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Muslim MPs remembered ...
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Bharatiya Janata party government finally seems to have realized that Muslims too are of some use. The BJP led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre has fully exploited the services of Muslim leaders to further its case against Pakistan in the international forums following the 13 December attack on the Indian Parliament and the following build up on the Indo-Pak borders. 

Several Muslim Parliamentarians and leaders including the deputy chairman, Rajya Sabha Najma Heptullah and senior BJP leader Sikandar Bakht toured extensively the Gulf region and other Muslim countries trying to get their support for India's stand against Pakistan. It is probably the first time that India has tried to reach out so strongly to Muslim countries in the Gulf region and seek their support against Pakistan, believed to be a monopoly of Pakistan. Pakistan has always tried every bit to rally Muslim countries including the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in its favor on Kashmir issue much to the charging to India. 

Najma Heptullah who recently returned to India after visiting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Sudan told the media, 'We do not speak after September 11; September 11 speaks after us'. She described her visit as extremely successful. 

India believes that it is several hard-line countries within the OIC which have kept the Kashmir issue alive against India's interests ever sine 1994 when the Kashmir Contact Group was established under Pakistani pressure. It is being felt in India that post December 13, the Islamic world is far more willing to lend an ear to India's case against terrorism. Riding on that sentiment, India is now looking to tighten the screws on Pakistan through channels which have traditionally sought to strengthen its case. Now in the rapidly changing world scenario, India feels it can effectively work upon the OIC, particularly since words like Jihad used to justify violence have come under close international scanner. 

Heptullah expressed her satisfaction over her just concluded visit saying that the three countries were told that Kashmir is not an Islamic issue as was being projected by Pakistan. In her interactions with her interlocutors, she said that she gave a detailed account of the 13 December attack on Parliament and told the leaders of the three nations that terrorists, organized and armed by Pakistan were behind it. 

She held meeting at the highest level in the three nations. In Saudi Arabia she held an hour-long meeting with Saudi crown prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. The delegation that met the Saudi crown prince comprised TDP MP Yerren Naidu, Haj Committee chairman Tanvir Ahmad and Aligarh Muslim University vice chancellor Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

In Sudan, the delegation led by her met President Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir besides other top leaders and in Kuwait the Indian delegation met crown prince and Prime Minister Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.

Heptullah who explained Indian position in great details said that the leaders from the three Muslim countries asked India to resume dialogues with Pakistan. 'We told them it is Pakistan which has problem with talks not India', she said adding that every time India talked with Pakistan, it got terrorist attacks in return. 

Sikandar Bakht who also visited several Muslim countries with another delegation says that 'the thrust of talks was the state of relations with Pakistan. There was lot of concern on war. Our response was India has never attacked Pakistan. They have attacked us repeatedly. We told them it is not just about Musharraf either. We have suffered terrorism for 20 years, that was long before he came on the scene, he must stop the terror.'

RL Bhatia who visited Egypt, Syria and Jordan with his delegation says that 'the delegation gave details of Pakistan's actions in Jammu and Kashmir assembly, on Parliament and the rest of India. All of them condemned the attacks. We told them that India is ready to talk to Pakistan, but Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism and hand over 20 criminals India wants.'

But several uneasy questions were also posed before the delegations. One of these was the growing relations between India and Israel. When confronted with this question Heptullah said, 'we explained that India's good relations with Israel can only be helpful to the Arab world in their talks. There is no strategic military relationship with Israel and we don't need it.

Bhatia says that 'question of India-Israel relations came everywhere. There is concern that India which has been a friend of the Arabs for long is now tilting towards Israel. Their question was, is there any shift in the policy?' a third delegation headed by MP Anwarul Haque visited Malaysia.

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