Friday, 30 May 2008

Trouble in Kashmir: way forward

Trouble in Kashmir: way forward
Shabir Choudhry

Once again the Indian and Pakistani armed forces are on red alert and facing each other on the Line of Control. The situation is not “a war like”, the fact is there is an undeclared war going on, although it is limited to the Line of Control at present, and mainly in the Kargil area. The root cause of all this is the issue of Kashmir.

Both governments have entrenched and contradictory positions on Kashmir. Both have vested interest there and want to make Kashmir a part of their country. And to achieve their objectives both governments have applied different strategies. The net result of their contest over Kashmir is the continued suffering of the Kashmiri people. Whether it is the Indian army shelling across the Line of Control or the Pakistani army, it kills the innocent Kashmiri people on both sides of the LOC.

Apart from the casualties of innocent Kashmiris along the LOC, the Indian army of occupation has killed more than 70,000 Kashmiri men, women and children. Thousands of women were raped and gang raped, thousands of people are disabled and maimed and thousands are still unaccounted for.

The people of Kashmir are making these heavy sacrifices because they want to have a right to determine their own future. The UN resolutions to which both India and Pakistan agreed, limit the right of the people to choosing between India and Pakistan only, hence depriving them right of self determination. In any case these resolutions have failed to provide a solution in the past 50 years. So we have to look for alternative solution – a solution which can satisfy the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, and which is also acceptable to India and Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan have tried to find a solution in the light of the Shimla Agreement- signed between them in 1972, and they have failed miserably. If anything the situation has deteriorated. More people have lost lives over that past ten years than what were lost in the three wars between the both countries.

The threat of nuclear war is a serious one. The volatile situation on the Kashmir border can lead to a full-scale war between India and Pakistan. Some experts say that there is no threat of a nuclear war. Once a full -scale war starts no one can accurately predict its final outcome. The losing side, in the last resort, can use the nuclear weapons. Already there is a claim that chemical weapons have been used by India after failing to flush out the Mujahidin. Even if there was no threat of a nuclear war, the conventional war is bad enough. Both countries have sophisticated weapons to destroy each other. We DONOT want them to go to war over Kashmir; in any case we DONOT want Kashmir to be a battleground for India and Pakistan.

The war between India and Pakistan is not going to solve the Kashmir dispute, if anything, it will create more problems. Already both countries have huge social and economic problems, and any military adventure will further aggravate this. Highly reputable economist and politician Mr Mehboob –Ul Haq in his report for Mehboob –Ul Haq Centre for Human Development said:

v 61 million people in Pakistan do not have access to clean drinking water
v 54 million people do not have access to basic health facilities
v 8 million school age children do not have access to education
v 47 million people are illiterate
v 72 million people do not have sanitation facilities
v 9 million children under 5 do not have appropriate food and
v 6 million families are living below the poverty line
(Source: report by Khalid Rehman published in Daily Jang on 10 June 1999).

These are shocking statistics. The situation in India is even worse. There is more poverty in India than in Pakistan, yet these governments are bent upon spending huge amounts of money on weapons. These valuable resources could be channelled to complete social and welfare programmes.

The UN and the champions of human rights cannot remain silent forever. How bad the situation in Kashmir has to get before the machinery of the UN gets in to motion. The region of South Asia needs immediate attention. The following steps can help to diffuse the situation:

v International pressure should be applied on both countries for exercising restraint, and resolving the dispute through negotiations

v UN Security Council should send its envoy to investigate the current situation and make new proposals in the light of his/her findings

v After demise of the Lahore Declaration and complete failure of bilateral talks, true representatives of the Kashmiri people from all regions should join the dialogue process.

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