February 2004 News

Kashmir Plebiscite No Solution: CSIS Chief

16 February 2004
Suman Guha Mozumder

New York: Even as India and Pakistan expressed themselves as satisfied at the end of the first day of talks between the two countries in Islamabad, Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, director of the South Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the United Nations resolution calling for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir is no longer relevant as a solution to the Kashmir problem. 'I feel the (1949) UN resolution is not the most practical way to solve the problem.' Schaffer said late last week during a seminar on Kashmir at the United Methodist Church, outside the United Nations building. 'I think we need to take a look at a different direction.' Indo-Pak Peace Talks: Complete Coverage The seminar on 'Peace Moves in South Asia: Different Perspectives' was organized by the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council (KAC), headed by Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai. Besides Schaffer, participants included Saeed Shafqat, Qaid-e-Azam Distinguished Professor at Columbia University; M Yusuf Bach, former advisor to the UN Secretary General; Maya Chadda, Professor of Political Science, William Paterson University, New Jersey; and Karen Parker, human rights lawyer and UN delegate to the International Educational Development. Schaffer expressed guarded optimism about the prospect of success of renewed Indo-Pak talks. Both countries, she said, should see the resolution of the Kashmir problem as part of a larger peace process. 'I think crafting the process is much more important than the end result,' she said. 'No one can determine the shape of the settlement in advance.' Schaffer noted that India and Pakistan have incompatible viewpoints on certain issues, and suggested some basic propositions that should guide the peace initiatives - foremost being the need for India and Pakistan to try and build new relations. She however added that she did not see this happening at least until the end of the upcoming general elections in India. 'In the interim, they must demonstrate that they are capable of achieving something. It would be useful for both of them to address other issues like bilateral trade, or setting up gas pipelines.' While not willing to talk of the final shape a resolution on Kashmir would take, Schaffer said the two countries could consider 'some kind of a special status' for the region, and the setting up of some common institutions. 'I can guarantee that this is not going to be a smooth process, because any peace process is crisis-ridden, and I do not see why it would be different in the case of India-Pakistan talks.' Referring to the role of the US, Schaffer said while the United States is capable of playing the role of facilitator, it would be wrong for India and Pakistan to wait for that before resolving their issues. 'There is no acceptable solution at present, but they have to find one (and) the Indian and Pakistani leadership would have to change their stance and views,' Schaffer said.


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