Kashmir: Absorbing Discussion
at George Washington University
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.
Ghulam Nabi Fai
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.