Thursday, 3 November 2011

Issue of Kashmir and growing India and Pakistan relations, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Issue of Kashmir and growing India and Pakistan relations

Dr Shabir Choudhry 31 October 2011

Text of speech delivered by Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar arranged by United Kashmir Peoples National Party in London

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues aslamo alaykam. I want to thank you for inviting me to express my views on this important topic.

I strongly believe that for peace, stability and prosperity of this region both India and Pakistan must have friendly and cordial relationship which could only be achieved with strong trade and economic partnership in various fields of social and economic life.

I understand some sections of the Pakistani and Kashmiri societies advance this view that all disputes, including the Kashmir dispute between the both countries should be resolved before they embark on this road of friendship and mutual cooperation.

I disagree with this view point; and strongly emphasis that India and Pakistan relations, including the Kashmir dispute must not be held hostage to the hostilities of the past. However, I know peace does not suit some powerful forces; and because of that India and Pakistan find it difficult to manage peace and live as good neighbours.

Before I say anymore on the future trade relationship between the two countries, I want to briefly explain how efforts to have peace and trade relationship have been hampered in the past. Pakistan became and independent country on 14th August 1947, and India and Jammu and Kashmir became independent on 15th August when the British Raj ended in the Indian Sub Continent.

The partition of India on religious lines resulted in blood bath and bitterness, but that could have been healed with time. All three countries – India, Pakistan and Kashmir were confronted with enormous problems soon after their independence, and they were struggling to cope with them; and to make matters worse, in name of Jihad hordes of savage tribesmen were sent by Pakistan to invade Jammu and Kashmir that started a military confrontation in the region which has not ended yet.

This unprovoked attack not only resulted in death and destruction of innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir, it also forced the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir to seek military help from India, which was provided after the Maharaja signed the provisional accession with India. So root cause of our present problems and problems since 1947 is this tribal attack that was carried out not to help Kashmiris, but to capture Kashmir.

Mr Chairman

Pakistani government managed this tribal attack by violating a treaty they had with the government of Jammu and Kashmir, known as Standstill Agreement. This naked aggression against a smaller neighbour demonstrated what value the Pakistani officials had for bilateral agreements, and how they can use their proxies to advance their political and imperialist agenda. One Kashmiri writer has rightly called this attack as ‘Pakistan’s first proxy war’.

Despite disagreements over demilitarisation and implementation of the UNCIP Resolutions for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, relationship between both countries improved in late 1950s and early 1960s; and there was even a suggestion from Pakistan to India to have a joint defence. However, those who did not want peace between the countries hatched a plan called Operation Gibraltar and sent thousands of militants in Jammu and Kashmir in 1965 to ‘liberate’ that part of Kashmir. This was done without taking Kashmiri leadership in confidence; and result of this adventure was a direct military clash between India and Pakistan, and worsening of relationship.

After the defeat of 1971, Pakistani policy makers decided to avoid a direct military clash and instead relied on militant groups; and under a new plan called Operation Topac, once again, thousands of militants were trained and sent to Kashmir with weapons to wage a low level insurgency. Unlike 1965, Pakistani planners this time proved to be more sensible and they used services of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front to provide them raw material of local Kashmiri people who could be trained to commit acts of violence on the Indian side of the divide, especially in the Valley.

This militancy which started in 1988 has seen many ups and downs, and nearly resulted in another war between India and Pakistan. Anyhow, Nawaz Sharif, during his second tenure as a Prime Minister realised that they cannot carry on fighting each other for ever, and decided to have friendly relationship with India. He wanted to improve trade relations with India and also tried to resolve all disputes with India including the Kashmir dispute.

The Indian Prime Minister, on the other hand, was also behaving in serious manner and he visited Lahore and both built some understanding, as to how to move forward to resolve all disputes and create friendly environment. It was possible that these two Prime Ministers could have resolved these disputes and started a new era of friendship in this region, but those who did not want peace in this region they sabotaged this process by military adventure in Kargil. This military adventure derailed the entire process and once again embittered the relationship.

In other words, some politicians of Pakistan have realised that they need to have peace and stability for the progress of this region and to meet challenges of the 21st Century, but peace does not suit all power brokers in Pakistan. Perhaps it would be appropriate to say that people with vested interest which are on both sides of the divide, do not like peace in this region. Their business and personal interests demand constant state of war and tension between India and Pakistan; they want extremism, hatred and violence to increase, as it also provides justification for creation of Pakistan.

Mr Chairman

I agree for peace, stability and prosperity of this region we need friendship between India and Pakistan. Whether you are a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh or a Buddhist, at the end of the day, we all want to enjoy fundamental human rights, have economic prosperity, security, good education for our children, and that can only be achieved if there is peace and friendly relationship between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has expressed its intention to grant India a status of ‘Most Favoured Nation’. This, in my opinion, is a right step in right direction; but my fear is that those who do not like peace in this region could strike again to sabotage this process.

Despite that fear of sabotage, there are signs that leadership of both India and Pakistan are showing signs of maturity. They are improving their relationship, even though there are facing pressures from different quarters. They feel they have to work with each other to safeguard interests of South Asia, and keep away other powers that have interest in the region but do not belong to this region. One can see that India which is regarded as an ‘arch enemy’ of Pakistan by some Pakistanis, supported and lobbied for Pakistan’s bid for a seat in the United Nations Security Council.

Furthermore, as the situation stands today, India does not want to become part of any military adventure against Pakistan; and NATO or America on their own cannot teach Pakistan a lesson for playing ‘double game’ with them in Afghanistan. There are signs that both governments will cooperate with each other in Afghanistan and support each other for trade links in Afghanistan and Central Asia. In this regard statement of Hillary Clinton about revival of ‘old silk route’ is very important.

Mr Chairman

It is wrong assumption that we are in good books of India; this is propaganda of those quarters who do not like what we do to promote pro people and pro peace agenda. Yes, Shaukat Kashmiri and I have been to India few times to take part in conferences which were part of ‘Track Two diplomacy. Those who arranged these conferences also made arrangements for our visas. But in this May, Kashmir National Party decided that we should visit Jammu and Kashmir to set up our branches in those areas; and we were not given visas when we told purpose of our visit.

Anyhow, in those conferences, we presented our case on Kashmir which was pro people and pro peace, as we believe there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. We looked at things from a Kashmiri view point and not from a religious view point, as we believe the Kashmir dispute is a political dispute and it requires a political solution; and those who want to make it a religious dispute want to divide people of Jammu and Kashmir and the State of Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines.

Furthermore, we looked at things from a South Asian perspective, as we cannot live in isolation. Even if Jammu and Kashmir become an independent country we need to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours; and will need their help and support in different development projects.

Economic relationship, trade, tourism, relaxing of visas and social interaction will help us all to understand each other and build bridges of confidence. Once we have common interest and common goals in the region, then we will trust each other and understand perspective of other people better; and in that environment of trust and friendship we can resolve all our disputes through a process of dialogue.

Remember, the Kashmir dispute is not a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan. This dispute concerns our identity, our culture, our future and inherent and inalienable right of self determination - and not right of accession; and in view of all this, it is only logical that we people should be part of the dialogue process. In any case, a solution worked out by bureaucrats of India and Pakistan will be rejected by people of Jammu and Kashmir.

We people of Jammu and Kashmir are principal party to the Kashmir dispute. India is a party because of that Provisional Accession; and Pakistan is a party because of de - facto control of the Kashmiri territory –Pakistan was not invited to come to Jammu and Kashmir, and the Pakistani forces moved in to Kashmir by violating the Standstill Agreement. State of Jungarrh acceded to Pakistan and Pakistan accepted that accession, but because Pakistan did not have control of Junagarh’s territory, Pakistan had no say in affairs of that State and it became part of India.

China is also our neighbour and occupies our territory, but hitherto China is not considered as a party to the Kashmir dispute. However, for the past few years Pakistan and some Kashmiri leaders on behest of Pakistan are trying to make China a party to the Kashmir dispute.

I can see why Pakistan wants to make China a party to the Kashmir dispute, but they should understand that it is very dangerous move. China is a mighty neighbour with its own strategic, political and economic goals; and if China is made a party to the dispute then they will also be a party to the resolution. The Chinese involvement will further complicate the Kashmir dispute, and resolution China might support might not be in our interest; so it is appropriate that we ensure that China does not become a party to this dispute.

I want to conclude that India and Pakistan are taking appropriate steps to harmonise their bilateral relations, and strengthen trade and business; and where necessary support each other at international level. In my view political leaders of both countries are on the right path, and they will make the desired progress provided men with gun do not interfere; and if they do pull out a gun, which is not ruled out, then this will land the entire region in quandary.

Mr Chairman, thank you for your patience.

Writer is a leader of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Once again very good speech. For a change at least one person who is muslim is telling the truth.

One question I can not understand is why do you want independent Kashmir. As an Indian I always viewed Kashmir as our integral part and we want it to prosper as much as you do.

You want it to be secular free of religion influence which India already is.

If you look at muslims in India, they are more successful and enjoy more liberty and prosperity.

Look at Bollywood, few of muslim stars enjoy immense popularity from all sections of India including hindus.

I think you should read something about hinduism, we are very tolerant and we really do not ask people to follow what we think - I think this is a big difference between muslims and hindus.

If you want a Kashmir which is secular, free and prosperous then your obvious choice should be to be pro India and join India as I do not think that there will be separate country of Jammu and Kashmir.

By staying with India, muslims of Kashmir will enjoy prosperity and liberty which they once enjoyed when there was no Pakistani interference.

Pakistan is a nothing but a jealous neighbour who keeps an eye on India and its progress and trying to stop it. Instead if it focuses on itself with same resources and money which it is using to create problems in India it would have been much more ahead now.