Originally Published 2011-08-01 00:00:00 Published on Aug 01, 2011
The activities of Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council, which became public after his arrest, show how vulnerable the India-Pakistan engagement could be to Pakistan Army?s dogged pursuit of anti-India policies.
Fai's ISI connections: Few implications
The arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council by the FBI has clearly exposed how ISI has been using NGOs to camouflage its terrorist activities. Fai was a front for lobbying policy makers in the international capitals on the issue of Kashmir. What makes Fai's arrest significant is the manner in which ISI has hoodwinked the US policy makers through persons like Fai while running terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) which killed American citizens.

The fact that Fai was paid a relatively nominal sum of US $4 million over two decades by the ISI should not lessen the gravity of Pakistan's duplicitous games. Fai's is only one of the many NGOs which the ISI operates in different parts of the world as part of Pakistan's overall lobbying efforts.

It is still an open question whether Fai was directly or indirectly used by the ISI or terrorist groups to generate funds for terror activities. The extent of ISI's manipulation of public opinion on Pakistan's deep rooted involvement in terrorism could be gauged from a simple fact that till recently the LeT was considered as a 'Kashmiri jihadi group'.

Of the many issues Fai's arrest underlines, the most obvious one relates to Kashmir. Fai's activities in Washington and elsewhere show how one arm of the state, Pakistan Army, was drumming up support against India even as other arm, the civilian leadership, is engaged in a 'dialogue for peace' with India. This episode showed the extent of Pakistan's obsession with Kashmir and the vulnerability of the composite dialogue to its `Kashmir policy`. Fai's arrest also showed how very little had changed in the military leadership's attitude towards India despite looming domestic challenges.

Fai's arrest also reveals the underbelly of the Pakistan-US relations. Many believe that the Fai episode could be part of the increasing spat between the intelligence agencies of both the countries ever since al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was tracked and killed in Abbottabad on May 2 this year. Even before Laden's killing, a serious rift had erupted between the 'allies' over the arrest of a CIA operative, Raymond Davis. After Osama bin Laden was killed in a surprise raid, the Pakistan authorities rounded up several persons who had helped the CIA to track down the terror fugitive. Among them was a doctor who helped the CIA to establish, through DNA samples, that it was indeed the Laden family which was staying at the Abbottabad mansion. The US wanted Pakistan to release the doctor and allow him to leave Pakistan. Pakistan refused.

The spat intensified after the US halted reimbursements to Pakistan citing audit objections and in return Pakistan refused visas to CIA officials and diplomats. Pakistan also restricted the movement of US officials inside the country. Fai's arrest, although he has been operating in Washington for over two decades, seems to be a piece of this jigsaw puzzle.

The arrest also points to the strength as well as existing vulnerabilities in the India-Pakistan reconciliation process. It was a sign of maturity and commitment that both the countries decided to 'ignore' the Fai arrest and go ahead with their bilateral engagement in July. But Fai's activities, which became public after his arrest, do show how vulnerable the bilateral engagement could be to Pakistan Army's dogged pursuit of anti-India policies.

(Sripathi Narayanan is a Research Intern with Observer Research Foundation)

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