The article “SAARC summit and the Kashmir problem” (Dec. 3) written by Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi, a seasoned diplomat, was highly enlightening and informative. However, it needs some observations from a Kashmiri perspective. I totally agree with Dr. Al-Ghamdi that “it is high time for the leaders of both countries (India and Pakistan) to take bold and serious decisions to resolve this dispute. It is impossible for the region to enjoy peace and security without solving the Kashmir problem.”
The Kashmir question is one of the oldest unresolved international problems in the world. The experience of the past six decades has shown that it will not go away and that an effort is urgently required to resolve it on a durable basis. It is imperative, whatever be the rights and wrongs in the equation as far as arguments go, that we realize that real populations are involved with a pronounced sense of an identity of their own, with their suffering and their aspirations rather than just legal title and merit.
The mantra has been repeated too often that the UN has no alternative to relying on bilateral talks between India and Pakistan to achieve a settlement. The experience of more than 67 years is ignored. No bilateral talks between India and Pakistan have yielded agreements without the active role of an external element. The missing element is to make the Kashmiri leadership part of the negotiations with India and Pakistan.
It is not the inherent difficulties of a solution, but the lack of the will to implement a solution that has caused the prolonged deadlock over the Kashmir dispute. The deadlock has meant indescribable agony for the people of Kashmir and incalculable loss for both India and Pakistan. The persistence of this problem has been a source of weakness for both of these neighboring countries.
It is time to recognize that there cannot be a military solution to the problem; any such solution is bound to invite challenge. There has to be a cease-fire from all sides during negotiations. Negotiations cannot be carried out at a time when parties are trying to kill each other. There cannot be and should not be any condition from any party, other than commitment to non-violence and to negotiations.
Our objective should be not to answer what is the correct or best solution for the Kashmir problem but how that solution can be arrived at. In other words, it should by itself neither promote nor preclude any rational settlement of the dispute, be it accession to India or Pakistan or independence.
I believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable if all parties concerned – India, Pakistan and Kashmiris – show some flexibility and make sacrifices. Each party will have to modify its position so that common ground can be found. It will be impossible to find a solution that respects all the sensitivities of Indian authorities, values all the sentiments of Pakistan, keeps intact the unity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and safeguards the rights and interests of the people of all the different zones of the state. Yet this does not mean that we cannot find an imaginative solution.
Dr. S. Ghulam Nabi Fai,
Fairfax, VA, USA