Friday, 30 May 2008

Role of IKA in Kashmiri politics

Role of IKA in Kashmiri politics
Dr Shabir Choudhry 10 December 2005

IKA was formed under Geneva Declaration to provide a platform to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that they can express their views without any threat or intimidation. It is a pro people and pro peace Alliance which believes that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute; and that the dispute has to be resolved in a process of dialogue involving all three parties to the dispute. It strongly opposes politics of vested interests which is commercialised and which has encouraged violence and proxy war; and this has resulted in loss of thousands of valuable lives and has done enormous damage.

We can proudly claim that we have made a difference in the Kashmiri politics. We openly opposed commercialised politics and gun culture in Jammu and Kashmir; and strengthened those groups and individuals who opposed all this but did not have courage or did not have a platform to oppose these power groups. We provided a voice to disadvantaged groups in the society; and promoted culture of tolerance and coexistence.

IKA not only promoted peaceful resolution of the dispute but also promoted Kashmiri nationalism, as we are the first party or alliance to have reached out to people of all communities and regions and provided them a platform. From this platform, a first International Kashmir Conference in its true sense was held in London, which was also attended by notable people like Benzair Bhutto and Dr Farooq Abdullah.

Despite strong opposition from certain powerful groups it was very successful conference from anyone’s standards; and notable delegates from different social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds sent a powerful message that we don’t want any more violence, and that we want peace, dignity and right to live our lives like other human beings.

We were the pace setter, it helped to change thinking of the people. This provided them encouragement and they felt that they could oppose and challenge those who want to continue this proxy politics and proxy war in Kashmir resulting in mayhem and bloodshed. It also showed that the whole State of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed, and especially areas of Gilgit and Baltistan also came to limelight first time since the present militancy. A clear message came out of this conference that majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is against division, violence and sectarianism.

IKA London conference also opened a flood- gate and many groups with vested interest started holding conferences in various parts of the world, but they failed to attract delegates from all regions and all communities; and they only looked official show representing one view point.

IKA held its second International Kashmir Conference in Canada, which also proved to be very successful, as more people representing ethnic minorities of Jammu and Kashmir were present. And we also managed to issue a joint declaration from the delegates, which reinforced IKA programme and promoted politics of tolerance and coexistence. It rejected division of Kashmir, and condemned violence and sectarianism. It promoted more confidence building measures, opening of LOC and peaceful resolution of all issues including dispute of Jammu and Kashmir; and insisted that there must be an active participation of the Kashmiri people.

It must be noted here that apart from these conferences IKA leaders held a number of seminars in various parts of the world, and have held many press conferences to highlight different issues, which directly concern the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Also IKA leaders have met British MPs, European MPs and MPs of various other countries, including diplomats of important countries and Think Tanks to project a Kashmiri point of view.

In pursuance with IKA policy and programme of reaching out to people and give out Kashmiri version to the international community, we arranged third International Kashmir Conference in Brussels. This conference, like our previous conferences, was very successful, and some would say more successful because of the contribution, debates, interaction and final outcome in the form of comprehensive agreement known as Brussels Declaration.

But this conference should not be an end itself, this is means to an end, and end being a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute to the satisfaction of everyone concerned that we can have peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Many positive changes have taken place since our first conference, India and Pakistan are firmly committed to the peace process; and there has been change of attitude to violence and many stumbling blocks.

Even there have been some major changes in Jammu and Kashmir and South Asia since our last conference in Brussels. Earthquake has destroyed thousands of villages and towns in Kashmir and Pakistan, and there are millions of people who desperately need help; and the world community and aid agencies have been very active in dealing with the disaster.

India and Pakistan have also come closer since the earthquake; and they have opened five points across the LOC to help the quake victims. Indian government was among the first to offer massive help, although there were some trust and confidence related hiccups that delayed the relief work and as a result we failed to save thousands of valuable lives. This also indicates that we all need to do more to boost trust and confidence that all the concerned parties to the dispute could sit down around the table and resolve all issues which hold our progress.

What this means is that role of IKA has not finished yet. We need to do more to build bridges among different communities and ethnic groups that we can all trust each other, and work out a strategy to establish peace in the region and face challenges of the 21st century.

I understand that there are other peace loving people and groups who share our ideals and we are willing to work with them; and in this respect IKA leadership has taken some decisions to incorporate and affiliate other like- minded groups and individuals. We planned to announce this strategy in October after completing our discussions with all the concerned groups, but that could not happen due to massive earthquake which has not only killed more than lakh people and destroyed nearly half of Azad Kashmir, but political activities have also been taken over by relief work.

We could not have continued with our political programme after this tragic event for obvious reasons. Anyhow like other aid agencies we have also been active with the relief work, as first priority was to save lives and be with people in this time of desperate need.

However we shall soon be starting our political activities which will have a strong element of relief work. I believe IKA can play a leading role in helping and supporting the peace process; and bringing people from different social and cultural backgrounds on one platform. For this purpose IKA can hold a conference in Islamabad followed by one in New Delhi, which could help people of all shades of political opinion to discuss and debate issues; and forge alliances and unity among different groups.

Apart from that IKA leadership has ability and skills required to help in the negotiations because of their understanding of jurisprudence of the Kashmir dispute; and play crucial role as we believe in non - religious politics, and have strong commitment to liberal and democratic ideals. And this way we can justifiably claim to speak for all sections of the Kashmiri nation as majority share our political ideals.

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

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