Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Emma Nicholson Kashmir report - what next?

Emma Nicholson Kashmir report - what next?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 2 April 2007

Kashmir report, which Emma Nicholson authored, attracted a lot of attention, and this showed that the topic was very important. Not only individuals and groups showed a great interest in it but governments also got involved in it. Soon it became clear that, like with the Kashmir dispute in the past, this Kashmir report has also become a contest between India and Pakistan.

After a lot of lobbying, debates inside and outside the EU, the EU Foreign Affairs Committee approved this report. No matter what the Pakistani officials, ‘lobbyists’ and foot soldiers say in support of their performance in opposing the report, especially to satisfy their bosses, the fact however is that this report after amendments passed almost unanimously as there were sixty votes in favour and only one vote against it.

Some of those who shouted loudest to oppose this report were absent at the time of voting. However they will also have to own it, as it is no longer Emma Nicholson report, but the EU Foreign Affairs Committee report, which will be presented to the EU Parliament in May.

In view of many ‘Kashmir Watchers’ the Pakistani campaign and diplomacy has failed. Their ‘generals in diplomacy’ and champions of human right have proved to be worse than their cricket heroes who at least won one match in the world cup competition.

Voices are heard from some quarters that like cricket fiasco has led to establishment of a committee to investigate the matter, a similar committee should be instituted to investigate performance of these white elephants, or elephants of Raja Poras who in the battlefield run over their own line of defence.

However it is pleasing to note that the Pakistani diplomats who were at the forefront of ‘anti Emma Nicholson campaign’ have learnt their lesson. They have learnt that art of diplomacy requires different method and different approach in conflict resolution and winning friends. They have also realised that diplomacy, especially in 21st century Europe, doesn’t work well with coercion, intimidation and black mailing; and results are better achieved by use of dialogue and persuasion.

Not long ago Emma Nicholson was demonised and projected as pro India, anti Pakistan, anti Kashmir etc; but after the approval of her report on 21st March she was invited as a guest of honour to the Pakistan Day celebrations on 23rd in London where senior diplomats were bending backwards to please and appease her. I wish they had done this before the approval of this report.

However approval of this report with that overwhelming support is a great achievement for Baroness Emma Nicholson. She worked tirelessly and fought very courageously to get this report approved by the EU Foreign Affairs Committee. She was honest in her assessment and realistic in her approach, and where she felt a change was needed she did not hesitate to accept amendments. Now with all these amendments and hard work done by various individuals and groups the report is more comprehensive, more authentic, more balanced and more pro people.

I have not seen such detailed, balanced and pro people document on Kashmir before; and it could prove to be a point of reference for many future initiatives on the Kashmir dispute. It will also help people to understand the Kashmir dispute better, as it does not propagate official policy of either India or Pakistan. For this Emma Nicholson, her staff and her colleagues in EU Foreign Affairs Committee must be congratulated. Her pleasure and satisfaction could be seen from her response, she said:

‘I am delighted for the firm support my draft report has received from all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and for the firm endorsement that it received this morning from my Parliamentary colleagues. The Committee placed its full support behind the Composite Dialogue Process, which is resulting in a range of Confidence Building Measures….The European Parliament has underscored the high value that it places on democracy and human rights for all people in the region, and particularly for earthquake victims, forced migrants, refugees and others in need in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan and Jammu and Kashmir’.

Many of those who opposed this report and especially those in the Pakistani lobby made lofty claims. They opposed the report tooth and nail - going to the extent of ridiculing its author, and now the same people are taking credit for its approval. They also said that the Liberal Democrat EMPs were totally against this report, yet Andrew Duff, Leader of Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party said:

‘It is to the credit of the rapporteur (Emma Nicholson) that she has joined together with colleagues from all parties to produce impartial and balanced report on the distressing situation in Kashmir. The European Parliament has reaffirmed the primacy of the UN, including the principle of democratic self- determination of the Kashmiri people, the rights of refugees and displaced people, and the fight for democracy against corruption and human rights abuses. Our central concern is for the fundamental rights of Kashmiris to be restored, and for the EU to increase its efforts to enhance the social and economic development of the people.’

Although the EU Foreign Affairs Committee has approved this report, the fight and debate on it is not over yet. This report has to go before the plenary session of the EU Parliament in the third week of May; and if it gets vote of confidence there then it will be adopted as a EU report on Kashmir.

By and large reports passed with this kind of margin from a committee normally sail through the Parliament, but Kashmir and report on this thorny dispute is a different ball game. It is still possible that some more amendments are introduced. It is a normal practise in parliaments and democratic institutions that amendments are introduced, changed and rephrased to the very last minute to get a compromise.

So those leaders who are crying out that they didn’t have sufficient time to examine the amendments passed by the EU Foreign Affairs Committee are making inaccurate statements. They are trying to hide their failure and political agenda. These leaders want to woo their voters by portraying themselves as champions of Kashmiri rights, whereas they have personal and political interest in mind, as they don’t want to lose voters. Interest and welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is not their priority; and we Kashmiris need to be aware of this.

The next vote on the report will take place on 23rd May, and still there is time to introduce pro peace and pro people policies. It is pleasing to note that the report has acknowledged that ‘all peoples have the inalienable right of self –determination’, but declares that appropriate conditions are not present that people can exercise this right.

The report speaks about rights of people on both sides of the LOC, and asks both governments to take certain measures to ensure that people get their democratic rights. The report expressed its concern about ‘documented human rights violations by Pakistan in Gilgit and Baltistan, and reports of torture and mistreatment, discrimination, and corruption in AJK.’ The report calls upon government of India to put an ‘end to all practices of extra - judicial killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention in Jammu and Kashmir; and to establish an independent commission of inquiry in to serious violations of human rights by Indian security forces.’

We Kashmiris need to understand that it is a pro peace, pro people and pro Kashmir report, and we must support it, and must not be fooled by opportunist politicians. It is not our concern if the report does not suit national interests of Pakistan or India; or if it hurts personal interests of some politicians in Britain.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@hotmail.com

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