Kashmir Deserves President Obama's Attention
By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai Executive Director Kashmiri American Council Washington, DC
The Kashmir dispute is simply this: the people of a large territory which is not part of any existing sovereign state were assured by the entire international community represented by the United Nations that they would be enabled to decide their future by a free vote. It was supported without any dissent by the United Nations Security Council and prominently championed by the United States and other democratic states. Until now, this assurance has not been honored.
The Kashmir dispute primarily involves the life and future of the people of the land. Because of its impact on relations between India and Pakistan, however, it directly affects the peace and stability of the South Asian subcontinent. This is a region which contains one-fifth of total human race.
Two wars have been the harvest reaped from the dispute. The possibility of a third, bloodier, probably nuclear and more extensive one has by no means been eliminated.
The dispute is not insoluble through peaceful procedures. It appears to be so only because the obduracy of one of the parties is encouraged by the apathy of the world outside.
I believe that the Obama Administration can, and should, lead the effort to achieve a fair and lasting settlement of the dispute, fair to the people most immediately involved and fair to its own commitments to democracy and human rights. By doing so, the United States can strengthen the principles of a just world order.
It will also earn the gratitude of generations in Kashmir, in Pakistan and even in India itself.
Most Kashmiris share the eternal commitment and resolve of encouraging a peaceful resolution of Kashmir in which the aspirations of the people may be paramount. However, they do so in the spirit of reconciliation, not confrontation; equality, not discrimination; and hope, not despair. It is vital that wisdom rather than myths, superstitions, or deceit should guide decisions.
The importance of the peace initiatives between India and Pakistan cannot be overstated, particularly when considering the link between stability and American socioeconomic and geopolitical interests in the region. Sadly, the potential for violence is ever-present which could catapult South Asia towards uncontrollable destabilization.
Hence, in order to save the region from descending into the chaos, experts on South Asia have all rightly analyzed that the resolution of the Kashmir issue is necessary for peace in the entire region. The extremist elements in the region have hijacked what is essentially a political issue and have used it as a convenient alibi for realizing their sinister agenda.
This fringe element has mastered the art of brining the two neighbors to the brink of war. At present, the unpredictability of the Afghan rebellion and its ever widening encroachment on governmental control directly threatens both regional and international stability. Nothing would be as catastrophic as Pakistan collapsing under the weight of militant tyranny. As a candidate President Obama mentioned on October 30, 2008, "We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants."
Now is the time that President Obama tells the Indian Prime Minister that the past sixty years history bears testimony that arm-twisting methods have not helped in containing or defeating the political dissent.
This simplistic strategy has proven dangerously counterproductive and augmented regional instability. It may be reiterated that suppressing the political dissent and suffocating the public opinion is like laying of a minefield that has the potential of blowing up on the slightest touch.
During 2008 and 2009, virtually the entire population of Srinagar (capitol city of Kashmir) came out on the streets to lodge nonviolent protests against the continuance of occupation. At times, the number of people exceeded 1 million. Certainly, terrorists cannot compose the entire populations of the major towns. We take this massive and spontaneous but entirely non-violent and peaceful upsurge as an unmistakable indication of the suffering caused by the international community's failure to resolve the dispute concerning the status of Kashmir. We also view this as yet another indication of the yearning by Kashmiris for an amicable settlement of dispute so they can live in peace and prosperity. President Obama should tell Dr. Singh that this popular, indigenous and nonviolent movement needs to be strengthened to help push a fair settlement of the lingering Kashmir dispute.
The United States paved the way for freedom around the world and it can help the people of Kashmir achieve peace, freedom and self-determination. Indeed, the appointment of a special envoy on Kashmir would hasten the progress of peace and reconciliation in the region, particularly India, Pakistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan.