US diplomatic cables revealed by Wikileaks unveiled many hidden aspects related to the politics around Kashmir and intermitant dialogue between different stake holders. These cables reveal a a game of mutual deciet and deception as Ikhlaq Qadri finds out.
Round Table conference
In his attempts to break the ice, Prime minister of India announced a common platform for bringing together Kashmiri separatist leadership and elected political leaders for a round table conference in Delhi on February 24 in the hope of kick-starting a conciliatory process.
The move evoked mixed response ranging from support to suspicion. The cable caught Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq continuing in his post-Pakistan trip dour mood, grumbling that the “GOI had invited “every Tom, Dick, and Harry” without first doing their homework. JKLF leader Yasin Malik told the sources qouted in the cable that, “he had received an invitation and would attend, in addition to his meeting with the PM on the February 17,” reads the cable.
The behaviour of Mirwaiz after coming back from Pakistan had worried the GOI and compelled them to broaden the dialogue on Kashmir. “Mirwaiz’ behaviour since his return, including fiery sermons at his Srinagar mosque, have further worried the GOI. The GOI was already frustrated that Mirwaiz had not shown sufficient seriousness in earlier rounds of dialogue with the PM; MHA Kashmir guru NN Vohra.”The cable reveals, “in December Mirwaiz had refused a GOI offer to begin technical discussions in earnest, and had preferred to use the dialogue as a platform from which to attack India. Now, Mirwaiz’s earlier special role has been greatly diluted, and the GOI is opening discussion to the full, fractured spectrum.”
“The PM’s closing remarks included encouraging language promising to review the cases of political detainees in J&K by end-March and convening a second round table in Srinagar in late May, which, we hear, may include the separatists; Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told us he might attend a second round table but hoped for a PM-Hurriyat meeting first (to shore up his shaky standing),” the cable explained.
In an event that could not have happened at a worse moment for the PM’s dialogue effort, tension in the Valley escalated on February 22, when four boys (aged 10-18) were killed in Dudipurain village, Kupwara District; the paramilitary Rashtriya Rifles reported the boys were killed in a cross-fire with terrorists, but locals who claimed to have witnessed the shooting said the soldiers gunned them down deliberately and without provocation while the boys played cricket.
On May 24 another round of conference was held.
Prime minister met with all the groups barring the Hurriyat and BJP (that rejected the offer). Talking about his meeting, the US diplomatic cable says, “Even as the Prime Minister’s talks with representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir state stretched into their second day, terrorists killed ten more villagers in Rajouri,” and is related as “Prime Minister Talks Human Rights with Kashmiris while terrorists massacre them.”
The prime minister, the cable quotes, directed security agencies, “it is possible and desirable that you should be firm but humane, effective and efficient, in control, but unobtrusive.” He also urged forces to ensure “zero tolerance” for custodial killings.
The cable commenting upon the response of Hurriyat to the conference reveals, “the Hurriyat leaders told newspapers that they puttered in their gardens, watched Pakistan beat West Indies in cricket (a subtle pro-Pak dig at India’s recent loss to Windies), and tidied up their houses.”
A Srinagar based journalist termed the behaviour of Hurriyat as “churlish” towards the call of Prime Minister.
Commenting upon the incident when prime minister was talking peace and several people were killed by militants, the cable asks that why the Indians are preaching restraint when some separatists continue to indulge in violence. Quoting Blake the cable says, “their self-appointed political leaders are nursing wounds of a different kind after slamming the door on the one Indian leader who sincerely wants to hear their views. As usual in Kashmir, the self-inflicted wounds are worse than anything the GOI dishes out.”
REJECTION Of DIALOGUE
Rejecting dialogue with Prime Minister, Hurriyat, the cable said,was scared of the attack on the rally of congress.
“Terrorists killed seven and injured scores more in a spectacular mid-day May 21 attack on a Congress party rally in downtown Srinagar. The next day, even as more grenades exploded in Srinagar, the peaceful separatist All Party Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Omar Farooq rejected an invitation to meet with the Prime Minister during his planned May 24 visit to Srinagar.”
Commenting upon the decision of Hurriyat not to meet the Prime minister, cable says, “Considering how close the Chief Minister came to being killed on May 21, 2006, and their own families’ sacrifices for the cause, the Mirwaiz Hurriyat could have used the terrorists’ actions as a justification for going ahead and meeting the Prime Minister on May 24 in Srinagar. In the end, it may very well have been the fear of themselves being killed that also stayed their hands.
Raising the curtains the cable revelation is very interesting, “The real reason for the Hurriyat’s decision, we are told, is a threat from the mainstream National Conference of Omar Abdullah to quit the round table talks if the Hurriyat were given a separate meeting with the PM.”
PM vs Moderate Hurriyat
“Pleased to have meeting on May 3,2006 with prime minister and gearing up to begin a regular detailed dialogue with home minister Shivraj Patil. Hurriyat leaders led by Mirwaiz Omar Farooq praised commitment of PM to dialogue on full range of Jammu and Kashmir issues and to improve human rights”. This is what the cable dated May 5, 2005 reveals. “They told us privately they would carefully consider participating if the participants list was right.”
Lauding the transformed public opinion in India and Pakistan that earnestly seeks lasting peace, the leaders who met PM term Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah as fence sitters whom they derided for being “duplicitous, ego-mad, and not taking big risks — as they had — for peace through dialogue.”
“Bilal got hot and bothered when discussing JKLF leader Yasin Malik and separatist Shabir Shah,” the cable reveals. Those “fence-sitters” are opportunists who play a dangerous and cynical game.”
Mirwaiz agreed, saying “he and his group were sticking their necks out for a negotiated improvement — and he and Bilal had both lost dear family members to terrorists — while Yasin and Shabir sit on a fence and criticize. Ultimately, Mirwaiz said, it required zero risk to do nothing yet attack any constructive efforts.”
Lamenting the dirty games of Kashmiri politics, the cable quotes Mirwaiz saying, “all sides of the conflict had a vested interest in its perpetuation, from separatists to terrorists to security forces.”
Separatists Contemplated standing in 2008 Elections
Moderate Kashmiri separatist Bilal Lone met with Deputy PolCouns on January 31, 2007 to discuss his earlier January 19 to 27 trip to Pakistan with All Parties Hurriyat Council (APHC) leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq. Bilal told him,”President Musharraf had been very optimistic about achieving a breakthrough with India on Kashmir, and warned the Hurriyat that they should not expect to see India withdraw its security forces entirely from the Srinagar Valley or agree to change its borders if the two sides reach an agreement.”
Bilal said further that the APHC was considering joining elections in 2008, but conditions on the ground in Srinagar had to improve in order to make it safe enough for the group to do so. He said the APHC needed to make some progress with India, gaining some small concessions so the APHC could say they brought something home for the Kashmiri people from their efforts.
Bilal said a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister or prisoner releases alone would not help because they would not change the conditions on the ground for Kashmiris. Instead he said new CBMs to soften the LoC would be more useful, including allowing Kashmiris on both sides to drive their own cars to the other side, opening the LoC to trade and transport from Muzzafarabad to Srinagar, permitting mobile phone links between the two cities, and reducing the paperwork for travel across the LOC on the bus.
In an warning to Prime minister the cable quoted Bilal Saying, “Prime Minister Singh likely had approximately a four month window to make some progress, until May or June 2007, when the snows melt in Kashmir (allowing terrorist infiltration) and political campaigning begins in earnest in the Valley for 2008. If you don’t see a breakthrough in that time, Bilal opined, all their hopes will be dashed until 2014.”
The two then planned to return to New Delhi on February 3rd and stay for several weeks to let things cool off again in Srinagar. “They warn, however, that the terrorist threat will remain acute and they may not be safe even in Delhi,” quotes the cable.
OPENING OF DIALOGUE
“Not waiting for the Delhi-Islamabad composite dialogue to resume, India has moved forward unilaterally on the Delhi-Srinagar dialogue and its efforts for reconciliation in Kashmir. Home Minister Chidambaram announced on October 14 that the GOI will talk directly “with all shades” of separatists as long as they do not espouse violence,” reads the cable. This was the first time since early 2006 that the GOI has publicly said it is willing to talk directly and seriously to Kashmiri separatists.
Embassy has learned that the GOI started talking to the moderate separatists some weeks ago. “GOI had approached the separatists quietly some weeks earlier and the two sides are now engaged,” cable quotes Bilal Lone telling Poloff. “All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq immediately welcomed Chidambaram’s announcement, saying it was a “good step” and “talks are the only way to find a solution to the Kashmir problem.” He noted that he and his fellow separatist leaders had been calling for a dialogue with New Delhi for some time.”
Most of the separatists leaders agree more or less with Mirwaiz’s words but the notable exception is hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Responding to the Chidambaram’s statement, Geelani said: “Talks have been held over 130 times between Kashmiris and New Delhi since March 23, 1952, but failed to achieve desired results. There is nothing new in the offer of talks.” He observed that the Kashmir issue could only be resolved through “tripartite talks or implementation of relevant UN resolutions.”
Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)
J&K Congress Party chief and former Indian Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz was emphatic about the need for progress on confidence building measures. In a September meeting with Poloff, he said the GOI should and will move forward forcefully on measures that will provide “emotional satisfaction” to Kashmiris.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) President and Leader of the Opposition Mehbooba Sayeed Mufti told Poloff that there must be real, not cosmetic, confidence building measures offered by the GOI.
One of the CBM’s proposed was to “Encourage separatists to participate in future elections by providing them incentives – funding, security, press coverage,” reads the cable.
The Indian government, the cable said, “is fully aware of these and other steps it could take and is carefully picking and choosing what is politically possible for it today.”
The list of CBMs is provided to help Washington understand the complicated, multi-faceted problem facing the GOI in Kashmir as it moves forward on what is clearly a high priority for the Prime Minister, Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi.
“Any hint of USG activism in Kashmir, however helpful the intentions behind it, will prove counterproductive because of the GOI’s hypersensitivity to third party involvement in Kashmir. In order for the GOI’s efforts to restore sustainable peace and stability in Kashmir to succeed, its engagement with the separatists and with the Kashmiri people must be free of any perception of outside influence,”according to a U.S. Embassy cable sent by Ambassador Timothy Roemer, which was conveyed to Washington in a cable dated October 22, 2009.
FAZAL UL HAQ QURESHI ATTACKED
The US diplomatic cable talking about the assassination attempt on moderate separatist leader Fazal-Ul-Haq Qureshi says, “ In a reminder that there are many Kashmir-focused terrorist groups who do not want any negotiation or accommodation with India, unidentified gunmen on December 4 shot Fazal-ul-Haq Qureshi.
Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and other moderate separatist leaders pledged to continue the dialogue but the warning from the terrorists groups was unmistakable: “that anyone who talks to the GOI does so at his own risk,” notes the cable.
The cable acknowledging what embassy has argued,”the assassination attempt reinforces what Embassy argued — that one of the biggest obstacles to a successful outcome in the ongoing GOI-separatist dialogue remains the separatists’ fear of assassination at the hands of terrorist groups.”