LONDON: The two-day international conference titled “Kashmir-A Way Forward” has ended with a call for an early resolution of the Kashmir dispute for the interest of the people of the region.
Speaking at the plenary session of the conference organized by the Kashmir Centre London at Palace of West Minister, House of Commons, the UK MP and Secretary All Parties Parliamentary Group, Martin Salter stated that Kashmir was the longest outstanding issue which needs to be resolved. He said that the 60-year-old problem was the main cause of the tension in the South Asian region.
Welcoming the delegates the Executive Director of Kashmir Centre, Professor Nazir Ahmed Shawl said that the struggle of Kashmiris reveals that essential ingredient is the people’s empowerment for the restoration of their fundamental freedoms, their dignified identity and the freedom to end the political uncertainty, which surrounds them. He said that Kashmiris are struggling for their right to self-determination.
President of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Raja Zulqarnain Khan, while appreciating India-Pakistan dialogue process urged the inclusion of Kashmiris in the talks process. He reminded Britain of its moral responsibility to address the sufferings of people of Jammu and Kashmir and help in bringing this traumatic situation to an end by facilitating a resolution.
The Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that no solution to the Kashmir dispute within Indian constitution or under the aegis of the Election Commission of India was acceptable to the people of Kashmir. He said elections cannot be construed as referendum as had been envisaged in the UN resolutions and cannot be taken as exercising of right to self-determination.
He said, “It is historical reality that fraudulent elections were held in disputed territory to legitimise the occupation of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the United Nations Security Council in its resolution of 1957 had in categorical terms stated that any election held in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be substituted for holding of plebiscite under the supervision of the United Nations. It is high time for the international community to know that holding of fraudulent elections in Kashmir can only vitiate the atmosphere required for taking forward the peace process towards the resolution of the problem.”
Mirwaiz called upon the international community to rise to the occasion and impress upon India to respond positively with the peace initiative. He said Pakistan has shown magnanimity and flexibility and so has the Kashmiri leadership. He said the peace process between India and Pakistan has entered the fourth year but there has been no perceptible progress on Kashmir. “Nothing substantial has been done to find an amicable solution of the problem.”
He said till the Kashmir problem remains unresolved the peace and development in the region will remain a mirage. “It is in India’s own interest to resolve the Kashmir problem. It is in the interest of teeming millions in the sub-continent living below the poverty line to resolve this most outstanding problem.”
Mirwaiz called for allow free travel between the two parts of Kashmir as well as the free flow of trade and good between all the regions of the Kashmir. He said this arrangement could be an interim arrangement for a period of five years or ten years. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan High Commissioner to UK stated that there has been progress in ongoing Pak-India dialogue process since 2004 but more needs to be done to address the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. She said Line of Control is part of problem not a part of solution, adding that President Musharraf travelled extra mile, demonstrated flexibility while India is yet to reciprocate Pakistan’s proposals on Kashmir dispute.
“The opportunity to resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue exists. This is because after a long time, this dialogue is being conducted in a vastly improved environment of bilateral relations between Pakistan and India as well as a conducive international environment. We must seize the opportunity provided by these factors to negotiated settlements of Kashmir issue.”
The Kashmir issue, she said, has three interconnected dimensions including political, security and humanitarian “Our approach in pursuit of a peaceful settlement is one that seeks to address all these aspects,” Dr Lodhi added.
She pointed out that Pakistan has offered the ideas of demilitarization and self-governance as the basis of a possible interim solution, acceptable to all stake holders especially the people of Kashmir.
She further said Pakistan has also emphasized the need to involve and associate the Kashmiris in the peace process. She said Pakistan has called for withdrawal or reduction of Indian troops from towns and population centres, repeal of the repressive laws, release of political detainees and end to crackdowns and other operations and dismantling of bunkers and barricades.
Dr Lodhi also noted that a number of Kashmir related CBMs have been proposed and discussed and some agreed. “Their aim is to facilitate interaction among Kashmiris on both sides and encourage people to people contact, strengthen communication links and promote trade.”
The first technical session of the conference was presided over by Ambassador Arif Kamal. The panelists in this session were Dave Anderson, MP Paul Goodman, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director Kashmir American Centre, Washington, Zahid G Muhammad, a Srinagar-based columnist, and Hurriyat (M) leader, Nayeem Khan. Dr Fai said the denial of the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir by India has made the lives of Kashmiri people miserable, adding that this principle was recognised by the United Nations and upheld by India and Pakistan and UN Security Council.
The AJK Prime Minister Sardar Atique Ahmad Khan, speaking in the third and final session of the day on “The impediments of the Indo-Pakistan dialogue” said there was a need for a forward vision. He said South Asian region was clouded in danger because of the unresolved issue of Kashmir.
He called for frequent interaction between people of Kashmir living across the Line of Control to develop more confidence and understanding. He said open debates must be held in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad to freely discuss the various options on the Kashmir and allow consensus to develop.
Omar Abdullah, president National Conference, in his speech said flexibility and dialogue was must to move forward on the issue. There was a need to look for resolving this issue beyond the beaten track. He said the people of Kashmir must not ask for all but should know how much space was available to them. He said it was up to the Kashmir leadership to decide what they want. He claimed that the Indian leadership was moving forward but has been handicapped by the coalition government in the Centre, which does not allow Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh much room to manoeuvre.
British MP Paul Goodman pleaded that India cannot become a member of Security Council if it does not improve human rights record in Jammu and Kashmir.
Nayeem Khan said that UN has successfully intervened in some conflict zones and done a commendable job but its intervention in lingering Kashmir dispute is awaited.
Zahid G Muhammad urged the international community for facilitating the two countries to find out a solution of the Kashmir problem based on justice and fair play in tune with the UN charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ex-MP John Cushnahan, MP Fabian Hamilton, and Majid Tramboo, Director Kashmir Centre Brussels, also spoke on the occasion and discussed the various aspects of Kashmir issue.-SANA