15 August 2004
The News International
Islamabad: A complete and amicable demonstration of national unity on the Kashmir issue was seen in the shape of the recent meeting of the National Assembly's Kashmir Committee. Besides the prime minister, foreign minister and other federal ministers, the leaders of all the political parties including that of the opposition participated in this meeting held on Friday. Foreign minister and foreign secretary apprised the meeting about the progress in Pakistan-India talks. Supporting the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir, the resolution adopted by the meeting demanded that India should stop its repression there, reduce the number of its forces in the Valley and release all the prisoners. It has been urged upon the Indian government that it should remove the fence from the Line of Control and immediately stop the construction of Baghliar dam. Referring to the United Nations resolutions, the meeting reminded the international community of its responsibility in terms of the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir asking it to put pressure on India for this purpose. The Kashmir Committee also urged the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to forge greater unity among its ranks so that the Kashmir problem could be effectively raised at the international level. The Committee also invited the APHC members to visit Pakistan so that the efforts to solve the problem could be accelerated. The meeting also termed as inevitable the participation of the Kashmiris in Pakistan-India talks on the resolution of the Kashmir problem. In fact, it is through this meeting that Pakistan's agreed national stand on the Kashmir issue that had been clouded by doubts and misgivings for quite sometime has once again been brought to the fore. In the meantime, Pakistan showed full flexibility from its side to pave the way for solving the Kashmir problem and during the tenure of the former Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, the possibility that India will also give a similar response looked quite bright. But in view of the attitude of the Congress-led coalition government, the hopeful sign of progress towards the agreed formula by all the stakeholders has diminished. This is being felt not only in Pakistan but in India as well. Pakistan is talking about the timeframe to ensure the settlement of Kashmir issue, but India is not ready to accept this proposal. This by itself creates the impression that by prolonging the negotiations on other issues India, on the one hand, wants to demonstrate to the world opinion that it has been engaged in the dialogue to resolve all the differences with Pakistan and, on the other, keeping to its old strategy it also wants to keep the Kashmir issue hanging so that eventually the people of Kashmir will be tired and become silent about it and then India's forced occupation will become one of a permanent nature. This has been openly talked about in some Indian circles and which is also on record. The heavy increase in the Indian defence expenditure also puts its designs into doubt. In view of this kind of Indian attitude, it is necessary that Pakistan puts aside its unilateral flexibility and reaffirms its principled stand on the Kashmir issue, effectively demanding India to put an end to all such steps which are repressive, illegal and unlawful. The Kashmir Committee has fulfilled this very need. Giving to the people of Kashmir the right to decide their own fate according to the UN resolutions is legitimate and based on principles. The whole world community is witness to it, before whom India has promised time and again to grant this right to the Kashmiris. In fact, there is no other way for the just settlement of the Kashmir problem. However, if India showed any flexibility, Pakistan may also show its readiness to find a mid way. If India does not show any flexibility, it is only right that Pakistan should firmly uphold its principled stand. The Committee has shown awareness about it. Despite Pakistan's persistent protests, India continued fencing the Line of Control which has now been completed. In order to maintain the atmosphere of goodwill, this issue was not raised by Pakistan at the foreign minister-level talks, but now the Committee has demanded to remove the fence which means that it has not been accepted by Pakistan and it still insists on its removal. In view of the declaration about the fence being raised in Palestine by Israel as illegal by the International Court of Justice, Pakistan's stand on this issue has received greater strength and it should not hesitate in accelerating its effort in this regard. By inviting the leadership of the APHC to come to Pakistan, to exchange views with the committee and emphasising on the presence of the Kashmiris as inevitable, an important need has been fulfilled because the problem can neither be assessed from various angles in the perspective of the present situation nor agreed solutions can be found out. Viewed from this perspective, this meeting of the Kashmir committee seems to be highly useful. The overwhelming presence of the opposition along with the government has made it the spokesman of the viewpoint of the entire nation. However, it is not understandable as to why the resolution passed in the meeting has called for the reduction of Indian armed forces rather than asking for their complete withdrawal. India has no justification for either foisting its forces, whether in large or small numbers, on the Kashmiris. The demand for the reduction in the Indian army is like providing justification for their presence. It is, therefore, essential that an unequivocal demand be made for the complete withdrawal of the Indian forces so that the Kashmiris are saved from cruelty and oppression, the tension in the area ends and the way is cleared for the solution of the problem.