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Hand of diplomacy in Ayodhya dispute

July 2: The Kanchi Sankaracharya’s Ayodhya initiative is the net product of hectic behind-the-scenes efforts being made way outside India’s boundaries.

The timing of the visit of United Arab Emirates chief of staff Lt Gen. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zahyed Al Nahyan and his hastily scheduled meeting with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, convalescing from eye surgery, is significant. Vajpayee had yesterday cancelled all his engagements on advice from his doctors, but insisted on meeting this delegation.

Al Nahyans are an influential people in the Islamic world close to the family of All India Muslim Personal Law Board chief Maulana Abdul Rabey Nadvi. Nephew of the more illustrious Maulana Ali Mian, Nadvi is vice-president of the Mecca-based Rabita Al-Adab Al-Islami, a religious school specialising in Arabic literature.

Given his scholarly repute, Nadvi is well known among most ruling families of West Asia, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Sources in the Muslim personal law board said a bit of diplomacy had been used to convince influential members that the Centre was serious about resolving the temple dispute. But they clarified there was no “pressure” from any quarter.

The sources said most Islamic religious schools had strong religious links with Arab states. Indian Islamic thought and seminaries like Nadva, Deoband and Imarat-e-Sharia were highly rated for interpretation and commentary of the Quran, the Shariat and jurisprudence.

Apart from the UAE, Morocco is also said to have played a role in the seer’s initiative. Noted Moroccan scholar Hasan Imrani is general secretary of Rabita Islami and a close associate of Maulana Wazeh Rashid Nadvi, brother of Nadvi.

Given the apolitical profile of the Nadvis and their limited interaction with the government, Dubai, Sharjah and Mecca are said to have had a hand in bringing Delhi closer to Lucknow and Rae Bareli where Nadvi spends most of his time.

Sources said in the past too, Al Nahyans had played the role of informal mediators. They had done some spadework in facilitating Vajpayee’s meeting with then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Lahore bus diplomacy days. Post September 11, the UAE was among the first few Muslim nations to hand over wanted terror suspects to India.

Sources said the Muslim board was flooded with queries from non-BJP parties on its next move on Ayodhya. Emissaries from the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and even the Left parties are reportedly in touch with board members.

Nadvi, who has left for Rae Bareli to avoid the public glare in Lucknow, is believed to have told them he will keep them posted. The board has a fair amount of representation from the Congress and non-NDA parties.

The non-NDA parties are reportedly wary of an out of court settlement as this could give the Vajpayee regime an edge during the November Assembly polls and in next year’s general election.

Even the Congress, which had all along maintained it was open to either a court verdict or a negotiated settlement, is now insisting that any resolution would have to be endorsed by the court. The Muslim board also finds this proposition acceptable.

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