Kashmiri separatists seek Saudi mediation to end dispute
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a senior Kashmiri separatist leader, has urged Saudi Arabia to use its influence and bring India and Pakistan closer to solve the decades-long conflict over the disputed Himalayan region.
Farooq arrived in the Kingdom last Thursday to perform the Umrah pilgrimage and his visit, two weeks after the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is being considered significant.
Farooq is chairman of Kashmir’s moderate separatist alliance — the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.
Saudi Arabia has old and close ties with Muslim Pakistan and has also been mentioned as a possible mediator in any political settlement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, where India and Pakistan have been battling for influence since long.
Singh’s visit, the first to Saudi Arabia by an Indian leader since 1982, sought to build economic ties and to enlist Riyadh’s help in improving regional security.
“Currently, a rethink is going on in India. Given the strengthening of ties between India and the Kingdom, New Delhi would be more comfortable with Saudi mediation than any other country,” Farooq told Arab News.
Farooq said Saudi Arabia has a history of playing positive roles in disputes and in addressing the problems faced by Muslims around the globe, particularly in Afghanistan and Palestine.
“Kashmiris would be more than happy if the Kingdom mediated on our behalf.”
Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority region, where anti-India sentiments still runs deep, is claimed both by India and Pakistan but the two rivals rule the scenic region in parts and have fought wars over it.
The appeal to Saudi Arabia for mediation, the first by a Kashmiri separatist since an anti-India revolt broke out in 1989, has come at a time when New Delhi has indicated it was open to a new round of talks with Pakistan, after last month’s dialogue between officials of the two countries ended without a breakthrough.
The Kashmir alliance is still discussing how to seek the Kingdom’s help and have not yet made any concrete plans.
But Farooq said a delegation of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference will visit Riyadh within a month and hold talks with the Saudi leadership.
In the past, New Delhi has always refused third-party mediation over Kashmir and any outside help in improving its relations with Pakistan.
Though Kashmiri separatists believe New Delhi would be more comfortable with Saudi mediation than any other country, will India accept Riyadh’s help for resolution of the Kashmir dispute?