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Architects and wreckers of the Kashmir plan

The real architects of the dramatic but short-lived ceasefire between militants based in Pakistan and the Indian Government in Jammu and Kashmir in 2000 were Mansoor Ijaz and C.D. Sahay.

Gulf News

The real architects of the dramatic but short-lived ceasefire between militants based in Pakistan and the Indian Government in Jammu and Kashmir in 2000 were Mansoor Ijaz and C.D. Sahay.

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Ijaz is a Pakistani-American, described as "the peacemaker"; Sahay, a faceless bureaucrat who later headed India's intelligence wing.

The men who derailed that historic peace effort, according to Ijaz, were India's then Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani and Pakistan's intelligence chief General (Retd) Mahmoud Ahmad.

Ijaz, an American-born Pakistani, whose father Dr Mujaddid Ijaz was an early pioneer in developing Pakistan's nuclear programme, has been at the heart of major security issues for over a decade.

A nuclear scientist, he exposed A.Q. Khan's nuclear network.

As India and Pakistan take another crack at peace, Ijaz says the plan forged in 2000 by him and Sahay was way ahead of its time but can still be the route to peace in Kashmir.

Confronted with the very same challenges they faced five years ago, Ijaz and Sahay, then deputy head of the Research and Analysis Wing, together orchestrated the steps that brought hostilities to an end between the Indian Government and the militants in 2000.

Mansoor Ijaz
Sahay, who will only say he was "at the right place at the right time", has recently retired from government service. He remembers Ijaz with fondness.

"I trusted his judgment," said Sahay, speaking from New Delhi. He described his first meeting with Ijaz in a Delhi hotel as a "turning point" for efforts to make peace.

Once this unlikely peace negotiator whose Pakistani roots, nuclear physicist father and close association with a US president working against him won the official's trust, the doors opened; starting from then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to his hawkish deputy Advani, Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra.

Intelligence sources indicate Ijaz entered India on secretly issued out of passport visas to work with Sahay on orchestrating calibrated steps that finally managed to win Delhi's support. It brought an end to Indian military operations.

These bore fruit when senior policymakers and military officials in Islamabad became curious about how an American of Pakistani origin gained such high level access in Delhi, sparking a problem in Pervez Musharraf's fledgling government.

Ijaz's personal intervention also brought Kashmiri militants to the forefront.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's chief Yasin Malik silenced separatists supporting the militancy about India's intentions at a New Delhi conference on Kashmir where Ijaz was shouted down.

Later he met with Sahay in Ijaz's Delhi hotel room. Ijaz persuaded him of Sahay's intent. Enough for Malik to make a stab at peace.

In a May 2000 meeting with Musharraf, which lasted three hours, Ijaz persuaded the Pakistani leader that a genuine "framework for peace" that would empower both civilian and militant Kashmiris as partners in peace was possible with the new change of attitude in New Delhi.

But in a series of well-documented moves, and despite Ijaz's direct talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen and Hurriyat leaders and the backing of US President Bill Clinton, the ceasefire slowly unravelled.

Ijaz says that Mahmoud and later General Aziz, chief of staff, were adamant in not allowing the Musharraf government to be seen as having "sold out" the Kashmiri cause.

In turn, India famously refused to allow the separatist Hurriyat to travel on Indian passports to Pakistan.

Ijaz said, "I made one fatal mistake in this effort. After a meeting attended by senior members of the Jamaat-i-Islami and ISI, in which I had conducted a conference call with Sahay, I rang one of Advani's key aides and briefed him."

That briefing, which indicated that genuine peace was attainable with the support of Pakistan's largest Islamist group, turned into Ijaz's nightmare when he returned to New Delhi to find that Advani had unceremoniously ended any chance of the Hurriyat being allowed to travel to Pakistan as a coordinated step in the dance that he and Sahay were conducting for peace.

Several years later, Advani was invited to meet with members of the US Council on Foreign Relations, where Ijaz is a member. Ijaz asked him why he had done so.

Advani told him "India does not do business with terrorists, we do not allow terrorists to travel on Indian passports."

As the Hurriyat steps up its demand for permission to travel to Pakistan and talk to the Hizbul and resurrect a cease-fire, India and Pakistan would do well to revisit the Ijaz-Sahay peace track and give it new life.

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