Friday, 30 May 2008

Speech at Geneva Conference.

Text of the intervention made by Shabir Choudhry, President Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front UK &Europe, in an international Conference held in Geneva on Right of Self - Determination and United Nations on 11 to 13 August 2000.

Theme 3: Self - determination through minority rights, internal autonomy or secession.

The Chair and honourable guests it is indeed a privilege to speak to so many members of the NGO community.

All of us present in this hall are not here because of some co - incidence. We are here because we wanted to be here, and for this we made a well thought decision, planned our journey and we arrived at our destination. Of course instead of being here we could have been somewhere else, but we had to make a choice and make some sacrifices for our choice.

In other words when we want to achieve something we have to make decisions and make choices. When we discuss the future of Jammu and Kashmir and South Asia we have to make choices. We have to choose between peace and war; stability and chaos; misery and happiness and development and destruction. In Kashmir since 1988 we have seen killings, destruction, misery and above all threat of a nuclear war.

I know we have lost more than 70,000 people of all ages, and these people have sacrificed their lives for a cause. And of course the cause was not to maintain the status quo with some minor cosmetic changes. The cause was independence of Kashmir. Whereas we salute all those who have sacrificed during the course of this long struggle, especially those who have lost their lives, but we must think about the future of those who are still alive.

They have right to live in peace. They have right to enjoy all those rights enshrined by the United Nations Charter. In order to live peacefully and enjoy human rights there must be peace and stability. And peace cannot be achieved if people are denied their basic rights including a right to determine their own future. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 adopted on 14 December 1960, states:

'The subjection of people to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.'

It further states:
'All peoples have right the to self - determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.'

Section 4 of this important Resolution states:
'Armed action or repressive measures of all kind directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence, and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.'

But when we look at the situation in Jammu and Kashmir we regrettably note that the State is forcibly divided and people are denied their basic human rights including right to determine their future. Although Kashmiris are the main party to the dispute, but India and Pakistan have successfully kept them away from the negotiating table. The dispute could only be resolved through a sincere effort which involves all three parties to the dispute.

There are those who feel that they can find solution to the Kashmir dispute by relying on the use of force and intimidation. What they don't realise is that the world has moved on from those days when people achieved their objectives through use of force. The demands of the post cold war politics are different; and the international trend is to resolve disputes through dialogue. I may not be very popular man when I say this, but someone has to say it. We Kashmiris must decide what is good for us. We should decide how we want to conduct our struggle for unification and independence of the State. And in doing so we must not be out of step with this international trend.

As a distinguished son of soil, Mr Nazir Gilani, in his address to the Conference, has rightly differentiated the positions of the parties to the dispute. He said, 'whereas other two parties have claim to Kashmir, Kashmiris have a 'title' to self - determination'. And as we know any claim could be illegitimate and unjustified, but the 'title' to self - determination is our inalienable right by birth, and that could not be challenged.

Both India and Pakistan have to learn to live like good neighbours, and resolve their differences including differences over Kashmir through dialogue. It is not in the interest of peace and stability of South Asia that both countries continue to be hostile to each other. It is regrettable to note that people with vested interest create situations, which are not conducive for the dialogue to continue.

Whether it is Kargil, Chhatisingpura, killing of Hindu Yatries or the killing of innocent Kashmiri people, it certainly is not the way forward. If the parties to the dispute wish to have peace in the region, then they have to take some tough decisions. Like I said at the beginning, to achieve something a choice has to be made. If the parties to the dispute sincerely want peace and stability, not only in Jammu and Kashmir but also in the South Asia, then they have to make a decision and take such measures that people of Kashmir are given a chance to determine their own future.

To give the Kashmiri people a right to self - determination is in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly resolution of 1960, which clearly states:

'That all the peoples have an inalienable right to complete freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty and the integrity of their national territory;' ( that UN General Assembly) Solemnly declare the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.'

I sincerely hope that the common sense prevails and both India and Pakistan make such arrangements that the people of Jammu and Kashmir can determine their own future without intimidation; and without any restrictions attached to their right of self- determination. It is true that we want peace but we also want independence. We want to live in peace without compromising our identity, integrity, dignity and honour - peace which provide us with all essentials of freedom.

I hope that the NGO community would continue to support our just cause, and of course other such causes where oppressed peoples are sacrificing for the right of self - determination.

I thank you Mr Chairman.

Shabir Choudhry
Telfax: 00 44 208 597 4782

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