NEW DELHI, Nov 11: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did not support the Kashmiri cause because he was a victim of secularist ideas, Kashmir's hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said on Thursday.

"Arafat was a symbol of the liberation struggle of Palestine," Mr Geelani told Dawn from Srinagar. "The Palestinian freedom struggle has been akin to our struggle against Indian occupation."

Mr Geelani, a member of the Jamaat-i-Islami, said the late Palestinian leader's travails started with the international conspiracy hatched on May 15 1948 to divide Palestine. "It is very much the same picture here," he said.

But, Mr Geelani added, the Palestine Liberation Organization had not been as enthusiastic about the Kashmiri struggle in the way the Kashmiris had been about a free Palestine.

"The problem here is the secular point of view represented by the PLO which does not see the issues in the right context. Had it been imbued with the concept of Islami millat, the Palestinian movement would have achieved more for itself and for others of the faith struggling against the occupiers round the world," Mr Geelani said.

Meanwhile, India expressed shock and sadness at Yasser Arafat's death. A delegation comprising Foreign Minister Kunwar Natwar Singh, communist leader Sitaram Yechury and Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav will be leading the Indian representation at Yasser Arafat's funeral.

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