Thursday, 29 May 2008

Dialogue under shadow of gun

Dialogue under shadow of gun
Dr Shabir Choudhry

International Kashmir Alliance which is a pro - peace and pro – people Alliance organised two days International Kashmir Conference in London on 29/30 May 2004. I was also one of the speakers in the conference, and for benefits of my readers I am producing text of my speech below.

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslamo Alaykam

1. Everyone in yesterday’s session said that this Conference is a stunning success. Indeed it is unique conference in many ways, as it is for the first time we have people of great importance from India, Pakistan and from both sides of the LOC gathered under one roof to discuss the Kashmir dispute and future of South Asia. But friends it is only a beginning, and we have a long journey ahead of us, and the road is very bumpy.

2. But before we consider what should be the future status of Kashmir, and how peace and stability could be achieved in South Asia, we need to define what we mean by Kashmir and the Kashmir dispute.

3. The term ‘Kashmir dispute’ represents the dispute over the future status of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, and does not in any way refer to the Valley of Kashmir. All five regions of Kashmir namely Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh are equally disputed, and future of all these regions need to be determined as one political entity.

4. Another thing that needs to be emphasised is that the Two Nations Theory was not applicable to the Princely States including Kashmir; and historical documents, including Lahore Declaration of 1940 is very clear on this. This fact was also acknowledged by a brilliant constitutional lawyer and founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and many others.

5. Even though Kashmiris have been forcibly divided and deprived of their basic human rights for past fifty seven years, overwhelming majority of the people still regard Kashmir as one political entity and want Kashmir to remain as such.

6. Also overwhelming majority of the people want to see a peaceful resolution of the dispute, as they know use of gun has only exacerbated their problems and has brought suffering and misery to the ordinary people.

7. They also know that there is no military solution to the dispute: India has failed to impose its will on the unwilling people despite huge military presence, Pakistan has failed to get Kashmir despite its military adventures and nuclear arsenal; and Kashmiris cannot win their freedom by use of a ‘borrowed gun’, supply of which is at good will of the supplier.

8. Tragic events of 9/11 and nuclear aspect has also changed stakes in South Asia and no party to the dispute could impose its will; and this also means that we have only one option, and that is to resolve the dispute through a process of dialogue.

9. The present peace process initiated by Vajapayee Sahib and reciprocated by Musharaf Sahib is at a crucial juncture. Everything with this peace process is not perfect, but this is the only way forward, and we have to look at ways of supporting this process and incorporate other sections of the Kashmiri community to make it viable and representative.

10. It must be clear that the dispute is not bilateral in nature, and cannot be resolved by bilateral dialogue, and history of bilateralism between India and Pakistan also supports this view. So if parties to the dispute are serious in resolving the dispute then they have to formulate a mechanism to take people of Kashmir on board.

11. People of Kashmir are at the heart of this dispute, they are the main party, it is they who have suffered most, and they must have a final say in the outcome of negotiations on Kashmir.

12. People of Kashmir want peace, but they want peace with dignity and honour. I am sure people of India and Pakistan also want peace, as they have also realised that in war no one wins, especially ordinary people certainly do not win. War, violence and extremism do not suit ordinary people and only helps small section of people to further their interests.

13. People of Kashmir also know that perhaps this is their last chance to get a right to determine their future. They know there were many factors why the Kashmir dispute was not resolved in 1940s and early 1950s, and one important factor was Kashmir’s linkage to the ‘cold war’. The present ‘Kashmiri struggle’ lost international support because of its linkage to the ‘international fundamentalism’ and cycle of senseless killing.

14. Both India and Pakistan have been at loggers head, but at last establishments of both countries realised that this war which started in 1947 has to end if they stand any chance of facing challenges of 21st Century. But some sections of establishment and people with vested interest who don’t want peace in Kashmir and in South Asia are still bent upon sabotaging the peace process.

15. As Gilgit and Baltistan is part of Kashmir and Pakistan has no legal right to occupy these areas, the future of these areas should also be part of negotiations; and the leadership of these areas must be included in the dialogue process. And until such time that the future of Kashmir is settled, these areas should be either merged with Azad Kashmir or they should have their own Legislative Assembly that people of these areas could have their own representatives to resolve their basic rights.

16. APHC even when it was united did not represent all sections of the Kashmiri community, and now that it is split and is busy accusing each other of treachery, it has increasingly less credibility, and People of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan cannot trust their wisdom to decide the future of the whole State. It is therefore imperative that in any future dialogue, circle of consultation must be widened, and people from all sections of the Kashmiri community must become part of the process.

17. It is common for people to blame others for their mistakes and find a scapegoat. I know people of Kashmir are suffering but their suffering cannot end by just India bashing or Pakistan bashing; or for that matter accusing each other. By belligerent attitude and emotionalism we cannot make progress towards peace, if anything we can harm the peace process.

18. I know thousands of people have lost life in Kashmir, and only their love ones can tell the pain. Whereas I share this pain with those families who have lost their love ones but we have to think of those who are still alive, and find a way that more people don’t become victims of this cycle of senseless killing.

19. Those Kashmiri leaders who even live on same side of the divide did not meet each other because of misgivings against each other, and disliking of each other because of their conceived perception; but this conference held thousands of miles away from homeland provided an opportunity to them to meet and exchange views. A Muslim delegate from the Kashmir Valley told me yesterday that there was no way I could have met him (a Hindu delegate from Jammu) over there. To me he was RSS man Hindu extremist, but now that I have spoken to him and have spent some time with him I find him a reasonable person.

20. We can see that the Conference has helped to break down the barriers, so we must continue with our efforts to resolve the dispute through a process of dialogue; but you cannot start a peace process, or have a dialogue for peace when there is a gun pointing at you. No matter how gun made its way to Kashmir and established a culture of fear and hatred, but we have to end that if we are serious in establishing peace in Kashmir; and for that, as Mirza Wajhat Hasan said, we have to end Berlin Walls in our hearts.

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