Looking for OIC’s New Role

Those of us who know Kashmir story know it very well that it has been oscillating between hope and despair. And sometimes it has been the hope that has dominated the political scene and sometimes it has been the despair that overwhelmed leadership of the land. It is history that whenever the Kashmir problem remained under sharp international focus, hopes for its resolution brightened and whenever it has failed to be talked about in the international forums, despair has overwhelmed the Kashmir leadership espousing the “cause of right to self-determination” or demanding holding of a plebiscite under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council. It is also history that the despair has often led the leadership to desperation that dug Kashmir not only into the hole of uncertainty but pushed it into the whirlpool of tragedies.  Looking objectively at various agreements and accords signed by Kashmir leaders during past sixty two years they were not born out of their political judgment, foresightedness, sagacity or astuteness but were result of their desperation. It has been disappointment over the issue failing in mobilizing the international opinion that has often led them to negotiating table. If one takes the Indira-Sheikh Agreement of 1975 that brought Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah back to power after having led the movement for right for self-determination for twenty two years as a classical example, it did not happen out of the political sagacity of the leadership but out   desperation- the desperation caused because of Pakistan’s dismemberment. The statements like the “the dispute with India was not over quality but quantum of accession”,  made by the Front leadership after Pakistan’s crushing defeat in 1971 was more out of convenience than conviction. It needs no explanation that the six point accord signed by the emissaries of Mrs. Gandhi and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah not only crashed after just seven months but also failed to end political uncertainty in the state. The post 1989 situation that saw Kashmir plunged into most horrendous phase of death and destruction in its history sufficiently explains that any agreement born out of desperation and expediency cannot be long lasting.

Kashmir leaders – a chunk of them is today also caught up in the web of despair and so is a section of academia. Some top academicians whether speaking at school toy exhibition or at a seminar on ending of political uncertainty in the state have been stating that the United Nations does not recognize Kashmir as a dispute and whatever resolutions were passed by the United Nation’s Security Council are nothing but ‘scraps of paper”. They have been very tacitly advocating statuesque.  The perception of some leaders in the “freedom camp” about practicability of these resolutions has also undergone a sea change and they are convinced that these resolutions have no inherent strength for resolving the Kashmir problem. Most of the UN resolution they believe have lost the sting.   Pakistan as one of the leaders told me was “sinking in the morass of terrorism” and in such a situation there is need for finding out a “safe passage” from the “depressing situation”.  There is undoubtedly a section of important and influential leadership like Syed Ali Geelani that steadfastly believes in a settlement based on the ‘right to self-determination’ as the only viable solution.

Notwithstanding uncanny, uncertain and weird political situation on the home turf the Kashmir problem has once again shot into the international focus. There has been many a significant development relating Kashmir at the international level that has given a big diplomatic push to the sixty three year old political problem.  China caused diplomatic embarrassment to New Delhi by introducing separate visas for people of Jammu and Kashmir travelling to the country.  The issue remained under bright focus during the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.  The Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi called upon India and Pakistan to grant complete independence to the Jammu and Kashmir.  The most important developments that took place with regard to Kashmir on the sides lines of the annual meeting of the United Nations have been the OIC appointing a special envoy on Kashmir.

I may not in this column going to join a debate with our academicians who have been reiterating that the United Nation does not recognize Jammu and Kashmir as “disputed state” or I may not equally initiate a discussion with one or two leaders in the “pro-freedom camp” believing the United Nation’s having lost relevance for Kashmir or the resolutions passed by this organization having no inherent inertia in them for resolving the Kashmir problem. But the appointments of envoys by the OIC and the United States demands to be looked in right perspective. It needs to be seen as how long the envoys can be effective in making India and Pakistan agree for ending political uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir for bringing in lasting peace in the region.

The United States ever since its having co-sponsored the resolution guaranteeing right to self-determination to people of Jammu and Kashmir in 1948 has   not by and large changed its stand. The Obama government after its takeover had emphasized the need for resolution of Kashmir problem as it was ‘gateway’ for peace in South-Asia. It had also indicated appointment of former President Bill Clinton as special envoy for the state. In many previous columns, I  did  discuss as how the idea got defeated and how Kashmir was dropped from the brief of Mr. Richard Holbrooke.  Kashmir is not part of brief of Mr. Holbrooke is a reality but reports that have been emanating after US envoy meeting India and Pakistan leadership have been sufficiently suggesting that he has been discussing Kashmir with both the countries. If reports are to be believed the United State is rethinking about appointing fulltime Envoy for Kashmir for facilitating India and Pakistan for hammering a solution.  Notwithstanding Kashmir problem not echoing any more with same vehemence in the Security Council as it used to be from 1947 to 1971 but the appointment of the Special Envoy by the OIC and proposed appointment of Envoy by US for Kashmir does imply that the issue does continue to hold international dimensions. There are indication that it is slowly slipping out of the bilateral fold of India and Pakistan. Ever since APHC was given the Observer status and the Contact Group for Jammu and Kashmir was established Chairman of APHC (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Kashmir Diaspora leaders more particularly Executive Director of Kashmiri American Council Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai have been pleading for greater involvement of OIC countries in the resolution of Kashmir problem in keeping with history of the dispute. These leaders at the September 2009 meet besides  pleading for appointment of Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir emphasized need for persuading the GOI to initiate Kashmir specific CBM’S.

The objective behind the appointment of Special Envoy as emphasized by the OIC Secretary General, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in his address to the Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir on 28 September in New York is ‘making effective use of the influence of some OIC member countries to prevail on India to avail itself the offer of Good offices made by OIC for improving relation between India and Pakistan that could facilitate resolution of the core-issue’.

It is true the   appointment of Abdullah Bin Abdul Rahaman Al Bakr hailing from Saudi Arabia as special envoy indicates growing interest of the Muslim World in the resolution of the sixty three year old problem. It is undoubtedly a watershed in the history of this organization that represents one third of the population of the world. But, there remains an important question about the effectiveness of the OIC Special Envoy in influencing the Government of India for finding an amicable and just solution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.  Given the record of the organization since its birth in 1969, and its role in the global political scenario it has earned the dubious titles like “Talk Shop”, and “chatterbox” and people generally are skeptical about it achieving much unless the major Muslim countries use their influence to make the appointment of Special Envoy a success by prevailing upon New Delhi.

It is true that the 57- strong group of Muslim Countries has  been failing in agreeing on a common charter but there is silver lining in its appointing Special Envoy on Kashmir that it has been a unanimous decision of this organization second after the United Nations. The decision of appointing a special envoy on Kashmir does suggest that Kashmir has started assuming as good importance as Palestine for the Muslim World.

Given to the complexity of the issue the appointment of Special Envoy by the OIC needs to be seen in right perspective as facilitator and not as meddler in the affairs of two countries.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)