Monday, 21 November 2011

McCain's visit fuels Kashmir grapevine

he two-day visit of US senator John McCain to Kashmir earlier this week has generated a debate here, with some pointing to the fact that he came to the valley directly after Pakistan and some saying he had a serious agenda to pursue.

The Republican candidate for the 2008 US presidential elections lost to Barack Obama and now represents Arizona in the US Senate.

McCain has been the most influential American to visit the valley in the last two decades -- visits by New Delhi-based US ambassadors to Kashmir notwithstanding.

"The fact that McCain came to Kashmir directly after visiting Pakistan has generated an interesting debate here," newspaper editor Bashir Manzar told IANS.

"He is believed to have done some damage control for (Pakistan President) Asif Zardari's government which came under fire from fundamentalists after US marines operated on their own in Quetta against al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

"The fact is that Kashmiris have always reacted with informed speculation whenever somebody wielding international influence comes here," he said.

After he reportedly refused to meet the separatist leaders, hardline Syed Ali Geelani said: "The US senator's meeting with Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah indicated once again the US-India-Israel nexus."

For the local gossip mill, Abdullah's tweet on McCain's visit also came handy.

He posted on micro blogging site Twitter on Tuesday, the day McCain landed in Srinagar: "Meeting senior US senator & former presidential candidate John McCain in Srinagar this afternoon. Am curious to see what his visit is about (sic)."

Even some prominent local daily newspapers published editorial comments about the senator's visit.

"One thing is sure: the visit definitely is not a pleasure trip," said the widely distributed Greater Kashmir in its editorial comment.

When McCain called on Governor Vohra, also present on the occasion were Lt. Gen. K.T. Parnaik, general officer commanding-in-chief (northern command), and Lt. Gen. S.A. Hasnain, commander of army's Srinagar-based 15th corps.

"Matters of mutual interest were discussed during the US senator's meetings with the state governor and the chief minister," said an official statement about the senator's meetings in Srinagar.

During his stay, McCain also visited the Bhat's Clermont Houseboats on the Nigeen Lake. The place has been the favourite haunt of foreign dignitaries visiting Kashmir.

Lord Mountbatten, George Harrison (Beatles), Hollywood superstar Joan Fontaine are just some of the names in the long guest list of these famous houseboats.

"He had some serious agenda to pursue and that is why he came here. You see he was accompanied by his secretaries and others. How could he have been on a pleasure trip?" asked local film producer Javaid Ahmad.(IANS)

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