Hardeep Singh Bedi
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an attempt to give a fresh impetus towards resolution of the vexed Kashmir issue, appointed a set of interlocutors in October 2010. The panel comprising of Dileep Padgaonkar, a noted journalist; Professor M.M. Ansari, Information Commissioner and Professor (Mrs) Radha Kumar, trustee, Delhi Policy Group; was charged with a responsibility to hold sustained dialogue with all sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir and submit to the government their recommendations for a just and equitable resolution of the Kashmir issue in a manner acceptable to all stake holders. The panel has been travelling across the State and conferring with various segments of society. It has sent an interim report and is now on the verge of submitting the finalised document.
In the meantime, the world has been hit by some very interesting revelations about intensive lobbying in the US by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) through the good offices of one Ghulam Nabi Fai, an Indian-Kashmiri American. A significant fall out of this latest development is that the interlocutors have come under a cloud since their association with Fai is now in the public domain. It has been established that some of the interlocutors have, at some stage or the other, attended conferences on Kashmir hosted by Fai for his masters – the ISI. With more skeletons falling from the closets of interlocutors, the UPA government is now getting exposed over its mishandling of the highly sensitive Kashmir issue.
Earlier reports about Dilip Padgaonkar’s forays towards enjoying ISI hospitality are now being supplemented by news of Professor Radha Kumar having also attended an ISI funded Kashmir Conference abroad. Radha Kumar, along with former Indian Ambassador G Parthasarthy, enjoyed ISI’s hospitality during a Kashmir Conference at European Union Parliament in September 2006. Former Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, was the chief guest at the conference. Musharraf, Radha Kumar, and G Parthasarthy were invited by another ISI yes-man Barrister Majid Tramboo, head of Kashmir Centre, Brussels.
An Islamabad based portal on Kashmir, in order to further the Kashmir propaganda and to oppose Fai’s arrest, has posted the photographs of Professor Radha Kumar attending the ISI funded Kashmir Conference with Parthasarthy. The writer in the portal has claimed overhearing Parthasarthy and Radha Kumar’s conversation. “I was sitting next to G. Parthasarthy (former Indian Ambassador and Radha Kumar (current Indian interlocutor on Kashmir). Ambassador G. Parthasarthy whispered to Radha Kumar hinting towards the well dressed and smiling Barrister Majid Tramboo who was busy in receiving guests, ‘See the charm of ISI money on his face”.
Now, these revelations pose an obvious question which needs an honest and immediate answer.
Did Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram know Padgaonkar’s and Radha Kumar’s proximity with the ISI stooges when they appointed them as interlocutors on Kashmir, an issue which has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan and is a sentimental subject not only for Kashmiris but also for scores of Indians.
If the answer is in the negative then it is yet another critical intelligence failure. If the answer is in affirmative, then the Prime Minister and Home Minister should tell the nation ‘the actual reasons’ for their appointment. What was it that the government wanted to achieve in Kashmir by appointing such persons as interlocutors who have, in the past, hobnobbed with ISI, a secret service agency which has been waging a covert war on Kashmir since decades that has claimed thousands of innocent lives?
Moreover, how much Chidambaram cares for such serious issues is evident from his recent statement on Padgaonkar and Fai’s association, “whether he (Padgaonkar) should have gone or not is a separate issue. I don’t think that should be linked with his role as an interlocutor because he did not attend any meeting of Ghulam Nabi Fai after he was appointed as an interlocutor…I don’t think it’s a fair connection”. Asked whether he had full faith in Padgaonkar, the Home Minister said “they have done bulk of their work and they are now in the process of submitting their recommendations”.
Many in Kashmir have a number of questions for the political leadership at the centre. Firstly, has the Manmohan government struck a covert deal on Kashmir with Pakistan under pressure from the White House? Second, by appointing such ‘tainted’ interlocutors, does the UPA government want to impose that deal in the guise of ‘recommendations’ by the interlocutors? Various organisations, particularly those representing Kashmiri Pandits, have demanded Padgaonkar’s resignation from the team of interlocutors, but surprisingly the separatists, who have been pooh-poohing the appointment of interlocutors since the beginning, have kept a mum on the whole issue. Does this mean that they too are in cahoots with the masterminds of the whole conspiracy? May be this is the reason that MM Ansari is not liked by Padgaonkar and Radha Kumar. There was a public showdown between Ansari and Radha Kumar in Jammu in the second week of July. Such instances have taken place more than five occasions in the past when Ansari said something in public which was later denied by Dilip as chairman of the group of interlocutors. The manner in which the whole interlocutor issue has become muddy, it will be in the interest of the nation that any recommendations by the current interlocutors are scrapped immediately and a new team of interlocutors be formed in the leadership of the third and clean interlocutor, MM Ansari. However, this does not seem to be the party line for the centre where preparations are being made to discuss the interim report of the interlocutors in an all party meeting.