Excitement in Valley over unseen US hand
9 May 2000
New Delhi: Washington’s role in initiating the dialogue between the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Delhi and Islamabad has been the focus of intensive comment in the Valley. Local newspapers have been writing extensively on the US role in the region, with former chief minister Syed Mir Qasim going on record in an interview in Srinagar to state, “Qasim’s political philosophy will be implemented by a superpower that has both the purse and the power to resolve this dispute.” Syed Mir Qasim has emerged from political isolation to create a “renewed awareness about Kashmir.” He was contacted by the government to take the lead in contacting senior bureaucrats and others who were once in the Jammu and Kashmir political mainstream. He has been speaking to the local media to point out that the first prerequisite is an agreement between India and Pakistan not to go to war on any dispute, including Kashmir. Greater Kashmir, published from Srinagar, has claimed that the shift in focus is an “outcome of the US President’s last visit to India.” It goes on to quote informed sources as saying that “both Vajpayee and General Musharraf had closed door meetings with the visiting US chief executive. It is in light of those highly confidential meetings that old hands are being roped in to reach an agreed resolution on Kashmir.” The “old hands” reference is to Syed Mir Qasim, who has emeged as one of the main pointpersons in the proposed dialogue. Mr Qasim has not denied the reports and, in fact, has given interviews to the local press stating that a solution can be possible only through the direct involvement of “India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.” Mr Qasim has prepared an extensive paper on Kashmir. He wants the organised violence by the state security forces, and the unorganised violence by the militants to end. He is hopeful that a no-war agreement will lead to the resumption of a serious dialogue between the two countries. He is insistent that leaders of all shades be spoken to and has named former Cabinet secretary Nirmal Mukherjee, former state chief secretary P.K.Dave, economist M.A. Khusro, and former Cabinet secretary P.N. Dhar as possibilities in an interview with the local media. Interestingly, US undersecretary of state for political affairs Thomas R. Pickering almost echoed these sentiments when he said recently in Washington that “apart from the APHC and those parties represented in the state Assembly, there may be other segments of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir that will emerge as normal political activity becomes a less risky undertaking.” He referred to the release of the APHC members by the government as a step to “improve the chances for dialogue between the two countries (India and Pakistan).” The Kashmir Study Group’s proposal for an independent Kashmir created out of the Muslim majority areas of the state is also under discussion in the Valley. Newspapers have quoted APHC leader Maulvi Umar Farooq as saying that the KSG proposal “can be a beginning towards final settlement of the Kashmir dispute.” Kashmir-born US national Farooq Katwari reportedly discussed the KSG proposal with the APHC leaders as well as chief minister Farooq Abdullah. JKLF leader Yasin Malik has said he supports the proposal for an independent Kashmir. Others in the Hurriyat stand for the religious-ethnic division of Jammu and Kashmir, with the Muslim Valley going over to Pakistan. While admitting that there were a variety of opinions within, Mr Malik said all were prepared to accept the final consensus reached at the negotiating table. All are agreed that the current initative has been sponsored directly by Washington.