The complex dynamic of Kashmir conflict is difficult for many to understand. But scores of leaked US cables bring out an assessment that is both revealing and damning. Kashmir Life delves into the communication for an understanding of how America looks at what it once described as the most dangerous place on earth.
‘Kashmir Politics Filthy As Dal Lake’
For a former US ambassador to New Delhi politics in Kashmir is “as filthy as Dal Lake”.
In a confidential cable sent from the US embassy in New Delhi in February 2006, the then US ambassador to New Delhi David Campbell Mulfordsaid politics in Kashmir was “as filthy as Dal Lake”. In scores of cables – leaked by the whistleblower website Wikileaks, numerous instances explained vested interest of the ‘stakeholders’ in keeping the Kashmir pot boiling.
“Corruption cuts across party lines and most Kashmiris take it as an article of faith that politically-connected Kashmiris take money from both India and Pakistan,” a cable noted. Mulford wrote in the cable that a Kashmiri businessman told embassy officials that Mirwaiz (UmerFarooq) had acquired property in Dubai and the Kashmir Valley as a result of payoffs to him by various intelligence agencies (both Indian and Pakistani). “We hear allegations such as these about politicians of all stripes in Kashmir.”
The cable is unforgiving of the the government too and notes some “security force officers bribe their way into Kashmir assignments that give access to lucrative civil affairs and logistics contracts”.It also referred to a newspaper report suggesting a “retired minister for Irrigation and Flood Control” embezzled funds and then constructed two large homes in Srinagar.
The cable also concerned with money coming into Kashmir to distort politics there. Pakistani and Indian intelligence agencies as well as Saudi Arabia and other foreign extremists, the cable said, incentivized leaders to perpetuate the conflict, and perverted state and central government institutions.
“While this river of dirty money has led to a boom in Kashmiri household income and real estate prices, it also calls into question whether the Kashmiri elite truly want a settlement to their problems,” the cable said.
“The minute a deal is struck, some must surely worry that the funds will dry up.”
In an April 2006 cable, Mulford wrote that when a non-Hurriyat separatist Yasin Malik asked people belonging to a moderate separatist Bilal Lone’s area to refuse government compensation (paid for every innocent killing), the latter told US officials that “Yasin(Malik) should give up ‘a month of his Pakistani salary’ to compensate the families of boys killed”.
The cable also quotes president of a mainstream political party Ms Mehbooba Mufti accusing New Delhi of returning “to its customary bad old ways” before April 24, 2006 by-elections. The Intelligence Bureau, the cable quotes Ms Mufti alleging, had given Sajjad (Gani Lone) one crore rupees in lieu of supporting an independent candidate secretly affiliated with him. “Sajjad’s happiness may stem in part from tapping into new streams of Indian money,” the cable noted.
Mulford informs Washington that “throughout all of our interactions with Kashmiris” the recurring theme is “how Indian and Pakistani money has made all Kashmiri political actors dependent on handouts?” and adds “Omar and Farooq Abdullah, descendants of the Shaykh (Sheikh Abdullah) who first figured out Delhi’s money game, live in fabulous houses in Srinagar and Delhi, wear matching Panerai watches, serve Blue Label to the guests, and travel all over the world first class courtesy of the Indian government.”
The US ambassador also appeared pained about lack of progress on the developmental front. “The state administration gets rivers of money for development but the streets in J&K are appalling, even by Indian standards,” he noted in the cable. “Army officers, we have heard, allegedly bribe their superiors for postings to J&K to get their hands on the logistics contacts and “hearts and minds” money.”
Mulford noted that two leaders also admitted that there is money and vested interest at galore. “Sajjad(Lone) lamented that the conflict remained lucrative to many, and he is right,” …. “CPI (M) legislator Yusuf Tarighami also told us too many people have a stake in the conflict’s perpetuation.” The Ambassador noted thateven a senior separatist leader Yasin Malik lamented that “Kashmiri politics is no longer about ideology, it’s all a money game.”