Sunday, December 16, 2018 | 11:45 PM

US diplomat visited Srinagar ahead of interlocutor’s appointment by New Delhi: Report

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A United States diplomat visited Srinagar and met three state ministers and civil society activists less than three weeks before the New Delhi appointed Dineshwar Sharma an interlocutor to initiate dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir, a media report said Saturday.

Quoting sources, Indian Express reported that the diplomat wanted “to know the ground situation and understand the feasibility of a dialogue”.

On September 27, Indian Express reported, Joshua Goldberg, political unit chief at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in Washington DC, visited Srinagar along with David Arulanantham, an official from the US Embassy in New Delhi.

The report said Goldberg and David stayed for a night and met three ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti government, human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz, Khurram Parvez of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and two journalists.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had arrived in India a day earlier — the first cabinet-level visit to India under the Trump administration.

Sources said Goldberg was interested to “know the ground situation and viability of a reach out from Delhi, a dialogue process”.

“He was, in diplomatic style, enquiring about the scope for dialogue and whether Kashmiris would welcome dialogue,’’ one among those who met Goldberg told The Indian Express. “He also wanted to know the ground situation, especially after last year’s agitation and spurt in militant recruitment.”

According to Indian Express, when reached for comment, a spokesperson for the US Embassy said: “Officers from the US Embassy in New Delhi routinely travel throughout the country to learn about conditions in different states and meet with members of the government and civil society. As a matter of policy, we do not discuss specifics of our meetings.”

On October 23, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh called a press conference in New Delhi to announce the Centre’s decision to appoint an interlocutor — the government’s first major policy shift on Kashmir.

Singh named former Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma as the Centre’s representative who would “initiate and carry forward a dialogue with the elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in the State of Jammu and Kashmir”.

This announcement was made on the eve of the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to India who visited New Delhi on October 24.

Report quoting sources said Goldberg met Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Lone at his official residence. 

The report quoted Lone as having said he does not remember the meeting with Goldberg. “I do meet visiting diplomats. I don’t remember this particular meeting,’’ he said.

Goldberg also also met Molvi Imran Raza Ansari, senior PDP leader and Minister for Information Technology, Technical Education and Youth Services & Sports, at his residence in Srinagar.

Considered close to New Delhi, Ansari recently helped bring Grand Mufti of Syria Dr Ahmad Bader Eddin Mohammad Adib Hassoun to Kashmir, a visit that was coordinated by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, New Delhi.

The third minister Goldberg met was Chering Dorjay, BJP leader from Leh and Minister of Cooperatives and Ladakh Affairs. “It was a courtesy call. I knew the previous ambassador. There was nothing serious,’’ Dorjay said.