09 February 2012
By Manoj K Das
In the winter of 2005, when a chill had set in Indo–Pak relations following the Delhi blasts which killed 62 people, an unlikely avenue was explored as a form of Track–II diplomacy. A renowned ayurveda physician from Kerala was dispatched across the border to treat various Pakistani leaders including then PM Shujaat Hussain.
In a top secret operation, the Indian government took Dr Ravindran, medical director of Coimbatore Arya Vaidya Pharmacy who also served as physician to former President K R Narayanan, to Islamabad. It was an idea mooted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, implemented by Hormis Tharakan, then chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and facilitated by Shiv Shankar Menon, at that time high commissioner to Pakistan.
During his stay at Punjab House, Dr Ravindran’s initial list of “patients“ included General Pervez Musharraf.
Some contingency forced Musharraf to change his plan, but his secretary and a woman relative of the general did brief Dr Ravindran about his health condition, especially a nagging spondylitis problem.
The idea of sending an ayurveda expert stemmed from a meeting between Shujaat Hussain and Manmohan Singh. “The PM advised his counterpart to try ayurveda for his ailments. The PM directed the RAW chief to facilitate treatment,“ a person who was involved in the operation said. “It was a wonderful human gesture. Such things keep happening. And, of course, it is all the more special when the bonding is with Pakistan,“ Hormis Tharakan told TOI.
Dr Ravindran arrived in Islamabad in the last week of December 2005 and stayed on till January 2006. It was found that Hussain was suffering from many ailments including neurological problems. “An elaborate treatment regimen was prescribed. Ayurvedic preparations needed for the first phase of the treatment was brought from Delhi by Shiv Shankar Menon,“ the source said.
There was considerable improvement in Husain’s health during the first phase itself. A team of doctors and masseurs under Dr Ravindran was on standby to travel to Pakistan. “But something went wrong and India cancelled the programme. The team was told to stand down. This happened twice. We believe it was some border skirmish that forced India to cancel the initiative,“ the source revealed.
Dr Ravindran, who was in the news recently for treating bomb blast accused Abdul Nassar Madhani, confirmed that he had indeed gone to Islamabad. “For me it is karma to treat a patient, whoever he is. I am not bothered about anything beyond that,“ he said.