Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Kashmir is not a water issue

Dr Shabir Choudhry
Email:drshabirchoudhry@googlemail.com
Telephone: 0044 (0)7941 295327

19 January 2007
London

Kashmir is not a water issue it concerns our inherent right of self- determination.
Dr Shabir Choudhry and other Kashmiri leaders lobby Baroness Emma Nicholson on EU Kashmir report.

London 19 January 2007

A delegation led by Kashmiri leader Dr Shabir Choudhry met Baroness Emma Nicholson and conveyed its concerned about EU draft report on Kashmir. While talking to Baroness Emma Nicholson Dr Shabir Choudhry said we appreciate your hard work done to produce this report, but we want to emphasis that Kashmir is not a territorial dispute or issue of water and resources between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir dispute in essence is about rights and identity of people of Jammu and Kashmir who want to determine their future without any constraints or restriction imposed upon them by Islamabad or New Delhi.

He said we are forcibly divided by India and Pakistan since 1947, and face suffering on both sides of the LOC. We oppose all kinds of human rights violations and we cannot pick and choose when issue is related to basic human rights. We must condemn human rights violations no matter where they take place. It is not appropriate to remain quiet when human rights are committed by fellow Muslims; and shout foul when the culprit is a non Muslim. Religion has to be kept out of this and we must promote secular democracy and human rights of all.

Dr Choudhry further said violence and terrorism must be opposed as they make matters worse and do not advance cause of peace and democracy. He said we support the peace process between India and Pakistan but we must be part of this process. It is not right for New Delhi and Islamabad to take decisions on our behalf and impose upon us through their puppets.

Ishfaq Ahmed Chief Executive of KIRF gave details of suffering of the people and difficulties his organisation faced while trying to help the victims of the earthquake. He said authorities were not cooperative and that added to the difficulties. He said people are still living in tents and a large amount of resources and money has been diverted elsewhere. And in some cases Jihadi groups have benefited from this and it will have its implications for many years to come.

He said millions of Kashmiri people are at present living in tents with no houses to go to, and yet government of Pakistan is determined to uproot more Kashmiri people by upraising Mangla Dam and by building a new dam in Gilgit and Baltistan. He also talked about issues of royalty and compensation. He said Pakistan should build dams inside Pakistani territory to meet their water and energy needs. He said some kind of international supervision should be there to monitor progress and transparency of the relief and construction work in the affected areas of the earthquake.

Emma Nicholson explained how she compiled this report and what difficulties she encountered. She also gave details about the progress of this report. She said this report has attracted a large number of amendments (450). She said it is good thing that report is widely discussed and debated. This way we have managed to get people involved in it and this will help us to produce a report that is more balanced and acceptable to all EU. She said on 24th January, a plenary session of one hour between 4pm and 5pm, and she would take the EU Foreign Affairs Committee through these amendments and try to reach some kind consensus with colleagues. After reaching consensus, probably after voting in February, it will be made public and at that stage (second phase of the report) more amendments will be invited. After discussing and agreeing these new amendments with colleagues the report would be presented to the full house of the EU that it could be passed.

The final report which could be passed around May of this year, and we want everyone to feel comfortable with it- it will be EU report and our object is to find solutions but not to interfere in matters of other countries. We seek their cooperation and use trade and commerce to advance friendly relationship and this way we can have some influence to promote democracy and human rights.

She said EU has friendly relations with both India and Pakistan and they are trading partners of EU. We want to maximise these relationship and that could only be done through understanding and cooperation, and not by antagonism.

She said that it was owner initiative report, which is normal practise to present reports, but this kind of report normally takes a long time before they are accepted. She said her report on Iraq took more than two years, and it also attracted a lot of response.

Baroness Emma Nicholson said she expected some reaction on her report because of the nature of the topic, which is very controversial and people have entrenched position on it. It is good to have reaction and amendments, however she did not expect this kind of response, it is extra ordinary, but she welcomes it as it will give her and other colleagues in-depth understanding of the Kashmir dispute and plight of the people on both sides of the LOC.

She said unlike UN, EU has no mandate. We like to work in cooperation and don’t like to take confrontational position on issues. EU is not a legal or political identity with a seat at the UN, we are collection of 27 countries and have to work in cooperation and in friendly atmosphere.

When she was told that before the earthquake struck Azad Kashmir, Western people were not encouraged to visit areas of Azad Kashmir, especially areas of Gilgit and Baltistan. She said as a politician and as EMP she can visit anywhere. The delegation threw a challenge at her and asked her if she could manage to visit areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, and see what goes on there. She accepted this and said that she will go to these areas and see for her self the plight and situation of the human rights and liberty over there.

She made note of issue of Mangla dam and the proposed construction of Bahash Dam and said she will look in to these issues. However she requested more information on certain matters related to Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.

She asked why these people are campaigning against the report when she hears from many scholars and political workers from Kashmir that there is a lot of truth in the report. She might not have included everything in the report but it was a sincere attempt to help people and EU to understand underlying issues which make the Kashmir dispute more complicated.

Farooq Ahmed representative of Peoples Muslim League said our efforts are to promote liberal and democratic values in Azad Kashmir. We are against extremism and violence and don’t want any group to impose their agenda on people. He said use of religion to advance political agenda is not appropriate and it will communalise the society and create more problems for use in future. He said both India ad Pakistan should take people of Jammu and Kashmir in confidence and must not divide the state on communal lines. Division of any kind is not acceptable to us. We want Jammu and Kashmir to remain one political entity.

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