Tuesday, August 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Take Brajesh off J&K, Jaswant, Advani tell PM
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is believed to be under intense pressure from the ministries of Home Affairs and Defence that his Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra refrain from dabbling in Jammu and Kashmir affairs.

Things have become hot for Mr Mishra as External Affairs and Defence Minister Jaswant Singh has joined hands with Union Home Minister L K Advani on this issue over the past few weeks, according to authoritative sources.

Political equations within the government appear to have changed dramatically since Mr Jaswant Singh was given additional charge of the Defence portfolio after the resignation of the then Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes. Since then Mr Jaswant Singh had accompanied Mr Advani to Srinagar in May this year. Clearly, Mr Jaswant Singh now has a much better appreciation of the ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir as Defence Minister.

The Brajesh Mishra controversy has led to unsavoury situations in the past where the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have been engaged in wordy duels with either side sticking to its known position — the PMO for and the MHA against Mr Mishra’s involvement in Jammu & Kashmir affairs.

Sources said this time the MHA was determined that either it would be the sole incharge of Kashmir affairs or it would have nothing of it at all.

It is also understood that the Prime Minister is inclined to thrash out a solution on this issue, which has been hanging fire for almost two years and favours, convening a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to discuss this delicate matter.

Sources maintain the MHA conveyed an unambiguous message to the PMO on August 8 when it did not invite Mr Mishra for the top-level review meeting on Jammu & Kashmir convened by Mr Advani. To drive its point home, Research and Analysis (RAW) chief Vikram Sood was present at the August 8 meeting on the invitation of MHA. Mr Mishra has been keeping a low profile though he had gone on record that neither he nor the PMO had played an interventionist role in the wake of various allegations.

But post-Kargil, sources stressed the MHA was highly uncomfortable with Mr Mishra’s purported overarching role in affairs connected with the border state. This pertained to Mr Mishra’s reported involvement in Track II talks with the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and militant outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen.

By the second quarter of last year, the PMO (read Mr Mishra) had effectively overshadowed the MHA in the handling of Kashmir affairs and quite often the MHA remained in the dark. Matters took a serious turn when Mr Mishra is understood to have given the green light to a Hurriyat proposal to visit Pakistan.

It was at this stage that the MHA intervened. It exploited a provision in the passport rules which made the MHA clearance necessary for issuance of passports. The MHA, obviously under instructions from Mr Advani, blocked the Hurriyat leaders’ passport applications and the Union Home Minister went on record to say that passports to APHC leaders would be issued after conducting a case-to-case study.

The MHA conveyed to the PMO that Mr Mishra’s move to try to cultivate the APHC leadership had backfired as it not only gave undue importance to the “paper tigers” but provided a lever to Farooq Abdullah to raise the autonomy issue.

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