T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue IX

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

January 2003

I N S I D E


 

Spotlight 

Romeet K WATT

 

Editorial     

TKT Says......

 

GuestColumn     Krishnamoorty       

 

Big Fight      

Romeet K WATT

 

On Track     

Romeet K WATT

 

Opinion

T R Jawahar

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Romeet K WATT

 

Report

SAT Feature

 

Last Word

Romeet K WATT

 

 


 

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S T A T E C R A F T

The Kashmir Committee: Ram in U.S

Romeet K WATT


KASHMIR COMMITTEE (KC) -- led by Ram Jethmalani, former Union Law Minister -- which has been spearheading the process of untangling the dreadlocks of the larger Kashmir issue has taken a step forward, and two backwards, and is no closer to breaking ice with the separatists, lead by All Party Hurriyat Conference. The 'on the warpath' approach adopted by some of the constituents of APHC has, as a matter of fact, raised serious doubts about the success of this initiative, which is largely a private citizen's effort, although it is known to have blessing of one section (read North Block) within the BJP-led coalition government in New Delhi.

One of the initial setbacks for the KC was its inability to rope in separatist Kashmiri leaders for the October 2002 elections, despite tall promises made to that effect by Ram Jethmalani to none other than L K Advani himself. Once, the separatist bandwagon started attaching strings, including a series of pre-conditions, New Delhi developed cold feet, and backtracked out of any negotiations, leaving KC, high and dry. However, that has not deterred Ram Jethmalani to further the process in the post-election scenario.

The ground realities, as a matter of fact, have undergone a few significant changes with the successful culmination of elections. APHC and Company, to borrow my own expression - participate or perish - have taken a serious image beating, and believe it or not, America, who had been lending them a shoulder to cry on, after having made their own initial assessments, have started distancing themselves from the conglomerate. Robert Blackwill, US ambassador to India, in a recent trip to the state of J&K, was accorded a red-carpet welcome, and got to meet a wide section of people, except for the APHC, which he conveniently chose to disregard.

Ram Jethmalani, to further the agenda of KC, recently made a trip to US to prepare the groundwork for the Track-II diplomacy with Islamabad. Speaking at a function in Washington - the transcripts of which are available with The Kashmir TELEGRAPH - he was all praise for General Pervez Musharraf, giving him a clean chit by stating that "the only way to bring about this change (abandoning hard-line stance) is through Musharraf. If he is replaced, things in Pakistan will deteriorate, with great implications for the security of the world and of India."

Ram Jethmalani's assertions on Musharraf do not come as a big surprise, given the fact that the other Kashmir Committee based in Pakistan was raised by General Pervez Musharraf himself, and unlike the Indian committee, is by and large an official initiative; and despite continuous efforts, Ram Jethmalani has not been able to make any headway in meeting their counterparts from Pakistan, because of the heightened tensions between the two neighbours, which has further hit an all time low, with New Delhi refusing to participate in the SAARC conference in Islamabad, forcing Pakistan to postpone it indefinitely. Therefore, a more conciliatory approach by Ram Jethmalani towards Musharraf, who he believes can facilitate a meeting between the two committee's, thus kicking off Track-II diplomacy initiative; also Ram Jethmalani is keen that he be a part of the process.

To facilitate the process, he even outlined the blue-print of KC's doctrine, which calls for, among other things, a unilateral cease-fire by the government of India against militant operations in J&K. It may be prudent to recall that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee burnt his fingers during the Ramzan ceasefire of 2000; one-sided moves to facilitate dialogue ironically increases violence levels, in view of the fact that terrorist groups have more than a passing interest in reinforcing their bargaining position before committing themselves to the negotiating table.

Moreover, radical outfits, like Pakistan-based organisations such as the Jamait-ul-Mujahadin and the Lashkar-e-Toiba have already shown their lackadaisical attitude in any dialogue process. They even issued a demarche to Umar Farooq, the former Chairman of APHC, for inviting Ram Jethmalani (non-believer) to the Iftihar party. KC, it is understood, is in a catch-22 situation, with New Delhi still not committing anything on the issue, something which is widely believed as a set-back to KC sponsored track-II diplomacy.

The blue-print of KC's doctrine also calls for "the termination of all pending cases which are based on unjust accusations after review of cases by a small group of judges; the release of all those wrongfully detained and the release of all those whose detention serves no immediate security purpose," and " a general amnesty for those who publicly declare that they have eschewed violence." These assertions, made by Ram Jethmalani in U.S - though the stand is known for sometime - have raised the eyebrows in the intelligence circles. Though, North block, has shown little interest in these proposals, PDP-led government has come to the rescue of KC by facilitating the release of some prominent militant commander's of yester-years.

Ram Jethmalani - aware of the U.S ability to arm-twist Islamabad, and even New Delhi - during his trip, was mild in his criticism of the U.S foreign policy, and instead chose to attack New Delhi, who he believes has been scuttling his efforts to kick-off the much awaited Track-II diplomacy. He, emboldened, by the earlier statement of Prime Minister Vajpayee that mistakes have been made in Kashmir, went a step further in castigating the Government of India for having "committed sins in Kashmir."

Sandwiched between two extremist positions -- one secession, and the other to make Jammu & Kashmir just like any other state in India - Jethmalani has, credible sources have confirmed, taken fancy to The Kathwari Plan, and the recommendations of the Kashmir Study Group, and the proposal is understood to be under active consideration of the KC. Incidentally, Kashmir Study Group, is considered close to the U.S administration, though it no longer call the shots, the way they used to, during the tenure of Bill Clinton.

The initial spate of set-backs suffered by KC has more to do with Ram Jethmalani's over-optimistic assertions, and too many public statements, something, which a negotiator should always avoid at all costs; otherwise there develops an air of suspicion, when the statements -- he is so fond of making to make himself heard -- are interpreted conveniently by people, who want to scuttle peace process, to suit their interests.

KC, by accounts, has had a sizeable good will, for many in the Valley believe that its heart is in the right place but can it deliver the goods amidst heightened tensions? Honest answer to this question puts a question mark on the whole peace initiative.

And, last but not the least, conspiracy theories doing rounds in Delhi is that A.S. Daulat - senior officer and former head of RAW - presently officer on special duty for Kashmir in the PMO has a score to settle with KC for scuttling some of his covert initiatives on Kashmir, and is fast gaining the lost territory.

No doubt, Ram Jethmalani is bewildered at the change of heart from his benefactors at North Block. With his own benefactor's abandoning him, and the PMO on a collision course, Ram Jethmalani had little choice but to run to U.S for help out, to salvage his pet-project. 

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