Kashmir: Absorbing Discussion at George Washington University

Washington, DC: “Kashmir: Future Approaches” was the subject of an absorbing discussion held at theGeorge Washington University Marvin Center. It was organized by PSA George Washington University, PSA Georgetown University, Rising Leaders, PALC and Kashmiri American Council/Kashmir Center.
The speakers included Mr. Tahir Iqbal, Minister of Kashmir Affairs; Prof. William Baker, author of “Kashmir: Happy Valley, Valley of Death”; Prof. Angana Chatterji, Professor of California Institute of Integral Studies; Mr. Mohammad Aslam Khan, DCM, Embassy of Pakistan; Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council/Kashmir Center; Ms. Hafsa Kanjwal and Sadia Sindhu, Georgetown University and Najm Haq of George Washington University. The auditorium was filled to capacity with dozens listening patiently while standing for two and half hours.

Mr. Zafar Iqbal, Minister of Kashmir Affairs, said that the movement in Kashmir cannot be dismissed as acts of terrorism but a struggle for independence of the people of Kashmir . It is a movement for gaining the right of self-determination which was pledged to them by the United Nations. Mr. Iqbal emphasized that the solution of Kashmir has to be reached by all parties, viz, India , Pakistan and, more importantl, the people of Kashmir . He said that the United States can play a very vital role in resolving the issue of Kashmir. Being a nuclear flashpoint, Kashmir deserves the attention of the international community.
Mr. Mohammad Aslam Khan, DCM, said that there cannot be peace in Occupied Kashmir because of the presence of 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces. Demilitarization will bring relief to the inhabitants of the State of Jammu and Kashmir . He emphasized that Pakistan has not changed its principled stand on Kashmir . However, Islamabad is prepared to explore various options for the resolution of the conflict provided Kashmiris are also a part of the talks.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai said that the people of Kashmir endorse the confidence building measures (CBMs) initiated by the leadership of both India and Pakistan because CBM’s play an important role in defusing tension between hostile neighbors. But the CBM’s also pose a problem They can lend an appearance of normalcy to the situation in Kashmir . He agreed with Mr. Kuldip Nayar, former Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, who wrote that trappings of normality should not be mistaken for actual normality. True, the atmosphere is better than it was before. But this should not make us infer that we have found a solution to the Kashmir problem. If this were so, the alienation in the Valley would have largely disappeared. India would have withdrawn its forces in large number.

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

Dr. Fai warned that we do not need to invoke principles because principles will not help us launch a peace process. We have seen all too often how easily principles can be twisted and how the principles lend themselves to different interpretations. But the principles that are involved in the Kashmir dispute cannot be, and should not be, ignored. There are two principles: It is the inherent right of the people of Kashmir to decide their future according to their own free will and the second principle is that it is impossible to ascertain that will except through a vote under impartial supervision and in conditions which are free from compulsion, intimidation and external coercion.
Dr. Fai reiterated that Kashmir is not and cannot be regarded as an integral part of India because under all international agreements, which were agreed by both India and Pakistan, negotiated by the United Nations, endorsed by the Security Council and accepted by the international community, Kashmir does not belong to any member state of the United Nations. If that is true, then the claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India does not stand.
Prof. Angana Chatterji said that over 500,000 Indian troops remain deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, including paramilitary forces, federal armed forces, and Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. The army-civilian ratio in Kashmir is approximated at 5.5 million people, one soldier per 11 persons. There is an absence of transparency connected to decision-making processes employed by the armed forces. She emphasized that there is growing concern among civil society groups about human rights crises in Indian-Occupied Kashmir in the areas of social, political, cultural, religious, and economic rights. The premise and structure of impunity connected to military rule and corresponding human rights abuses bear witness to the absence of accountability inherent in the continued occupation of (certain areas of) Kashmir by the Indian state.
Prof William Baker said that Kashmir today is locked in a death struggle for survival and the right of self-determination. This historic valley of beauty has become a valley of death. He said a country of thirteen million inhabitants faces on a daily basis the bullets and brutality of an occupation army of Indian soldiers. One is hard pressed to discover any comparable contemporary conflict capable of possessing an equal amount of naked brutality, inhumanity and intolerance as that experienced by the Kashmiri people over the past fifty-nine years of occupation.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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