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Senior bureaucrat favours US as 'facilitator'
August 08, 2004 16:37 IST
In controversial remarks which are in conflict with India's stand, a senior bureaucrat has said the United States could play a "crucial role" as a facilitator in solving the Jammu and Kashmir issue keeping in view the 'deep mistrust that Kashmiris have of India and their growing mistrust of Pakistan'.
Wajahat Habibullah, a Jammu and Kashmir cadre IAS officer who is shortly completing his scholarship with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and is still in Washington, has said in a special report that 'most Kashmiris regard the US as an honest broker, an opinion rarely held in Muslim countries in the aftermath of 9/11'.
"This view has also been expressed repeatedly in private by several members of the separatist leadership. In fact, Kashmiris credit all positive developments in the region over the past five years to efforts made by the US."
"Given the deep mistrust that Kashmiris have of India and their growing mistrust of Pakistan, the United States might find it advantageous to cultivate its positive image (especially now that that image is beginning to fray because of Iraq)," Habibullah, who has been appointed as Union Textile Secretary, said in the report.
Asked if his remarks were not in concert with the Government's, Habibullah, who had served as Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) in early 1990, said in an email to PTI that the views in the report were not those of the Government of India or of the USIP but his own as a Research Fellow in the USIP.
In his 18-page report titled 'The political Economy of the Kashmir conflict: Opportunities for Economic Peacebuilding and the US Policy', Habibullah gave the historic background of the Kashmir problem and the recent measures taken by India and Pakistan.
A well-known bureaucrat, who came into limelight during the Hazratbal hostage crisis, he has suggested wide-ranging measures for solving Kashmir issue, which included modernisation of Pakistani armed forces to securing foreign investment for the economic revitalisation of the militancy-torn state.
"To date, all attempts by either India or Pakistan to use means to assert their authority throughout the former princely state (Jammu and Kashmir) have only reinforced Kashmiris' sense of separateness, by nurturing the idea among Kashmiris that they are not in control of their own livelihoods and that their government seeks only to exploit them," he said in the report.
"Currently, the Indian Government discourages foreign involvement of any kind in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
"As most of India moves toward greater openness in the world arena, Jammu and Kashmir remains closed. There have been calls, including some from within the US, for India to accelerate the opening of its economy. However, no one thus far asked specifically for the state's economy to be opened," he said.
"I have suggested the role the US could play in promoting investment in the state through its own aid agencies, helping those dispossessed and traumatized by the violence to return to a normal, economically productive life," he said in his report.