New Delhi, July 14: A controversial Pakistani American, Farooq Kathwari, who had earlier been denied entry into the country for his anti-India activities, has now been granted a visa by the government. Kathwari is the founder of the Kashmir Study Group and is closely identified with the idea of a sovereign Kashmiri entity.
Kathwari, who is originally a Kashmiri, arrives late tonight and is expected to spend time in the capital, Srinagar and in Calcutta. The head of Ethan Allan, a large home furnishings manufacturer in the US, apparently wants to do business in Calcutta — ostensibly sourcing furniture from the city and exporting it worldwide.
He has visited India earlier but was denied a visa last time when he wanted to come for his niece’s marriage.
Apparently, New Delhi did not think that was the real objective of his visit. “He was denied a visa for his anti-India activities in the US,” a source said. Kathwari wields considerable influence in the American establishment on Kashmir and is close to several Congressmen and senators who take interest in Indo-Pak affairs.
The visa this time round is understood to have been given after clearance at the level of national security adviser J.. Dixit. Government sources were tightlipped about the visit. All they would say was that this was a private visit but it would be closely monitored.
Kathwari is controversial as he sponsored a map-making study of Kashmir entitled “Kashmir — A Way Forward” in 1999 which raised a minor storm.
The study, rejected as fanciful by many in India, gave detailed maps of three options.
First, the creation of two Kashmiri entities on either side of the LoC each with its own government, constitution and special relationship with India and/or Pakistan. Second, a single Kashmiri entity straddling the LoC with its own government, constitution and special relationship with India and Pakistan.
Third, only one Kashmiri entity on the Indian side of LoC consisting of those people who are “imbued” with “Kashmiriyat” (the cultural traditions of Kashmir but interpreted by many as a communally constituted entity).
None of the entities was to have an international personality and was to be constituted as a demilitarised zone after ascertaining the wishes of Kashmiris.
However, sources in the government claimed that Kathwari’s visit had no political significance. “India does not accept any political role (for Kathwari) nor does it desire such a role,” a highly-placed source claimed.
“Kathwari has cited personal reasons for his visit and claimed in his visa application that he is interested in manufacturing furniture in India and exporting it. He has family in Jammu and Kashmir and his wife is already in Srinagar. Now Kathwari and his two sons have been given visas,” he said.
Some in the government claimed that Kathwari’s visit might help increase his interest in India. If India wants to increase foreign direct investment, then what is wrong if a Kashmiri Muslim from America also comes forward, they ask.
However, the government is likely to monitor Kathwari’s visit to see what precisely he does during his stay in India. “It remains to be seen whether he meets the US ambassador or Kashmiri intellectuals or separatist leaders in Srinagar and whether he seeks meetings with officials in Delhi. That would allow us to determine whether he is really on a private visit or whether he is being sponsored by a third country or even Pakistan,” a source said.