Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on Wednesday (April 2) met J&K separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, and Shabir Shah at the embassy in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. The talks reportedly covered India-Pakistan relations, Kashmir, and unity among the separatists. Though this is not the first time Kashmiri separatists are meeting senior Pakistan diplomats in the capital, some have even travelled to Pakistan, the meeting assumes significance in the backdrop of the forthcoming Parliamentary election, polling for which begins on April 7.
Observers feel the meeting is not unconnected to the sudden activism of the US citizen of Indian origin (born Budgam, Kashmir) and pro-Pakistan activist, Ghulam Nabi Fai, on Kashmir.
On March 30, 2014, Ghulam Nabi Fai, as secretary general of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum (he previously operated under the aegis of the Kashmiri American Council) declared a six point agenda for resolution of the so-called Kashmir issue, at a seminar on ‘Kashmir: A reminder to the American policy makers’ in Fremont, California.
The function was sponsored by the American Muslim Alliance and Pakistani American Democratic Forum which are headed by political scientist Agha Saeed. Prominent speakers included former US Senator Mike Gravel, President of Islamic Circle of North America Naeem Baig, and Arab American leader Hatem Bazian.
Expounding his thesis as keynote speaker, Ghulam Nabi Fai said Kashmir is a political issue and has to be resolved through political means as it cannot be resolved through military means. Secondly, there must a cease-fire from all sides during negotiations as talks cannot be held when parties are killing each other. Third, talks must be tripartite between India, Pakistan and the genuine leadership of the people of Kashmir (whatever or whoever that means). Fourth, he said there cannot be and should not be any condition from any party, other than commitment to non-violence and to negotiations.
Fifth, negotiations should be initiated simultaneously at four different levels, including: (a) an intra-Kashmir dialogue between the leadership of the Kashmiri political resistance and the leadership of Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and the leadership of minority groups in Kashmir; (b) talks between the Governments of India and Pakistan; (c) talks between the Governments of India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership; and (d) talks between India, Pakistan, Kashmir, China and the United States.
Finally, Ghulam Nabi Fai called forthird party facilitation to make sure that the talks between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership remains focused. He suggested that the third party facilitator be a person of an international standing such as Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa or Kofi Annan of Ghana or Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Prime Minister of Norway or Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Fai asserted that the various rounds of talks between India and Pakistan, including the summit between Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif in New York in September 2013 took place due to a deeper engagement by Washington with New Delhi and Islamabad. He claimed that there is a realisation that both countries need to address all issues including Kashmir, and that the people of Kashmir support India-Pakistan talks. However, he said, talks without defined parameters and time frame will lead nowhere.
The sentiments of Kashmiris, he insisted, are for Azadi. Quoting a survey conducted by the monthly magazine, Outlook, and released by UNI on November 5, 2004, he said the survey claimed that 78 per cent of the people of Kashmir want Azadi. He quoted another survey conducted by the Hindustan Times, CNN-IBN and NDTV on August 12, 2008, which allegedly showed that 87 per cent people of Kashmir preferred Azadi for Kashmir.
Fai asserted that the London-based Chatham House had undertaken a survey in Kashmir which was released by BBC on May 27, 2010. This claimed that 90 to 95 per cent of the people of the Valley want Azadi. He concluded that sentiments for Azadi are increasing and appealed to the President Barack Obama to recall his speech of October 30, 2008, where he said that, “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis.”
Former US Senator Mike Gravel expressed unhappiness with the treatment America had meted out to Aafia Siddiqui, Sami Al-Arian and Ghulam Nabi Fai. Hatem Bazian said that the Muslim leaders and institutions were under attack in the United States and Ghulam Nabi Fai’s case was only the latest example. Naeem Baig, President of the Islamic Circle of North America, pledged his organisation’s support to the cause which seeks to detach the State of J&K from the Indian Republic.
Given the out-and-out pro-Pakistan stance of meetings organised by Ghulam Nabi Fai, which completely blacks out the historical reality that J&K was a kingdom ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh who acceded to the Republic of India, it is truly astonishing that Indian ‘elites’ accepted his hospitality and attended his seminars for years without ever breathing a word about what transacted at these gatherings. This would have continued unabated, had not the US Administration arrested him for accepting ISI funds and lobbying for Pakistan without registering himself under appropriate laws.