May 2004 News

No Pak link with Kashmir terror groups, says US

13 May 2004
The Nation
From: IFTIKHAR ALI

NEW YORK: At a congressional hearing on Kashmir held in Washington on Wednesday, the United States reiterated that the dispute should be settled by India and Pakistan in keeping with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Michael Kozak, a senior State Department official, called the U.S. stand on Kashmir 'consistent' and 'even handed', and cited the 1972 Simla agreement as a was to resolve the issue through bilateral negotiations. In his testimony, he also said that there were no connections between the militant groups and the ISI 'per se'. Their relationship was 'in the past.' The US official was accompanied at the hearing by Don Camp of the Department's South Asian bureau. Both officials are deputy principal assistant secretaries, with Mr Kozak carrying the title 'principal deputy assistant secretary.' Capitol Hill observers saw Kozak's remarks that the government of Pakistan has 'no connections' with terrorist organisations operating in the Indian state as the Bush administration's clean to Pakistan in connection with allegations of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. 'None today, whatsoever', said Kozak while testifying before the House Sub committee on Human Rights and Wellness, chaired by Indiana Republican Congressman Dan Burton. Kozak, who heads the Bureau of Democracy, human rights and Labour, was asked by Congressman Crowly if Pakistani government or any Pakistani intelligence agency continued to have links with terrorist organisations, based in Pakistan, which continue to 'infiltrate' into held Kashmir. Kozak said there were only two such organisations i.e. Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Ansar. He said Pakistan had 'some links' with these organisations in the past but not anymore. Regarding the activities of the 'national' human rights commissions in India and Pakistan, Kozak said Indian human rights commission is 'quite limited' and it could not address the atrocities committed by Indian security forces. On the other hand Pakistani human rights commission was more 'independent'. In his prepared statement, Kozak said: 'We are confident that continued dialogue between India and Pakistan and between New Delhi and Kashmiris has the potential to improve human rights in Jammu and Kashmir.' However, he said: 'In the meantime, the US government would welcome greater transparency by the Indian government to allow independent monitoring of alleged human rights abuses by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.' Kozak said 'Pakistan has pledged that no territory under its control will be used to support terrorism in any manner.' He also pointed out that a Kashmir Day speech by President General Pervez Musharraf, 'was more moderate in tone than in past years, stating that Pakistan's support for Kashmir should be political and not military.' When asked if 'infiltration' levels would remain low after snow melting in the area, Kozak said: 'Infiltration levels appear to be down and we hope they will stay down as the snows melt....Pakistan continues its efforts to designate terrorist groups and freeze their assets.' As to how recently the United States had asked Pakistan to cooperate on this issue, Kozak said Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca was in Pakistan this very moment and had already met President Pervez Musharraf. Congressman Dan Burton said: 'The purpose of the hearing was to fully explore the allegations of human rights abuses against Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, women and other minorities, and put the alleged perpetrators of these crimes, as well as governments of India, Pakistan and United States, on notice that this Sub committee is watching their actions closely.' Burton said that if the 'US is serious about building good relations with New Delhi, and rebuilding its reputation around the world as a champion of human rights, then we should not stand by in silence while India perpetrates atrocities against the Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in Kashmir and the disputed territories.' 'Even if we have little power to deter India from repression, we should assert American disapproval more forthrightly,' he said, adding 'Criticising the weak but not the strong is not true leadership.' He was referring to vocal criticism of Cuba and Sudan but not as much about India and China. Robert Guida, the Deputy Leader of Republican majority in New Hampshire House of Delegates, said: 'India cleverly deflects attention from its actions in Kashmir by claiming that the Kashmir insurgency is really Muslim-incited 'cross border terrorism' supported by Pakistan....India's success with this charade depends on public ignorance of the exemption of indigenous freedom struggles from the UN definition of 'terrorism'. Guida, who has paid four visits to Azad Kashmir and met President Musharraf, told the hearing that the Kashmiri resistance to Indian repression is little different than the resistance of American colonists to British occupation during the American War of Independence, adding, 'I assure you, however, that the British never committed such atrocities as are part of daily life in Kashmir.' He said the basic principle to be kept in view was that of self-determination. Congressman Gary Ackerman, a member of the India Caucus and a member of the committee, said that while there has been human rights abuses in Indian-held Kashmir, India, it should be noted was a democratic country whose citizens had a right to change their government, more than what could be said of its neighbours, Pakistan and China. He said India was fighting an insurgency in Kashmir. It was also a nation of laws with a free judiciary and a human rights commission, he claimed . He also called for a condemnation of the human rights abuses committed by the militants. He said the conditions for a plebiscite in Kashmir had not been fulfilled by Pakistan. Secondly, at Simla, the two countries had agreed to resolve the Kashmir problem bilaterally. Selig Harrison, an expert on South Asia, said in the last 50 years there never had been a more promising opportunity for peace in South Asia and for the reduction of tensions in Kashmir. The people there were trapped in the crossfire between India and Pakistan. War inevitably breeds human rights abuses and the only way to end them is to have India and Pakistan carry the peace process forward. Both countries had been guilty of human rights abuses in Kashmir. He said Pakistan encouraged the Kashmir insurgency in 1989 and India over-reacted as countries often do. Things had gone from bad to worse and the Kashmiri fighters had lost the leadership of the fighting in Kashmir to Pakistani, Afghan, Islamic extremist and other fighters 'orchestrated by the ISI.' Harrison said Pakistan must terminate ISI sponsorship of the insurgency and dismantle its infrastructure or the current peace process will break down. He suggested that the US should make clear that it views the Line of Control as the eventual international boundary in Kashmir.' Begum Attiya Inayatullah, who came from Pakistan to appear before the subcommittee, said as a 'daughter of Kashmir who yet breathes the air of freedom' and was appearing on behalf of three and a half million Kashmiri women who are trapped in a human emergency in Indian-held Kashmir. She said besides the massive presence of Indian military and paramilitary troops in Kashmir, there were 16 secret agencies operating there. There were 11 Indian soldiers for every square mile of Indian-held Kashmir. She called Kashmir the 'living inferno', with Indiam army having killed 87,648 Kashmiris since 1989 and orphaned more than 105,000 children. Over 9,000 women had been raped. She called for protecting the life and the honour of Kashmiri people. DR Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri- American Council said expressed deep appreciation for the latest peace initiative between Prime Minister Vajpayee of India and President Musharraf of Pakistan. Vajpayee was on record to have said that the settlement of Kashmir conflict did not need to be within the Indian Constitution, it could be within the parameters of humanity, he said. The reciprocity shown by President Musharraf's was equally optimistic when he said, 'Victory would be neither mine nor Prime Minister Vajpayee's. It would be the victory of negotiations and dialogue.' Much to our chagrin in light of the warming of diplomacy between India and Pakistan and incipient dialogue between India and Kashmiri leaders, the state of human rights in the disputed territory was chilling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience. Human rights violations against Kashmiris cast doubt on India's professed desire to resolve the Kashmiri nightmare. They estrange, not unify. They embitter, not reconcile. They polarize, not moderate', Dr. Fai said. He warned that a massive campaign of brutal suppression has been launched by Indian Army since January 1990. Various estimates are given of the death toll of civilians so far. Making due concession for unintended exaggerations, the figure runs into tens of thousands. Countless individuals have been maimed and thousands of women molested and assaulted. More than 100,000 Kashmiri Hindus who are known as Pandits have been uprooted under deep conspiracy. They are in pain. They are suffering in these refugee camps. This minority community was the clear victim of the tragedy of Kashmir. Jagmohan, then Governor of Kashmir and now the Cabinet Minister of Bajpayee Government wanted this minority community out to portray the movement in Kashmir as communal. He emphasized that the most baffling phenomenon regarding this situation is that it has been allowed to arise and to persist in a state which, under international law, does not belong to any Member state of the United Nations and whose status is yet to be decided by the people of that land. It is interesting to note that when the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-48, the United States upheld the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be decided by the will of the people of the territory and that their wishes must be ascertained under the supervision and control of the United Nations. The U.S. was a principal sponsor of the resolution which was adopted by the Security Council on 21 April 1948 and which was based on that unchallenged principle. He declared that Kashmir was not an integral part of either India or Pakistan. Because under all international agreements, which were agreed by both India and Pakistan, negotiated by the United Nations, endorsed by the Security Council and accepted by the international community, Kashmir did not belong to any member state of the United Nations. If that was true, then the claim that Kashmir was an integral part of India did not stand. If Kashmir was not an integral part of India, then how could Kashmiris secede from a country like India, to which they have never acceded to in the first place? He further insisted that the genuine Kashmiri leadership be included as an equal partner in all negotiations over Kashmir's future with India and Pakistan. No Kashmir solution that fails to command the consensus of the people of Kashmir has a chance of success. Furthermore, simple justice and morality require permitting Kashmiris to participate in charting their own political destiny. Such a participatory role was offered Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, East Timorese in Indonesia, and Kosovar Albanians in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Why should Kashmiris be treated with any less dignity?

 

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