Kashmir Committee: Ram in U.S
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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