Rift in Kashmir panel but no resignations (Lead)

August 9th, 2011 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) A rift over two of three interlocutors on Kashmir participating in conferences suspected to have been funded by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI has cast a shadow on the work of the panel, tasked with drawing a roadmap for peace in the valley. But none has offered to quit the team.

The panel, appointed by the home ministry last year, comprises academician Radha Kumar, journalist Dileep Padgaonkar and bureaucrat M.M. Ansari.

Radha Kumar has written to Home Minister P. Chidambaram following “the smear campaign” by her colleague Ansari over her participation in a Kashmir conference in Brussels suspected to be organised by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

“I am angry with Mr Ansari’s remarks. It appears he is indulging in some smear campaign,” Radha Kumar told IANS. She refused to speak about the letter to Chidambaram but maintained that she would continue working with the panel till the final report was submitted.

The government said the note by Radha Kumar was not a resignation letter as suggested by some media reports.

“The interlocutors have completed their visit of Jammu and Kashmir and are busy finalising their report,” a home ministry spokesperson told IANS.

The other point of tension has been Ansari’s comments against Padgaonkar for attending a conference in Washington organised by Kashmiri separatist and suspected ISI agent G.N. Fai.

“The revelation that Padgaonkar attended an ISI-backed conference and Radha Kumar went for a similar one in Brussels damaged our credibility. In their place, I would have quit,” Ansari had said following the arrest of Fai in the US last month.

Radha Kumar has justified her participation in the Brussels conference jointly organised by James Elles, a member of the European Parliament, and Abdul Majeed Tramboo.

Tramboo, a barrister, runs a Kashmir centre in Brussels which is under the scanner for suspected financial links with the ISI.

Radha Kumar said her participation in the Brussels conference was very well known and she had gone there to present an “unbiased” view on Kashmir.

She said she and other Indian participants, including Kashmiri mainstream politicians, had been in touch with the ministry of external affairs (MEA).

The government, she said, also encouraged their participation in the discussion that was likely to be heavily biased against India.

Following the Brussels conference, the academician added, she accompanied Baroness Emma Nicholson, then EU rapporteur for Kashmir, on a fact-finding trip to Jammu and Kashmir.

Nicholson had written a famous report on the divided parts of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan saying the territory under Islamabad’s rule was suffering from grave poverty and human rights violations.

The interlocutors are expected to meet Chidambaram by the middle of this month. Their term expires in October and they have to submit their final recommendations on the “contours of Kashmir resolution” by then.

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