Indian Scribes, Intellectuals Linked with Fai

Lalit K Jha/Washington
Indian Scribes, Intellectuals Linked with Fai
Separatist Kashmiri leader, Ghulam Nabi Fai, who according to the FBI was a paid agent of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, had roped in several eminent Indian journalists and intellectuals during his more than two decades of high-profile operations.

Kashmir-born and educated at the Aligarh Muslim University, Fai even managed get them in the drafting committee of his annual event "International Kashmir Peace Conference."

Fai, 62, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) from his house in Fairfax in Virginia, an affluent suburb of Washington D.C., on charges of receiving hundreds and thousands of dollars from the ISI and using them for lobbying at the Capitol Hill and holding seminars and conferences.

According to the 43-page FBI affidavit submitted to a US court, the ISI not only funded his Kashmir American Council (KAC), which was run from its headquartered in Washington, but also dictated his speeches, determined who was to be invited to the conferences and even the results.

The five-member drafting committee of the resolution adopted by the two-day conference from July 29th-30th, 2010 included the eminent Indian journalist and former Indian High Commissioner to Britain, Kuldip Nayar, former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi, according to a press release issued by Fai on July 30, 2010.

The conference, held in the prestigious Gold Room of the Rayburn House at the Capitol, was on "India-Pakistan Relations: Breaking the Deadlock over Kashmir".

The resolution titled "Washington Declaration" said the participants "unanimously" expressed grave concern over the "deteriorating" human rights situation in Kashmir and urged the Indian government to withdraw its armed forces from civilian populated areas. It also sought an impartial commission to investigate "killings" in a transparent manner.

According to another press release issued by the Kashmiri American Council for its annual 2010 conference the participants included Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, journalist Harinder Baweja, Ved Bhasin, Editor-in-Chief of Kashmir Times, Gautam Navlakha, Editor, Economic and Political Weekly.

But his conferences were always Pakistan-centric and were heavy with anti-India agenda.

In its invitation sent to the press before the event, KAC listed the Indian Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, as an invitee. But Indian Ambassadors never participated in its conferences as they always knew who KAC was working for.

One of the purposes of inviting eminent Indian journalists and intellectuals was to gain some kind of legitimacy for KAC, highly placed Indian sources said, adding that some of the Indian invitees could have been taken for a ride by KAC.

However, many journalists and intellectuals did not fall into the ISI trap. For instance for the 2010 annual conference, Siddharth Varadrajan of 'The Hindu' was listed as a panel speaker. He did not turn up, informing the organisers that he was bogged down in another pressing assignment.

"I made some enquiries and decided not to attend," he said today when asked about his decision.

Among others in the drafting committee as members for the 2009 resolutions were Bhasin and Navlakha. In both the drafting committees, Fai was listed as a member in his capacity as the host.

The "Washington Declaration" issued at the conclusion of the two-day KAC conference at the Capitol Hill on July 23-24 urged the United States Congress to persuade the US Administration to support the appointment of a special United Nations envoy to Kashmir.

According to an overview of the KAC conference sent to the media after the 2009 event by Fai, Bhasin was quoted as advocating for Kashmir as an independent state in South Asia.

"The only solution is an independent state in South Asia. The status quo is not a solution; the division of the state is not a solution," Bhasin was quoted as saying.

Reacting to this, Bhasin said over phone today,"my policy to attend these conferences was to present my point of view with an objective of peace between India and Pakistan and a solution to Kashmir problem which satisfies the people (of Kashmir) and India and Pakistan".

On the issues of his reported advocacy of independent Kashmir State, Bhasin refused to comment.

He also said he was not aware that ISI had any links with conferences organised by Fai.

"I was told that Kashmir diaspora in the US and other countries abroad were funding it through contributions," he said.

Speaking in the session, 'When Peaceful Protests Fail, What Next?', Gautam Navlakha, editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly, reportedly warned that if the aspirations of Kashmiris continued to be ignored, the armed struggle could start again "which will have repercussions for all of South Asia".
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