ID: 106645 5/3/2007 10:17 07NEWDELHI2117 Embassy New Delhi SECRET 07NEWDELHI2117 "VZCZCXRO4267 PP RUEHBC RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV DE RUEHNE #2117/01 1231017 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 031017Z MAY 07 FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5339 INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 1395 RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6085 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3531 RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2032 RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4915 RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0649 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4575 RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 6845 RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI RHMFISS/HQ USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC" "S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002117
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2017 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, PINR, PBTS, MOPS, KDEM, KISL, PK, IN SUBJECT: INDIAN DEOBANDIS SAY PAKISTANI JUI-F WILLING TO BROKER PEACE TALKS WITH TALIBAN
NEW DELHI 00002117 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: A/PolCouns Atul Keshap, Reason 1.5 (B, D)
1. (S) Summary: Poloffs met on April 27th with Pandit N. K. Sharma -- who once headed Muslim Outreach for the Rao government and who claims close ties to the Gandhi family -- as well as Maulana Mahmood Madani, a member of Parliament and prominent leader of the Deobandi political organization Jamiat Ulema-e Hind (JuH), a longtime Congress ally. Discussion focused on press reports that Sharma had been shepherding Pakistani Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazl ur-Rahman from meeting to meeting during his April 22nd to 26th visit to New Delhi. Madani said Fazl ur-Rahman wanted to discuss Taliban reconciliation as well as his position in Pakistani politics with U.S. diplomats, but only while outside of Pakistan. Sharma said further that Rahman had met with Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Singh, and National Security Advisor Narayanan during his trip to India, and all had supported his offer of negotiations with the Taliban. End Summary.
Muslim Outreach -- Indian Deobandis to Pakistani Deobandis --------------------------------------------- -------------
2. (S) Poloffs met on April 27th with Pandit N. K. Sharma, former head of Muslim Outreach during the Rao government, who claims close ties to the Gandhi family, as well as with Maulana Mahmood Madani, an Indian MP who heads the Deobandi political organization Jamiat Ulema-e Hind (JuH). Madani noted that the Deobandi sects of Islam in India and Pakistan share similar religious doctrines, but differ widely on political issues. India's founders maintained that religion should be kept separate from politics and Indian Deobandis embraced these principles, while Pakistan's founding Muslim League tried to combine these spheres, with Pakistani Deobandi support. Madani said his organization did not believe in violence and is prepared to preach this message to Deobandi Pashtuns both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Madani said much of the discussion with Rahman centered around these efforts, and that the meetings between Pakistani and Indian Deobandis had gone well. While normally they would get caught up in heated arguments over Kashmir, this issue did not come up. Sharma said privately later that Madani wanted to send 2,000 Ulema to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, broken into groups of five, to preach a non-violent form of Deobandi Islam.
Taliban Reconciliation ----------------------
3. (S) Madani said Rahman had a second, more pressing, issue he wanted to discuss with U.S. officials, but he was only interested in holding these talks outside of Pakistan. Madani emphasized that military efforts to destroy the Taliban would never succeed, and that only a negotiated settlement would end the conflict in Afghanistan. He said has had a bad reputation in Pakistani politics because of hi known ties to Taliban members. Madani explained that Rahman was interested in acting as a go between for the United States, to negotiate with the Taliban in order to bring them into the mainstream and peacefully into politics in Afghanistan. Madani said many of the Taliban were just caught up in the conflict and did not have a way out of it. Which Taliban members were willing to be involved and under what circumstances would have to be worked out in the negotiations.
Politics in Pakistan and Bangladesh -----------------------------------
4. (S) Madani said further that Rahman wanted to become more important in Pakistani politics and that U.S. support of President Musharraf was not helping to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan. He said in contrast to Musharraf, Rahman did not look like he was beholden to the U.S., but that Rahman in reality was more moderate than Musharraf. He claimed further that the JUI-F is gaining ground, would pick up more power in upcoming elections, and should be allowed to play its rightful role in the GOP. Further, Madani asked that talks focus on bringing “like minded” leaders into power in Bangladesh. He said the discussions with the U.S. should be three pronged -- first, Taliban reconciliation; second, Rahman's position in Pakistan; and third, the elections in Bangladesh. Sharma said later that Rahman met with Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Singh, NSA Narayanan, as well as some opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Vajpayee, and that all of them supported these negotiations.
Why Not in Pakistan? --------------------
5. (S) Madani said Rahman could not speak freely in Pakistan, that he would say one thing in Pakistan and something else in India if asked. Sharma said it was important that these talks happen outside of Pakistan for three reasons: First, the former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan was well known and very close to Musharraf. Second, Rahman would jeopardize his position in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) if he had these discussions in Pakistan because the Jamaat-Islamia (JI) disagreed with him politically on these issues, and that extremists in Pakistan would threaten him. Finally, Sharma said India wanted to play a role in the negotiations, which they could not do inside Pakistan. When asked, Sharma agreed that a third country, such as the United Arab Emirates, could also be a viable option.
6. (S) After Madani's departure, Sharma pointed out that Madani is a highly revered leader in Pakistan with several million followers among the Deobandis. He emphasized that Madani and Rahman's combined influence, with U.S. and Indian backing, could break the logjam in Afghanistan and bring the Taliban into the peace process.
Sharma: A Note of Caution -------------------------
7. (S) Comment: Sharma appears to exaggerate his role in the talks, as well as his influence over world affairs. He claimed to have brokered peace talks with the All Assam Student Union for Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980's as well as to have traveled to Iraq on behalf of “people in the U.S.” to meet with Sadaam Hussein before the Gulf War. Sharma also implied that he had ties to India's intelligence agencies, and that talking to him was tantamount to talking to Indian decision makers directly. Sharma may also have been Indira Gandhi's astrologer during her time as Prime Minister. That said, Maulana Madani -- who accompanied Rahman on his New Delhi trip -- is a member of Parliament and is a leader of one of the most prominent and influential Islamic organizations in India. While we remain skeptical that India -- which has long supported members of the Afghan Northern Alliance -- would support such a discussion with Taliban leaders, we think Maulana Madani's efforts, although overly ambitious, reflect his seriousness. End Comment.
8. (U) We cleared this cable with Embassy Islamabad prior to sending. PYATT