Kashmir peace meet in US lost in rhetoric
26 July 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: The much-hyped Kashmir peace conference at Capitol Hill here has failed to extricate itself from old rhetoric and move beyond the routine. The so-called freedom struggle was discussed more than the real problem of terrorism prevailing in the State. In this Conference, supposedly on Kashmir, Pakistani speakers out-numbered the non-official Indian participants and they kept up the refrain on 'Kashmir freedom struggle' and 'Indian repression' without saying a word about terrorism in the State. The Indian Government opted to boycott the two day meet that began on Thursday, since it was considered as carrying ' motivated agenda'. Pakistani Ambassador Ashraf Jagangir Qazi and some former Ministers sought to explain away terrorism in Kashmir as a response to the continued denial of the right to self determination. 'Whenever there is injustice, repression and no hope of peaceful redress, there are seedbeds for extremism and terror', Qazi said while speaking in this conference. The Indian participants rebutted the contention, saying that how can the killings of innocent women and children be justified in the name of so-called 'freedom struggle', These were the comments of Rajmohan Gandhi. Janata Party leader, Mr Subramanium Swamy, who also attended this conference was of the opinion that ' we don't allow Kashmir to be taken away by intimidation and threat. If need be, we will send more soldiers there', he made it clear. Contrary to the build-up given by the organizers, only two US lawmakers, known for pro-Pak disposition, showed up at the meet Democratic Senator Tom Harkin and Republican Congressmen Joseph Pits. They too departed after making brief inaugural remarks. These two lawmakers, in low key speeches, confined themselves to issues calling for early resumption of Indo- Pak talks to resolve Kashmir issue. They didn't speak beyond that. Similar sentiments were also expressed by Editor of Jammu based Kashmir Times, Mr Ved Bhasin, who also took part in this meet. 'Apart from dialogue between India and Pakistan, most important thing now is to have dialogues between Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control. This will help change the ground situation', opined Mr Bhasin. While Indian Government had no representative in this fizzled out conference, the same was the response from All Parties Hurriyat Conference, as none of their leaders presented himself for the meet. Organizers confirmed that none of the Hurriyat leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat were expected to attend the meeting. It was learnt that due to non-availability of the travel documents, Hurriyat leaders could not make to the venue. Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh had already made it clear that he would not be attending this meeting.