March 2000 News

Mandela proposed as Kashmir coordinator in Hurriyat-US talks

19 March 2000
Asian Age
Seema Mustafa

New Delhi: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, in a meeting with US state department officials in Washington recently, has proposed the name of South African leader Nelson Mandela as a possible coordinator for Kashmir. Two other names suggested by the Hurriyat representatives in earlier talks with the US state department were of former US President Jimmy Carter and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Lobbyist Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai told The Asian Age over the telephone from Washington that these names were not considered suitable “because we thought that the Indians with their suspicions about the West will never agree. We have now suggested Mr Mandela’s name.” Dr Fai said the US state department had some reservations and were doubtful whether Mr Mandela would accept the position. “But we have told them that a person less important than any of these three leaders will not be able to deliver,” he added. Dr Fai, who is also the executive director of the Washington-based Kashmir American Council, met US President Bill Clinton along with two other representatives of the Hurriyat. He, along with three others, then had a meeting with the US state department, which was essentially a full briefing on “options” for Kashmir. Dr Fai said that the role of the coordinator was to oversee the dialogue between India, Pakistan “and the Kashmiris” and ensure that it led to a solution. He said only a person of stature and acceptable to “all three parties” should be appointed who could also exercise the needed influence to keep the dialogue on track. Dr Fai said he had been left with the distinct impression that President Clinton “will raise the issue of Kashmir at the highest level in both Delhi and Islamabad.” He said the President “is very serious about the matter, he has understood the very important message that Kashmir is the most dangerous spot in the world and that investments of Americans in the region will not be safe until the matter is resolved.” US state department officials also discussed the “public” and “private” presidential agenda with Dr Fai and the other Kashmiri expatriates with him at the meeting. “Their primary concern was how he should handle it,” Dr Fai said, “whether he should speak about Kashmir publicly on the street or quietly, in a very serious manner.” The Hurriyat representatives made it clear that “we are fine with both so long as he talks about every single aspect of Kashmir.” Dr Fai spoke of the need for an “Oslo-type dialogue” between “India, Pakistan and Kashmir.” He said that the US officials wanted to know whether they had any conditions or any preconceived solutions. “We told them that for India a solution lies in total integration of Jammu and Kashmir, for Pakistan it lies in total accession, and for Kashmiris it lies in total independence. And all three parties should move away from their rigid positions and talk,” he said. “We can negotiate on the table, we have no conditions so long as we are part of the negotiated settlement,” he added. Asked if the Kashmir Study Group report was discussed at the meeting Dr Fai said, “It is one of the many proposals under consideration, it is part of a multi-track approach.” He said the main purpose of the meeting with President Clinton was to hand over the letter sent by Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “We were concerned that he must receive it and he told us that he would look into it,” Dr Fai added. He said a copy of the letter seeking a meeting with him in New Delhi had already reached President Clinton through the mission in New Delhi where it had been delivered by the Hurriyat leaders.

 

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