NEW DELHI: The Indian Express reported on Thursday the handing over of a secret draft agreement on Jammu and Kashmir by the outgoing Indian prime minister to the current one in May last year. The Hindu flashed the picture of a man who claims to be the representative in Delhi of the Baloch Liberation Organisation.

Both stories seem spurred by the memoirs of former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri released in New Delhi this week.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf had hammered out the draft framework agreement on Jammu and Kashmir in secret talks, a senior Indian diplomat familiar with the negotiations has told The Indian Express.

Take a look: Kasuri claims India had planned air strikes in Pakistan after Mumbai attacks

The report follows Mr Kasuri’s identical claim at his book release function here on Wednesday where Dr Singh was present along with Bharatiya Janata Party stalwarts L.K. Advani and Yashwant Sinha.

Paper says India plans to highlight ‘human rights issues in Balochistan’ just as it has begun highlighting alleged excesses in Azad Kashmir

The Baloch issue with India has also figured in Mr Kasuri’s book, though not quite as dramatically as The Hindu report states.

“I want to say here that Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies have a full measure of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There’s no gainsaying that it is a futile and self-defeating motive to hurt the other side, because both are capable of destabilising each other or wreaking havoc. There is no substitute to good sense and for talks at every possible level,” he told this correspondent in a conversation.

Files recording the unsigned documents, exchanged by both sides, were personally handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his predecessor at a May 27, 2014 meeting, the Indian diplomat told the Express.

The paper confirmed that the Indian official was speaking even as Mr Kasuri was in New Delhi to release the Indian edition of his book, ‘Neither a hawk nor a dove’. The Express described the book as the first insider account of India-Pakistan secret diplomacy on Kashmir.

Mr Kasuri’s book quotes General Musharraf as stating that the secret Kashmir agreement envisaged joint management of the state by India and Pakistan, as well as demilitarisation of the territory.

The Indian negotiator said the final draft of the framework agreement in fact spoke of a “consultative mechanism”, made up of elected representatives of the governments of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, as well as officials of the two national governments. The consultative mechanism, he said, was mandated to address regional “social and economic issues”, like tourism, religious pilgrimages, culture and trade.

New Delhi, the official said, had rejected General Musharraf’s push for institutions for joint management of Kashmir by the two states, arguing it would erode Indian sovereignty.

Prime minister Singh’s hand-picked envoy, Ambassador Satinder Lambah, and General Musharraf’s interlocutors, Riaz Muhammad Khan and Tariq Aziz, held over 200 hours of discussions on the draft agreement, during 30 meetings held in Dubai and Kathmandu, the Express said.

“Lambah, a former intelligence official recalled, was also flown to Rawalpindi on a Research and Analysis Wing jet as negotiations reached an advanced stage, travelling without a passport or visa to ensure the meetings remained secret.”

Former president Asif Ali Zardari had sought to revive the talks when he took power in 2008, but was prevented from doing so by Mr Musharraf’s successor as army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“At one time,” Dr Singh admitted at a press conference in 2014, “it appeared that an important breakthrough was in sight. Events in Pakistan --- for example, the fact that General Musharraf had to make way for a different setup --- I think that led to the process not moving further.”

The Hindu, meanwhile, said that the acknowledged presence of the Baloch representative in India would enable India to highlight human rights issues there similar to the way it has begun highlighting alleged atrocities in Azad Kashmir.

The new Indian position over Balochistan became public when (outlawed in Pakistan) Balochistan Liberation Organisation (BLO) representative Balaach Pardili addressed a gathering in New Delhi on October 4, reading out a statement from BLO’s exiled leader Nawabzada Hyrbyair Marri.

The BLO has confirmed to The Hindu about the presence of its political representative in Delhi. Mr Pardili, it said, originally hails from Afghanistan.

He has been living in Delhi since 2009 and was recently contacted by Nawabzada Marri to represent him at public meetings. Mr Kasuri said Pakistan was talking to senior Baloch interlocutors and the Indian revelation was “old hat”.

The London-based Nawabzada Hyrbyair Marri is the leader of Free Balochistan Movement with a militant arm, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), and BLO, the political wing. “I hope to facilitate Nawabzada Marri’s visit to Delhi in near future,” Pardili told The Hindu.

In a statement to The Hindu, Nawabzada Marri said: “We wish that India, the largest democracy, have a clear policy about Balochistan. If Pakistani officials can openly meet the Kashmiri leadership, why shouldn’t India do the same? The Red Cross does not have a hotline on Balochistan despite our repeated pleas. I want India’s help to start a crisis hotline with the Red Cross.”

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2015

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