Brussels meet calls for ceasefire, more J&K-specific CBMs
18 September 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Brussels: International Kashmir Alliance’s third International Kashmir Conference has welcomed the current peace initiative between India and Pakistan but sought more Jammu & Kashmir specific confidence building measures (CBMs). These include a ceasefire between militants and security forces in the strife-torn Indian state, involvement of all separatist and mainstream political organisations with the peace process, operating Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service on daily basis and opening of three more road links between the two Kashmirs within a stipulated time-frame. IKA, which is a conglomerate of the Kashmiri expatriate political groups in Europe, America and many other countries, organised the two-day intra-Kashmir conclave in close vicinity of the European Parliament in this Belgian capital city. Even as the Government of Belgium had turned down visa applications of some senior parliamentarians from India as well as Pakistan, the conference went ahead in the backdrop of crucial developments that included the UN General Assembly session and meetings between Dr Manmohan Singh, Gen Pervez Musharraf and George W Bush in New York. Leader of a faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, also happened to visit New York City around the same time. IKA had organised its first and second intra-Kashmir conferences at London and Toronto in May-June and November-December in 2004. Highlights of its London conclave included speeches from the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the former J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah. Concluding the two-day-long deliberations, an IKA resolution asked both New Delhi and Islamabad, besides the insurgents operating in Jammu & Kashmir, to negotiate a ceasefire between the militants and security forces. It also called for inclusion of all separatist and mainstream political outfits in the comprehensive dialogue process while making it clear that violence was no more justifiedÂ—whatever the cause, compulsion or objective. Asking all concerned parties to work for a peaceful resolution of the vexed political crisis, the IKA resolution emphasised that any attempt of dividing the territories would not be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The conference attended by more than 40 politicians, academicians, journalists, human rights activists and conflict researchers from about a dozen countries — including India and Pakistan— took strong exception to the OIC practice of granting recognition to particular Kashmiri representatives on the recommendations of Islamabad. It observed that OICÂ’s act of honouring and discrediting Kashmiri leaders on IslamabadÂ’s behest was not only an insult to ten million Kashmiris but was also an enormous contributor to political uncertainty in the whole South Asian region. 'OIC must clarify whether it was concerned about Pakistan and her stated political position vis-Ă -vis Kashmir or it was supporting the Kashmiris', said the IKA resolution. The resolution, which would go to New Delhi and Islamabad in the form of a memorandum, hailed the opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road as a substantial historic development in over 50 years of hostilities between the two nations but it stressed on need to improve it into a daily bus service. It was pointed out during deliberations that at the rate of twice-a-month, it would take the enlisted 16,000 aspirants from Muzaffarabad side over 16 years to fulfil their dream of a passage to the Valley. Almost the same was the position from Srinagar side. Asking the two countries to go for cross-border trade via Jammu & Kashmir through trucks and trolleys, the IKA resolution also sought opening of other routes like Jammu-Suchetgarh-Sialkote, Jammu-Mirpur Road and Kargil-Skardu-Gilgit links which had remained closed in the last five decades. Significantly, the conference urged New Delhi and Islamabad to immediately close down their propaganda radio and television channels which were 'thriving with huge funds' notwithstanding the much-hyped peace process between the two countries. It observed that misleading, unfounded and virulent reports of these broadcast stations on Kashmir were playing perhaps the most dangerous role in perpetuating and sustaining the cult of hatred and mistrust between the two peoples. The conference also implored newspapers, news agencies and broadcasting organisations— particularly those in India and Pakistan—to establish the credibility of media by carrying positive stories while, of course, highlighting the agony of the civilian population. It urged media to discourage all voices of extremism and hold all actors of violence accountable for their suppression and oppression. Speakers at the conference expressed grave concern over the fact that a many individuals and institutions had developed immense vested interest in continuation of turbulence in Kashmir and most of them had been overtly and covertly contributing to sustenance of political uncertainty in the embattled State. Some of the speakers were categorical in demanding an answer from mainstream and separatist politicians, officials and bureaucrats, Police, security forces officers and militant leaders, besides the people calling themselves as 'human rights activists' as to what was the source of their overnight fortune in the last 15 years of the Kashmir turmoil. They pointed out that the politics on blood had turned several bankrupt nincompoops into millionaires and multi-millionaires even as the families of those killed by militants, counter-insurgents and security forces had hardly anything to eat. The IKA resolution asked the Government of Pakistan to shed its 'aggression' over the construction of Mangla Dam and respect the aspirations of 1,20,000 residents of Mirpur and its adjoining localities in Pok.