IT was reminiscent of the marathon debates during fifties in the United Nations Security council when the Kashmir dispute with all its dimensions: humanitarian, geo-strategic, India-Pakistan relations, US interests in South Asia, changing international priorities, recent uprising in Kashmir and right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN resolutions on Kashmir resounded past week in the Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.- the house of United States law makers and the seat of global power. More than two hundred delegates from India, Pakistan, both the sides of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmir Diaspora from all over the world, US think tanks, Congressmen, diplomats from various countries stationed in Washington D.C., prominent US columnists and opinion makers pooled their heads together in the Cannon and Rayburn halls finding ways and means for resolving the Kashmir dispute. The event was the eleventh Kashmir Peace Conference.
The focus of the eleventh International Kashmir Peace conference as was stated by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director in his introductory remarks was to apprise the international community about the the human sufferings and criticality of Kashmir dispute. It was also aimed at calling upon the United Nations to take a ‘lead for achieving a fair and lasting settlement of the Kashmir dispute. And ‘to pursue were other initiatives have left off, towards long journey on the road to peace. Along with a trilateral approach, an increasing international initiative is required.’
The participants at the two Peace Conferences organized by the Kashmiri American Council and the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers seemed on the same page in impressing upon the international community more particularly the United States to play its role in ending the sixty three years suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Those who made their presentations in the conference included Kuldip Nayar, Writer and Columnist, Muhammad Afzal Sindhu, State Minister, Law and Justice Govt of Pakistan, Prof. Stanley Wolpert, Historian, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Ambassador Yusuf Buch, Prof. Hafeez Malik, Villanova University, Prof. Faizanul Haq, University of Buffalo, Mr. Ejaz Sabir, Attorney at Law. Dr. Karen Parker, UN Delegate, Intl. Ed. Development, Dr. Attiya Inaytullah, Member Pakistan National Assembly, Prof.
Angana Chateerji, Dr. M.A. Dar, Barrister Sareer Fazil, Munir Akram, Former Ambassador of Pakistan to UN, Justice Rajinder Sachar, Dr. Rodeny Jones, M. Ahmed Bilal Sufi Presidency Research Society, Mr. Hussein Haqani, Pakistan Ambassador in Washington Ms. Victoria Schofield, Ms. Rita Manchandi, Mr. Ved Bhasi , Dr. Jahngir Qazi, Jitender Bakshi, Dr. Farhan Chak, Muzzammil Thakur, Prof. Richard Sharpio, Prof. Maqsood Jafari and Ali S Khan, Executive Director Kashmir Scandinavian Council.
The most encouraging aspect of the conference was the concern shown for the suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and delay in the resolution of Kashmir dispute by the Congressmen. Congressmen who expressed their solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir included Dan Burton, Alder holt, C Danny Davis, , Dannis Kuchinich, Yvette Clark and Joseph Pitts. Congressmen Dan Burton who is known for his advocating Kashmir cause in the United States for past twenty years in his remarks that Kashmir had been very ‘dear to his heart’ seemed overflowing with emotions. He sounded optimistic in stating that the day was not far off when sufferings of Kashmiris will end and they will live a free and dignified life.’ The Congressmen expressed their dissatisfaction over the situation prevailing in the state and called upon ending of the persecution of people in the state, respecting human rights and putting an end to killing of children.
They called upon India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute to the urges and political aspirations of the people of the state without causing any further suffering to the people. Equivocal in their approach for bringing peace in South Asia the Congressmen stated the resolution of Kashmir dispute had become imperative. Some of the Congressmen said the President Obama was fully aware about the importance of Jammu and Kashmir for peace and stability not only in Afghanistan but for the entire south Asia. Congressman Joseph Pitts recalled that President Barack Obama had not fulfilled his campaign promise to engage with the Kashmir issue. Taking a dig at Holbrook special envoy for the region for avoiding even mention the Kashmir word he said was a “disgrace”. He emphasized the need for US administration getting more engaged in the region to end suffering of Kashmiri children. Congressman Robert Aderholt said that the ongoing Kashmiri protests were a fresh reminder that that the problem persist with all its dangers. It was not only the Congressmen who wanted the United States to get more engaged in the resolution of Kashmir problem but many important scholars joined them.
Calling for permanent resolution of Kashmir dispute an eminent South Asia expert Prof. Stanley Wolpert in his elaborate presentation stated, “ A permanent peaceful resolution to Kashmir Conflict requires solemn diplomatic agreement between India and Pakistan that have full support of Kashmir’s most popular leaders. The United States should do whatever it can to expedited the resolution of Kashmir conflict, which has taken a greater toll of human suffering and wasted the resources than any other South Asian catastrophe since the partition of India in mid-1947.’ He hoped President Obama during his visit India this November ‘will assure Prime Minister Manmohan Singh America’s firm commitment to assist him in any way possible to expedite the resolution of the Kashmir conflict.’ Many other Indo-Pak-US expert have also pinned hopes with Obama’s visit to New Delhi becoming turning point in India-Pakistan relations and resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Dr. Maleeha Lodhi while deliberating in detail upon the sovereignty, security and human rights and humanitarian dimensions of the Kashmir dispute called upon ‘dismantling oppressive mechanism brick by brick in Jammu and Kashmir.
The most authentic and erudite Kashmir voice that was heard with rapt attention at the Conference was Kalashpora, Srinagar born octogenarian Ambassador Yusuf Buch, as he is popularly known in the diplomatic and political circle in the United State. He was arrested and exiled in 1948 by the National Conference government for his political beliefs and altercation at a Kashmiri officers meeting with then Deputy Prime Minister, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. Denouncing calling Kashmir movement as ‘separatist’ – he said separate what when we never joined and pointing out difference between ‘insurgency and resistance’- he said that it is misnomer to call Kashmir movement as insurgency. He said “this language is meant to cultivate a diplomatic culture of evasion. It aims to draw a curtain over present-day reality and provide a moral justification for inaction’. These misrepresentations are also designed to promote a “tolerant” view of a situation that is “hard and pitiless”. Notwithstanding this terminology, the killings of 90,000 Kashmiris have added a “transformational reality to the dispute”. He questioned “if ongoing large and sustained peaceful protests going on in Kashmir would be ignored if they occurred in a western country.’ Not mentioning the United States in an oblique reference to this country he said that this country was avoiding taking a position on Kashmir lest it annoys New Delhi. He identified three factors for world what he called world ‘mocking at the agony of Kashmir’ the first is that the world has become ‘used’ to a dispute that has persisted for over six decades. Second the UN, which has obligations on this issue, has been marginalized since the end of the Cold War and third “callousness if not outright cynicism to have become the reserve fund of diplomacy” on the issue. Two adjectives, he said, that are routinely used including by US officials are “historical” and “longstanding”. What, he asked, is “historical” about injustices that are being inflicted every day? What is “longstanding” about unarmed teenagers pelting stones to express their opposition to Indian rule?
Stating Kashmir was a ‘symptom and not diseases’ Kuldip Nayar endorsing Kashmir for its contiguity and demography could have been part of Pakistan but for Pakistan committing mistakes at the inception by sending raiders in Kashmir stated the issue now had become time barred blamed Pakistan for having committed mistakes in at the inception by sending raiders then joining SEATO and SEANTO. Nayar clinging to the stated position of New Delhi said that the status of Kashmir cannot be changed and country cannot allow another partition ruled out changing of borders and altering the constitution positions about Kashmir. But Yusuf Buch in his presentation reminded Mr. Nayar of Nehrus statement on June 26, 1952: “If after a proper plebiscite the people of Kashmir said we do not want to live with India, we are committed to accept this. We will not send an army against them. We will change the Constitution if necessary”.
In the conference that ended with the adoption of declaration there were many other valuable presentations made by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ambassdor Munir Akram, Senator Mushahid Hussain and one by Ahmer Bilal Soofi that need to discussed and debated over. That I may do in my next column.
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