The Other Kashmiri Who Toed Pakistan ISI's Line13 August 2011
New Delhi: For the last three weeks, one of the central government’s interlocutors on Kashmir, Radha Kumar has been hard-pressed to explain why she went to a conference in Brussels organised by Kashmir Centre which is financed by Pakistan’s ISI and run for it by Kashmiri Abdul Majid Tramboo. For Kumar, the trip in 2006 would have been an ordinary one but a complaint filed by the FBI in a United States court has now confirmed that Tramboo and his organisation were the front paid and run by the ISI. On July 18 this year, an FBI agent filed a complaint affidavit in a district court identifying three people as agents working on behalf of Pakistan and its ISI to influence opinion on Kashmir. First on the list was Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was arrested and produced in court. But also included in the list were Tramboo and his Kashmir Centre that would work out of Brussels trying to influence European lawmakers and policymakers to help Pakistan push its case on Kashmir. For over a decade, Tramboo had figured in bilateral dialogues between Indian officials from the foreign ministry and its external intelligence agency RAW. For over a decade, they would attempt to raise the issue of Fai and Tramboo as agents of Pakistan only to be ignored till the FBI made its case a month ago. DNA has accessed much of the information on Tramboo received by New Delhi from the US after Fai’s arrest and it paints a fascinating picture of the international intrigue that has dominated the Kashmir conflict for decades. Tramboo existed in the shadowy world of international espionage, networking with European Parliamentarians, organising seminars like the one that was attended by Radha Kumar in 2006. In 2008, the ISI helped Tramboo set up a Brussels-base company called Le Mar Holdings as a public limited company dealing in property management services. According to senior MEA officials privy to the information, the company had a start-up capital of Euro 248,000. It had five equal shareholders who were mostly Tramboo’s relatives and one Yasir Khan who is the son of Brigadier Javeed Aziz Khan, the ISI officer in charge of the Kashmir cell. Khan, who would use the alias “Rathore”, figures prominently in the complaint filed by the FBI in its affidavit as someone who controlled and financed Fai’s activities in the US. Every year Tramboo, said intelligence sources, would send a calendar of events organised by his centre to an ISI officer identified as “Sohail Mohammed.” This year Tramboo sent it to Touqueer Mehmood Butt, another ISI officer identified by the FBI as a key official managing this operation. Through the years Tramboo set up links with James Elles, a key member of the European Parliament and several other international writers and journalists who would write pieces favourable to Pakistan and paint India as a colonial power perpetrating atrocities in Kashmir. American officials are investigating Tramboo’s association with Victoria Schofeild who was regular speaker at his conferences and also wrote a book and several articles on the Kashmir conflict. He also asked two Italian journalists, Antonia Picasso and Ilaria Pedrali to write a book that would be closer to the Pakistani perception on the conflict. It is unlikely that the writers and journalists knew about Tramboo’s connection with Pakistani intelligence. In India, Kumar’s trip to Tramboo’s conference raised a furore and questions about her continuing as a interlocutor on Kashmir. Kumar clarified to DNA that her “views expressed at (Kashmir Centre) conference have no bearing on our mission (as interlocutors) today”. She maintains that she was asked to go for the conference along with former foreign ministry official, ambassador G Parthasarathy but doesn’t have anything in writing from any official. She also states that she paid for her tickets and is unclear if she got a reimbursement from Tramboo’s funds. “But yes, he paid for our hotel expenses as he did for 40 others who were attending,” she told DNA. Of course, she like many others probably did not know Tramboo’s links with Pakistani intelligence. But that trip and the views she expressed then have proved to be a sticky point for the Union home ministry that appointed her as its interlocutor.