- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

Kashmir's complaints
A leader of an umbrella group of political parties fighting for the independence of Kashmir says India should withdraw its troops from the disputed territory before any negotiations on its future begins.
Abdul Ghani Lone, a senior leader and past chairman of the All-Party Hurriyet Conference, charged the Indian troops with killing and raping innocent Kashmiris.
"The presence of 700,000 troops prevents free and fair elections" in the Himalayan territory claimed by India and Pakistan, Mr. Lone told editors at The Washington Times last week.
New Delhi says the claims of excesses by the Indian army are unfounded. "The real purpose of the troops is to prevent and uproot cross-border terrorism," an Indian Embassy spokesman told our correspondent Desikan Thirunarayanapuram.
Mr. Lone said Pakistan, which controls one-third of Kashmir, should be part of the negotiations, but his group would be willing to "share its ideas" with Indian officials even without the involvement of Pakistan. India, which considers Kashmir an internal issue, says Pakistan is occupying a part of it illegally and refuses to discuss the region with its South Asian nuclear rival.
Mr. Lone, who welcomed help from Afghanistan's Taliban militia before it was ousted by U.S.-led forces last year, said the Kashmir struggle was being "hijacked by outsiders." He and other Kashmiri political leaders since have called for the withdrawal of the foreign "jihadis" from Kashmir, he said.
"In fact, my call to the jihadis to leave Kashmir angered many leaders in Pakistan," he said, adding that the number of foreign terrorists trained in Osama bin Laden's Afghan camps operating in Kashmir has been reduced since the U.S.-led war against terrorism began.
Mr. Lone, a Muslim, is a former legislator and minister of Jammu and Kashmir state. He said he is holding a series of meetings with the Hindus of Jammu and Buddhists of the Ladakh region of the state to find a solution acceptable to all the regions and religious groups.

Fischer joins staff
Walter "Skip" Fischer has joined the Republican staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a specialist on Middle East and South Asian issues.
He most recently served as an adviser to Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican. He replaces Danielle Pletka, a vice president on foreign and defense issues at the American Enterprise Institute.

Diplomatic traffic
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who addresses the Anti-Defamation League. He meets President Bush tomorrow. Mr. Sharon is accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, Education Minister Limor Livnat and Tzipi Livni, a Cabinet minister without portfolio.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who meets President Bush, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and members of the Senate. He also addresses the U.S.-Uganda Friendship Council. Tomorrow, he meets members of the House and addresses the Corporate Council on Africa.
Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who meets President Bush tomorrow and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Wednesday. He also meets members of Congress and addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Pakistani Interior Minister Moeenuddin Haider.
Mairam Akaeva, the first lady of Kyrgyzstan, who meets Lynne V. Cheney, the vice president's wife, and members of Congress.
Ambassador Sergio S. Amaral, Brazil's minister for development, industry and foreign trade. He convenes a meeting of the Brazil Working Group at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Ruud Lubbers, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, who holds a 9 a.m. news conference at the National Press Club to discuss his visit to Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
King Abdullah II of Jordan, who meets President Bush.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who addresses the Brookings Institution.

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