Kashmir Conflict Debated at Johns Hopkins University

Washington, DC: The Foreign Affairs Symposium at Johns Hopkins University hosted a discussion on the Kashmir conflict. It featured a debate amongst experts on the region. The speakers talked about the impact of the dispute on international politics, the role of the United States in resolving the issue and the human rights violations in Kashmir.
The panel included Mohammad Sadiq, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Pakistan; Ghulam Nabi Fai, the President of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), and Bob Guida, the Chairman of Americans for Resolution of Kashmir (ARK).
DCM Sadiq spoke about Pakistan’s stance on the conflict and what Pakistan is doing to help resolve the dispute. “It is crucial to inform the public on Kashmir. Unless it is resolved there will be no prosperity in South Asia,” Sadiq said. He mentioned that “the United States scientific, military and economic power is unparalleled”. However, because the US public and the legislators are not well informed about the issue of Kashmir the current approach of the USlacks strength and direction. Also, international players have hardly any focus on Kashmir despite the importance of resolution of this dispute to world peace.
DCM Sadiq added that Pakistan’s position on the conflict is “that Kashmiris should decide their own fate”. Also that human rights violations in the region cannot be ignored because “every single day people are dying, women are raped, and properties are destroyed by the Indian occupying forces. Kashmir cannot be put on the backburner – the longer the delay in resolution of this issue the heavier the casualties.”
He also emphasized the importance of the participation of Kashmiri people in the dialogue about their future.
DCM Sadiq, in his final comments, said that though the recent thaw in relations is welcome “India and Pakistan need a process with timelines to discuss Kashmir. The international community should ensure a meaningful dialogue.”
The discussion continued with Fai, who spoke first about his hope for peace in the region and then his concerns about the leadership of India and Pakistan and their efforts to resolve the dispute, shedding light on some of the issues relating to the conflict.
Fai criticized Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his inconsistency on the issue of Kashmir. “[Singh] says he wants to find a peaceful settlement, and then rules out the possibility of talking about Kashmir. These are confusing statements coming from a person of importance,” Fai said.
Fai suggested that to encourage and establish dialogue talks should take place at multiple levels: an inter-Kashmiri dialogue and a dialogue between the Kashmiri leadership and the Indian government.
Bob Guida, addressed the extensive human rights violations in Kashmir as a particularly unsettling part of the conflict. He showed a handmade doll given to him by three young Kashmiris. He said, “I have made two trips to the region. I received this doll from three teenagers who were victims of gang rape by the Indian military.”
Guida added that “currently there are 700,000 troops – over half of the Indian standing army – occupying Kashmir. There is one armed soldier for every eleven people. They are watching what people say, and seeing where their loyalties stand.”
He also commented that there are five times more occupying forces in Kashmir than there are armed forces in Iraq. Guida argued that such an occupying force is harmful for the civilians in the region.
“Homes and businesses are burned, men are tortured and killed and most likely tonight an Indian soldier or squad will break into a woman’s house and do the unthinkable,” Guida said. “I went to a refugee camp and saw young men’s missing limbs, and met a 55 year old man whose mother, wife and daughter had been raped and killed in his house.”


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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