Josy Joseph in Srinagar
The Bush administration in the United States plans to set up its own intelligence network in Jammu & Kashmir for independent inputs on the situation in the state.
Reliable sources said a group of officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in New Delhi visited the Valley early this year and made contact with several people, "basically second-rung leaders of the Hurriyat and some prominent locals," according to an Indian official in Srinagar.
A second-rung Hurriyat leader and a prominent youth leader of the J&K Liberation Front said the American attempts at creating an intelligence network "began some time last year with contacts with people amongst us."
Officially, the FBI does not play any role in gathering external intelligence. The agency set up an office in New Delhi after President Bill Clinton's visit last year.
Indian officials believe the FBI office "will provide the key input on Kashmir for the US administration."
"During the Clinton period, we found that whatever information we shared with the US was almost fully corroborated and agreed to in public by the administration," a senior official in Srinagar said.
"We have definite information that their recent visits are part of their attempts to set up their own, independent information-gathering machinery. Probably, they want to get an entirely free and strictly independent perspective. That could be decisive for India," a Union government representative in Srinagar told this correspondent.
The FBI team's visit to the Valley is believed to be the beginning of US efforts to provide a fresh perspective on the situation in Kashmir independent of the growing threat of Islamic terrorism around the world.
Sources indicated that a team of officials from the US Central Intelligence Agency may visit the Valley in the next few weeks.
Senior government officials indicate that the peace efforts in Kashmir could pick up steam once the Bush administration settles down. President George W Bush has yet to appoint an assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, to succeed Karl F Inderfurth. "After that we could find some stepped-up efforts," a senior official said.
Meanwhile, senior Hurriyat Conference leader and pro-Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani demanded that the United Nations impose sanctions on India. Reacting to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's ongoing visit to South Asia, Geelani said, "He should know which country has been creating obstacles for the implementation of UN resolutions."
The J&K cease-fire
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