Kashmiri expert Ghulam Nabi Fai tells Anadolu Agency world community has not accepted current Kashmir situation
Indian-administered Kashmir made headlines across the globe in 2019 after New Delhi imposed a severe lockdown and communications blockade in the disputed region in August.
While life is slowly returning to normal after India scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and divided it into two federally-administered Union territories, a ban on pre-paid mobile phones and the internet remains in place.
Top Kashmiri expert Ghulam Nabi Fai, who has a doctorate in media communications and has lived in the U.S. for the last four decades, where he leads the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, was in Turkey for Kashmir-related conferences.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Fai said Turkey has achieved an important place in global politics and can play an important role in regards to Kashmir.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but both claim it in full. China also controls a part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.
The Pakistan-administered side is locally known as Azad Kashmir
Q: How has the Kashmiri diaspora responded to the Kashmir situation?
Fai: Kashmir has been under siege for more than four and a half months, and the pro-freedom leadership, unfortunately, are not able to come out, if at all. They are in the city of Srinagar. Like Syed Ali Geelani, who has been under house imprisonment for the last 11 years.
And one of our top leaders, Mohammad Yasin Malik, who has given his life to the cause, was picked up more than a year ago. And he has been transferred to Tihar jail in New Delhi. And only Allah knows what is going to be his fate.
That is why the Kashmiri diaspora all over the world, they have realized their responsibility. I don’t mean people like me, but the younger generation. They have never been that active in the freedom struggle.
Thank God, it is now from Asia to Australia, from Europe to America. The whole Kashmiri diaspora is quite active. So this is the younger generation because they have realized that it is now or never. Because of that, a lot has happened in the international scene.
Our leadership in Kashmir is not able to do much because of the circumstances, but we should convey to them that we are not taking any initiative outside Kashmir without their consent.
There has to be a coordination between the Kashmiri leadership on the ground and the Kashmiri diaspora. Yes, indeed, we cannot talk to them directly because of the internet blockade, but there are ways and means to remain in constant communication with them.
Let me identify the leadership of the Kashmiri political resistance: Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabir Ahmad Shah, and Mohammad Yasin Malik. They have had a seat at the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) for the last 25 years. If there is one agency that knows who the people of Kashmir rely upon, that’s the government of India. And if there is one person who recognized the importance of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), that is Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Both of them sought meetings with the APHC as the prime ministers of India and not in their capacities.
So the Kashmir diaspora must seek guidance from them. Yes, they are not able to do what we expect them to do. But we have to also understand the circumstances.
We are living in a very global village. It’s not difficult to understand what is going on in other parts of the world. So the unity of thought and unity of action is important for Kashmiris.
That doesn’t mean we need to have one particular organization. The Kashmir diaspora all over the world which I have monitored — right from Australia to New Zealand to Europe to America and elsewhere — they are united on three things: the end of the occupation, demilitarization of Kashmir and the right to self-determination.
Q: How has the UN responded to the Kashmir situation?
Fai: The people of Kashmir have to decide what they want, and what exactly is the sanctity of the Kashmir cause. Because Kashmir is not a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Nor is it a fight between Hindus and Muslims, no matter how much India is going to confuse the issue. In reality, Kashmir is not an integral part of India but an international issue under the UN Security Council resolutions.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres made it clear for us when asked about the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. He responded that the policy of the UN has not changed because of the abrogations of Article 370 and 35A.
To quote him exactly, he said the Kashmir issue has to be resolved under the UN Charter as well as under applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Guterres made it clear for us and also clarified the point for the world community that the Kashmir issue can also be resolved under the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan, but the purpose of the Shimla Agreement cannot restrain Kashmiris from going to the United Nations.
One of the points in the Shimla Agreement is that Kashmir is the most outstanding issue and the relationship between India and Pakistan shall be governed under the UN Charter.
Secondly, I think there was a misunderstanding (in India) or at least (Indian Prime Minister) Narendra Modi was mistaken that by abrogating articles 370 and 35A, India is going to make Kashmir an integral part of India and there will not be any discussion about it at all…If at all there will be any discussion, it would be between India and Pakistan only.
There was no discussion on Kashmir in the Security Council since 1971. But because of the implications of the abrogation of these articles, Kashmir was not discussed only in UNSC but in very important capitals of the world.
Yes, they did not do what they can do. They do not do what we expect them to, but at least they made it clear that this abrogation of [Article] 370 is going to create an atmosphere between India and Pakistan that can lead both countries to a nuclear disaster.
So that’s why they got involved. And they tried to give the message to the whole world during that closed-door session of the UN Security Council on Aug. 16.
Our people have made it clear — under the All Parties Hurriyat Conference — that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved under the UNSC resolutions.
If India and Pakistan feel that it is not applicable under the circumstances, then the least that they can do is that there has to be a trilateral dialogue among India and Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership.
As long as Kashmiri leadership is a part of the negotiations, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, they are going to accept that.
Q: What is the point of consensus for Kashmiris?
Fai: Syed Ali Geelani, who is symbol of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan and Mohammad Yasin Malik, who is symbol of independent Kashmir, both have made it clear that let us have a referendum and let the United Nations conduct the election, let the Amnesty International or any other neutral agency supervise the election and if the people of Kashmir during the referendum — which will be very free, which has to be very free from coercion — if the people of Kashmir even after all these atrocities which have been committed by government of India, if they decide to go to India, we will have no objection to that.
The right to self-determination was not given only to the Muslims of Kashmir, it was given to the people of Kashmir and secondly, it was not only given to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but it was also given to people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan is not a part of Pakistan; yes, it is under the control of Pakistan and maybe, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan would like to go to Pakistan but that has to be through right to self-determination.
So, by now, neither part of Kashmir, whether it is under India or Pakistan, is an integral part of either country, because under UN Charter it is a disputed territory whose special status has to be decided by the people of Kashmir.
Q: It seems nothing much has changed for Kashmir even after massive criticism of India post-Aug. 5?
Fai: Lot of agencies are trying to convince India that it is not in the interest of the government of India, because, whether you like it or not, India is a very powerful economic power and India really would like to play a vital role in the global foreign policy.
India has been told without any ambiguity that this action it has taken on Aug. 5, the atrocities it is committing, ban on social media, ban on this internet and communications, that it is not acceptable.
Yes, we have not felt the change on the streets of Kashmir. But that does not mean that internationally nothing is happening.
And secondly, most of the time, that if you don’t see that something is happening between capital to capital, that does not mean nothing is happening.
But people of Kashmir cannot afford to wait because people are dying. There are reports that 35,000 youth have been picked up.
Whatever little we have been doing, we have to redouble our efforts and we have to unify our strategy.
That is why we have been coming to Turkey because Turkey is a very important country and is a part of NATO.
And whether you like it or not, Donald Trump said three times that President Erdogan is my friend. Whether he believes in that or not, what I’m saying is that Turkey is a part of the European Union, technically not practically, and it can play a very important role. It is also a part of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir.
Further, I don’t think we should blame the United Nations for our weaknesses or our shortcomings. UN represents 193 countries. There is only one country that comes to the UN and that is Pakistan.
If 2,3,4,5 countries go to the United Nations, it makes a big difference.
It is our responsibility — the Kashmiri diaspora — to mobilize the international opinion to mobilize the missions in their respective countries and one does not need to be in United Nations for that.
Q: How has been the response of Pakistan to India’s moves?
Fai: Prime Minister Imran Khan was in Azad Kashmir where he announced that he was the ambassador of Kashmiris and most of the people appreciated that statement and gave hope to Kashmiris.
When Imran Khan went to the United Nations, he played a very important role.
But what is important is this, that Pakistan is not one of the important countries but the most important party to Kashmir dispute – we should not feel ashamed about it.
There are different shades of opinions in Pakistan but there is consensus only on two issues — Kashmir and nuclear arsenal.
What is important is that a Pakistani ambassador should not do diplomatic maneuvering on Kashmir from Islamabad alone. Imran Khan has an appeal at the international stage, he has to knock the door of some important capitals himself.
From Feb. 26, 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Council is meeting in Geneva for three weeks. So, after this whole hue and cry, and after this whole suffering we are talking about, if nothing is happening in the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the issue of Kashmir, that means that Kashmiri efforts at the global level have failed; that means Pakistani intentions have not been translated into the reality.
We still have the time. The Kashmir Committee chairman, Fakhar Imam, truly an articulate person does not need to be in Islamabad. He needs to identify 8 to 15 capitals, those capitals which are members of the Human Rights Council and try to persuade them based on facts.
What I’m saying that it is the responsibility of both Pakistani government and Pakistani opposition to implementing their pledge which they have given not in 1947 but since Aug.5 of this year that people of Kashmir don’t need to worry as Pakistanis are their ambassadors. That compassion and sympathy have to be seen on the streets of Washington, London and why not in Turkey?
We are very thankful to President Erdogan for his bold stand on Kashmir. He gave a lot of hope and optimism to the people of Kashmir during his speech to the UN in Sept. 2019.
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