NEW YORK - A senior Indian diplomat has endorsed the US action against the Kashmiri American Council, whose executive director Ghulam Nabi Fai was arrested on Tuesday, saying that the Washington-based group, which was promoting the cause of Kashmir's freedom, had been an "irritant." The group has been an irritant, but now its not a larger threat because the larger relationship with the United States is on a sounder footing, the diplomat, who was not named, told The New York Times. Dr. Fai, who was picked up from his residence in Fairfax, Virginia, is accused of getting money from ISI and using it to lobby for the Pakistani government inside the United States. The Indian diplomat claimed that Kashmiri councils influence had waned in recent years as the United States-India relationship improved, and was less subject to the pressure of a single prominent issue like Kashmir. It seemed to attract a core group of supporters, he said. It was mostly the same people, the same issues, the Indian diplomat was quoted as saying in the course of a Times dispatch on the activities of the Kashmiri council. Fai, 62, and and another US citizen Zaheer Ahmad, 63, have been charged with acting as agents of a foreign government without registering with the Justice Department as required by law. Ahmad is reported to be in Pakistan. If convicted, they would face up to five years in prison. The allegations come at a time of deteriorating relations between the Obama administration and the Pakistani government, which is angry about secret US operations that led to the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Daniel Markey, a senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, said officials in Islamabad will likely view the charges as retaliation for Pakistani criticism of US spying efforts there. The State Department declined to comment on the timing of the case. But political observers here said the timing assumed added significance as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in India when US authorities crackdown on the Kashmiri American Council, a body over whose operations India had protested several times. "The move was virtually a gift from Hillary Clinton to India," one observer commented. A soft-spoken father of two, Fai is a leading voice in the debate over the future of Kashmir. He has been pushing for a peaceful settlement of the decades-old Kashmir dispute based on U.N. resolutions which call for a plebiscite. Fai's arrest and the claim that he was funded by ISI has caused problems to pro-Pakistan US lawmakers, who are now appear to be distancing themselves from the Kashmiri activist. Last summer, a group of congressmen, including Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania; Dan Burton, Republican of Indiana; and Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, vowed to work with t the Kashmiri American Council, in efforts to pressure the United States and both sides to reach a settlement, according to The New York Times. Those lawmakers and other members of Congress, over time, took steps sought by the council, introducing resolutions on the House floor, taking trips to the region and speaking up at hearings or news conferences to pressure the White House to take a more aggressive role, the Times said. "What they did not know, though, is that the Capitol Hill gathering, and others they participated in over the years, had secretly been financed by Pakistan s military including its powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI," the Times said. "The lawmakers have been caught up in what the Justice Department now says is a scheme over two decades to influence Congress and the White House, with the goal of forcing India to give up control of parts of Kashmir," the dispatch said. According to court documents, cited by the Post, Fai "met dozens of times with lawmakers and set up annual conferences on Capitol Hill at the request of the spy agency even as a network of straw political donors, reimbursed by the Pakistan military, made as much as $100,000 a year in campaign contributions." Foreign governments are not permitted to make donations to American political candidates. "The councils strategy has played out, at least in part, as hoped. The White House through several administrations, including that of President (Barack) Obama has largely maintained a stand that Pakistan and India should resolve the dispute on their own. But the lawmakers helped turn up the heat on all of the players, as ISI had sought," the Times said. Some members of Congress, in interviews with The New York on Wednesday, said they did not know they were part of a foreign intelligence plot and asserted that any actions they took or statements they made were based on their own beliefs about the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Kashmir. The whole world ought to be concerned about the potential for war between India and Pakistan , Kucinich was quoted as saying. But some added that they were angry now to learn about the scheme. I dont like to be used by anybody, Pitts was quoted as saying. It is very upsetting. The campaign, which cost the Pakistani government at least $4 million since the mid-1990s, included matters as simple as getting lawmakers to raise questions about Kashmir during hearings, like a July 2009 House committee appearance by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the newspaper said. "Mr. Fai, at the direction of his handler at the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, had pressed 'numerous members of Congress' to quiz her on the topic," according to a Justice Department affidavit. Kashmir did come up at the hearing, the Times said. If something were to happen in Kashmir, we could have an explosion that involves two nuclear powers faced off against one another, Congressman Jerry Lewis, Republican of California, said to Mrs. Clinton, asking her to be sure that your people are intensely involved in looking at this. Lewiss office said Wednesday that it had no record of being asked by Fai to raise the question. A spokesman for the office said that it had no recollection of ever speaking with him or his nonprofit group; the congressman raised the topic, his spokesman said, because of his long concern about the region. Pakistan, over the years, has had official lobbyists in Washington, spending nearly $3.5 million on four lobbying firms over the last two years, according to federal records cited by the Times. Mark Siegel, of Locke Lord Strategies, who has handled the account on and off for years, told the Times that he had not worked with Fai or his group. Fai was charged with failing to register with the Justice Department that he was serving as an agent for the Pakistan government. The Times' report said Burton has taken an "aggressive role" in promoting the agenda pushed by Fai, who testified at a House subcommittee hearing at which the Congressman presided. Burton has introduced legislation over the years that would have terminated humanitarian aid to India unless it repealed laws that he said permitted widespread human rights abuse in Kashmir . As recently as September, he criticized the Obama administration for failing to take up the topic. The paper said Burton, on Wednesday, declined a request to address his ties to the group, simply repeating a statement he issued Tuesday saying he no idea the council was linked to any foreign intelligence operation. Kucinich, who was invited by Fai to attend the Capitol Hill event last July, said the conference featured prominent academics and foreign dignitaries from India and Pakistan, so there was no reason for him to be suspicious about who might be behind it. He noted he had taken votes since then that would have eliminated some military financing for Pakistan to punish it for its apparent lack of assistance in helping the United States find Osama bin Laden. Several weeks after the 2004 donation, according to The Washington Post, Pitts introduced a resolution in the House urging the appointment of a special envoy to push for a peaceful resolution of the dispute in Kashmir, which has long been divided between Pakistan and India. A Pitts spokesman told the Post Wednesday that there was no connection between the donation and the resolution, and said the congressman was very upset by the allegations against the Kashmir council. He was astonished when he heard about this, spokesman Andrew Wimer said. He had worked on Kashmiri peace before he ever met this group. He has also remained critical of the Pakistani government throughout his time in Congress. In Pakistan, the Post said the military and intelligence apparatus on Wednesday, where many suspect the timing of the charges was in retaliation for recent expulsions and arrests of Americans in Pakistan. It seems that some elements in Washington are against the normal ties, and whenever efforts are made to iron out the differences, then such sort of incident occurs, one unnamed Pakistani intelligence official was quoted as saying. He added that Pakistan would protest the accusations as baseless propaganda. The ISPR spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, referred questions to the foreign ministry, which did not respond to several calls, according to the Post. Gen. Abbas said he had no information about the military officials named in the FBI affidavit as Fais handlers over the years. The retired people, really, are out of the establishment and they are on their own. For technical purposes, they are civilians, Abbas said. Mahmud Ali Durrani, a retired army major general who served as Pakistani ambassador to the United States from 2006 to 2008, said he was taken aback when he heard about the arrest of Fai, who he said was a familiar figure at the embassy and in Washington. He seemed a very mild, soft-spoken gentleman. He didnt look like Mr. Spy Man, Durrani said. Referring to the ISI, Durrani said: Im quite surprised. I didnt know they would have such a long-standing, subtle campaign. Durrani said it was likely many in Pakistan would conclude that the charges are part of an Indian scheme to stifle discussions of Kashmiri independence.