Thursday, 29 May 2008

Are Kashmiris part of Kashmir Dispute?

Are Kashmiris part of Kashmir Dispute?
Shabir Choudhry

Some people may think that it is wrong title, but I have good reasons for asking this question. It is true that we are part of the Kashmir dispute in one sense that it is our country which is divided forcibly against our will; and it is us who are suffering most as a result of this forced division. But the question we must ask ourselves is have we been recognised as a genuine party to the Kashmir dispute, and if this recognition has been granted to us, then what has been our role apart from paying huge sacrifices.

Apart from conducting a systematic research on Kashmir I have honour of writing many books, and hundreds of articles on different aspects of the Kashmiri struggle. I have seen Kashmiris being victimised because of the Kashmir dispute, and the story of their humiliation and subjugation is spread over many centuries. Since occupation and forced division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, both India and Pakistan have endeavoured to control Kashmir, but they have never considered us as party with same status.

We Kashmiris say that there are three parties to the dispute, namely India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. It is true we are a party, in fact, we are the main party to the dispute, but have the other two parties recognised us as a third party. India and Pakistan are parties only because of their de-facto control of the Kashmiri territory, and as such they were recognised by the United Nations and world community.

It is unfortunate that despite being the biggest party and a suffering party, we were not considered as a party and no role was assigned to us in that capacity. The role of parties was assigned to both India and Pakistan, and that is why it is they who speak about us, and endeavour to agree on a frame - work under which we can choose who should rule us.

Both India and Pakistan assumed the role of parties and representatives of the Kashmiri people, and world community through UN acknowledged their role. It was they who spoke on our behalf on the floor of the UN (although India allowed Sheikh Abdullah to appear once); it was they who had presented the Kashmir dispute as it suited their national interest. They both ensured - in fact both agreed (although disagreed on everything else) that no Kashmiri leader should be part of any negotiations on Kashmir. Every other agreement between India and Pakistan is in one way or the other has been breached, it is only this agreement of keeping Kashmiris away from the negotiating table is still intact. Who says India and Pakistan don't honour their agreements!

If we look at all the negotiations on the Kashmir dispute, be it in the UN, at international level or bilateral level, Kashmiris are not part of any of the discussions or agreements. The last in the series was the Lahore Declaration, and in consistent with their policy, India and Pakistan ensured that we were kept away from the negotiating table. And yet we very loudly say that we are party to the Kashmir dispute. Despite huge sacrifices we are not considered as a party with negotiating rights, and a party with equal rights on the negotiating table.

If we cannot achieve the above two rights then we need to seriously consider our position and role. Are we going to carry on with our present role - keep on paying huge sacrifices and let India and Pakistan call the shots. Or are we going to organise ourselves and say to both India and Pakistan that enough is enough, we are a nation with our own history and culture, and we have our aspirations and dignity. It is true APHC does not represent every section of the Kashmiri community, but it is also true that it is biggest platform of the Kashmiri parties. With its enhanced reputation can we expect APHC to play a leading part in winning a role for the Kashmiris on the negotiating table?

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