Govt asks participants not to attend EU’s Kashmir dialogue
It does not want to create an impression that a third party is pushing for Indo-Pak peace process
The Central government has disturbed the plans of the European Parliament to conduct a two-day global discussion on Kashmir in Brussels. It was scheduled to begin on Tuesday. The government told the Indian invitees to keep off the seminar, lest it proved detrimental to the renewed India-Pakistan talks moving on the “expected lines”.
It also warned the invitees that searching for the Kashmir solution in the international forum was unwarranted, when the government had already opened direct channels of communications with the Kashmiri separatists.
The government’s claim of talking to the separatists got credence from a statement issued on Sunday in Srinagar by expelled leader of the moderate Hurriyat faction Maulana Abbas Ansari. He said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would soon invite him for talks and that BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani, who had held similar talks with the separatists during the NDA rule, would also attend it. Ansari, however, said that he suggested to the government interlocutors to invite present Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq instead.
Those invited by the European Parliament for the fifth global discourse on Kashmir include the three government interlocutors on Kashmir, led by journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, National Minority Commission chairperson Wajahat Habibullah, Prime Minister’s special envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan Satinder Lamba, strategists Amitabh Mattoo and Ashok Bhan and a few retired Army generals.
The government gave clearance to many of them to attend the conference in Brussels, but later some of them were personally contacted by top government functionaries and asked to cancel their plans.
In earlier such discussions, the government had encouraged envoys, the activists involved in back-channel talks and Track-II actors to present their views on behalf of India. But, it developed a cold feet this time, fearing that India should not to be seen as talking with a third party while drawing plans for India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir.
No Indian known for his or her stand on Kashmir is now participating in the coference. However, those who have already left for Brussels, including Hurriyat chairman Farooq and Dalit leader Udit Raj, may attend it.
The Indian officials say discussing Kashmir at this point of time is futile and rather counter-productive when the dialogue with Islamabad is going on on the expected lines. India does not want to send a message that it is under pressure to talk to Pakistan for resolving the Kashmir dispute, they stressed.
It is for the same reason that Timothy Roemer, the outgoing US ambassador in India, was politely urged not to travel to Mohali to see the India-Pakistan cricket match in March, as that opportunity was used by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan for starting a new diplomatic initiative. He was told that the TV cameras may focus on him sitting with the two prime ministers, sending a false signal that the US is meddling in their affairs.
James Elles, a British member of Parliament and chairman of the all-party European Parliament group on Kashmir, had sent out the invites to persons connected with Kashmir on the grounds that the main purpose of the global discussions on Kashmir was to encourage the informal dialogue process between the governments of India and Pakistan and representatives of Kashmiri people.
Elles said that the global discussion is an ongoing process and is helping to develop innovative ways to assist and facilitate the composite dialogue process between the two nations.
Besides Elles, the All Party Group for Kashmir in the European Parliament has Richard Howitt, Chris Davies and Miroslav Mikolasik as members.
Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com. firstname.lastname@example.org