US Congressmen meet Kashmiris: Closed-door talks
28 November 2005
New Delhi: Senior US Congressmen held a rare closed-door meeting with Kashmiri representatives and high-ranking Indian government officials on Monday and promised to urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to allow a greater involvement of Kashmiris in the peace process with Pakistan. Informed sources told Dawn that the meeting which was led by Republican Congressman Dan Burton was being kept low profile. In fact there was no information till late in the night about a meeting the Congressmen were to have with Dr Singh later on Monday. According to the sources, the Kashmiri representatives at the meeting included pro- India leader Omar Abdullah and the head of Hurriyat Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Indian officials included Mr Wajahat Habibullah, seen as a strong advocate of transparency and human rights in Kashmir. He is also considered to be influential with India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance. According to the sources, both Mr Abdullah and the Mirwaiz spoke for a greater role for Kashmiris in the peace talks with Pakistan. Mr Abdullah said the Kashmir issue was not an administrative matter but one that had to be resolved politically. American representatives mostly expressed their sympathy with the Kashmiris but some senior members also promised to take up the matter of their representation in the peace talks in a proposed meeting with the Indian prime minister. Mr Burton is known for his strong advocacy for the Kashmiri and Sikh diaspora in the United States. In the absence of US ambassador David Mulford, who is away, his deputy Robert Blake hosted a dinner for the US visitors and their guests from Kashmir. Kashmiri analysts say the US team has been keen on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s televised proposals about the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Hurriyat leaders last week held a meeting in Srinagar to discuss the visit of US Congressmen. They had agreed to put forward their demand for self governance and demilitarisation.