects the Centre's intention to project a 'soft' face on the J&K issue and on the peace process with Pakistan. Sayeed, during his tenure, had advocated a 'healing touch' policy in the state and his party has endorsed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's proposal for 'self-rule' as a solution to the Kashmir problem. The choice of Mufti as the leader is also an attempt to placate the miffed PDP leader. Tension has been growing between the Congress and the PDP of late. But for the intervention of Sonia Gandhi, the coalition in Srinagar would have come apart when the PDP leadership took away the Finance portfolio from Muzaffar Beig and Azad refused to let him go. The other members of the delegation include Milind Deora, Balasaheb Vikhye Patil, Manoranjan Bhakta, Iqbal Ahmed Saradti (Cong); K.P. Kamaran, A.K.S. Vijayan (DMK); Raghunath Jha (RJD); Tariq Anwar (NCP); Anil Basu, Vijay Raghavan (CPM); C.K. Chandrappan (CPI); and Ravi Shankar Prasad and Shatrughan Sinha (BJP).