Conference told that Kashmiris alone hold key to solution
21 July 2006
The Daily Times
Washington DC: A two-day Kashmir Conference which opened on Wednesday heard speaker after speaker declaring that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were the key to a solution of the dispute and any settlement made over their heads would not hold. The International Kashmir Peace Conference, sponsored for the sixth year by the Kashmiri American Council and the Association for Humanitarian Lawyers, is being attended by delegates from India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Europe and the United States. Several congressmen addressed the delegates, all of them emphasising the central role the people of Kashmir must play in any effort to resolve the dispute. The first panel was chaired by Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani of Pakistan, who said that only an out of box solution will work. India and Pakistan together jointly hold the key to the settlement of the issue. Kamal Chenoy from New Delhis Jawahar Lal Nehru University told the conference that India is a large part of the problem politically. Kashmir, he stated, has become a hostage to growing chauvinism. He blamed the media in both countries, as well as the authors of school textbooks of promoting hatred and misrepresenting facts. He blamed his country for holding the ISI responsible for anything that goes wrong. He made light of the ongoing peace process, observing that the two countries were holding talks about talks. He said the Kashmiris want freedom and the unification of their land. They want respect for their rights and an end to oppression. He rejected the Indian argument that the Kashmir issue is nothing more than cross-border terrorism, pointing out that the issue predates what has come to be known as cross- border terrorism. He said the 1989 uprising in Kashmir was a reaction to the rigged elections of 1987. He castigated the draconian laws in operation in Kashmir, observing cynically that the Supreme Court of India was more interested in protecting national rather than human security. The situation in Kashmir is much worse today than earlier, he added. India believes that over time the Line of Control will become the permanent border. What we have today is time without war not peace. Former Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider, referring to the Mumbai blasts, pointed out that while no formal accusations have been made, doubts and suspicions have surfaced. There is a pause in the peace process. Terrorism, he stressed, must be curbed or the peace process will be reduced to a stop-gap arrangement. There is a strong desire on the part of the people from both sides to come together. It is also essential that the Kashmiri people should be associated with the peace process. The step-by-step approach must be hastened and enlarged. There should be a common perception of the goal the two countries wish to reach. Yusuf Buch, a leading authority on Kashmir, said that conferences such as the present one had failed to make dent in the hardened stance of irrationality that had come to characterise the Indian position. The Indian strategy was not to resolve but dissolve the dispute and soften appearances for a largely uncaring world. Adjustment of relations between Srinagar and New Delhi is not a solution, he stressed. Pakistan has become a passive observer of events. The much-trumpeted bus service between the two parts of Kashmir means little for the Valley and its people. Photo-ops in Pakistan with favoured Kashmiri leaders will resolve nothing. Those who did not follow the establishment line were dubbed as extremists and those who did became moderates. At the heart of the Kashmir dispute lay the issue of sovereignty, which cannot be finessed or wished away. He called the currently bandied about concept of self- government in Kashmir dangerously facile. He asked if the uprising in Kashmir was aimed at winning self-government. Did thousands die to have Article 370 of the Indian constitution reinstated? Buch said it was erroneous to believe that fatigue with the insurgency means acceptance of military occupation. Similarly, it is wrong to assume that because Pakistan has made endless sacrifices for the Kashmir cause, its government is now entitled to abdicate that cause. He said any solution to be acceptable must have a rational framework and be transparently democratic. It must not be imposed. The choice of a plebiscite to settle the Kashmir issue, he recalled, was proposed by the governments of India and Pakistan themselves. However, it ignored the existence of six different regions that made up the Kashmir state. He proposed the establishment of an international geographers commission which should demarcate the six regions of Kashmir as a forerunner to ascertaining what each region wished. Yasin Malik, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, told the conference that while Kashmir is bleeding, India and Pakistan are trying to outdo each other. The Kashmiris want to be heard. India has used violence to subdue the Kashmiris but it has failed because history shows that the Kashmiris can only be conquered through spiritual means. He called Indias rejection of President Musharrafs demilitarisation proposal a tragedy. That sent a wrong message to both Pakistanis and Kashmiris. He said the peace process now underway is one-sided. Neither government has been able to identify the genuine Kashmiri leadership. He appealed to India and Pakistan to stop playing favourites because it is the right of the Kashmiri people to decided who their leaders are. He asked India why it could not talk to the Kashmiris when it has been talking to Naga leaders in a third country for the last seven years. There has been no bloodshed in Nagaland since. He urged India to engage the militant leadership in a dialogue. He decried the practice of announcing Kashmir solutions through radio, TV and newspapers. He regretted that no Kashmiri has been associated with the so-called CBMs. Failure to create optimism in Kashmir will drive the youth to militancy, he warned. He called on India and Pakistan to make way for a non-violent peace movement in Kashmir. He urged a quickening of the peace process, while proposing that in Pakistan, the entire body politic should be involved in efforts to find a just settlement of Kashmir. It should not remain confined to a single individual, be he the president of the country. He appealed to the United States not to take sides but play its role in South Asia in an impartial manner and make an earnest effort to resolve the Kashmir issue. Ved Bhasin, editor-in-chief of Kashmir Times, Jammu, regretted that the people of Kashmir have been sidelined by India and Pakistan, although they are the primary party. In Kashmir Valley, he said, every single family has been affected by the insurgency. He asked if self-rule that was being talked about so mush these days was a process or the final solution. He suggested the establishment of a constituent assembly representing all seven regions of the former state which should decide its future dispensation. He said the Kashmiris do not want to be part of India or Pakistan; they want to be free and sovereign. Why is Kashmir being held hostage to India and Pakistans security concerns, he asked? In the meanwhile, new CBMs must be brought it. There should be free movement of people carrying just identity cards, trade should resume between the two parts and old traditional routes should be reopened. Security forces must be placed under the control of the Kashmir state. The Indian army must leave civilian areas and all bunkers built in urban areas must be demolished. The government must give an accounting of those who have simply disappeared. He was in no doubt that a constituent assembly of the whole state will decided in favour of independence. APP adds Federal Religious Affairs Minister Muhammad Ejazul Haq said Pakistan desires to resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully, and appealed world community, especially the United States to play its role in resolving the Kashmir issue. The US, he said, should monitor the Pak-India talks, pressure India to show seriousness on the issue, stop human rights violations and demilitarise Jammu and Kashmir, as proposed by Pakistan.