Toronto February 28, 2006 â€“ The Kashmiri-Canadian Council (KCC) has applauded President George W. Bush's determination to encourage India and Pakistan on his present trip to the region to work towards a lasting solution to the unresolved Kashmir issue that is acceptable to all sides, i.e., India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mr. Mushtaq A. Jeelani, Executive Director of the KCC, in a letter to the American President George W. Bush expressed his serious concerns over the deepening human rights crisis in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and lack of progress in Indian-Pakistani bilateral dialogue on the issue of Kashmir.
The Executive Director wrote: The Kashmir issue has dominated the geopolitics of South Asia for the past 59 years because of the enduring rivalry between India and Pakistan. They have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed region of Kashmir.
He emphasised that the two sides declared a ceasefire across the divided line within the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir in November 2003, and later launched a peace process committed to resolve this issue along with all other issues through peaceful negotiations, but progress has been tortuously slow. Despite the warming ties, the unfortunate situation is that there has been no let-up in gross and systematic abuses of human rights against the civilians in Indian-administered Kashmir. Approximately, ten innocent civilians are killed everyday by the occupying Indian troops to silence the people's demand for freedom, justice, and respect for human rights.
Mr. Jeelani reminded the President that the disputed region is the densest and the largest militarily occupied area of the world. The uprising against foreign occupation and alien domination that began in 1989 after India's rigged elections in 1987 has been worsened by the brutal oppression of the Indian occupation forces against the Kashmiri people demanding a UN sponsored plebiscite.
He underlined that during the past 17 years, the 700,000 strong Indian forces have killed more than 95,000 Kashmiris; thousands have disappeared; torture has left thousands paralysed; thousands of young and old women have been raped; property worth hundreds of millions dollars has been destroyed and the suffering and devastation continues unabated, which has sadly drawn no significant attention from the international community.
The Executive Director reminded the President that the transition from "passive resistance," which was a characteristic of the people of Kashmir, to "militancy" was germinated by India's blatant refusal to implement the UN Security Council resolutions promising the people of Kashmir their right of self-determination.
Mr. Jeelani underscored that no self-respecting people can be expected to remain unmoved while their families and friends are being killed, tortured and gang raped, their houses burnt down, their businesses destroyed and humiliation of the worst kind heaped upon them through the instrument of state terrorism.
He underlined that the people of Kashmir are yearning for peace. However, they do not want peace that does not guarantee total freedom from foreign occupation and alien domination. Moreover, the people will never compromise on their right of self-determination. Their struggle to achieve that right of self-determination will not be extinguished until India and Pakistan accept its exercise by the people of Jammu and Kashmir, through what the UN Security Council has called a "UN supervised plebiscite."
The Executive Director cautioned that India and Pakistan cannot separately or jointly decide to discard the UN resolutions on the future of Kashmir â€“ it is the "collective will" of the Kashmiri people that has been empowered by the said resolutions to make that determination.
He warned that the conflict in Kashmir is a "political" and "human" tragedy, but the world community, including India and Pakistan, have overlooked this critically important human dimension of the issue. Kashmiris' demands are simple and in accordance with the international law: the implementation of the United Nations resolutions for a plebiscite to determine the future status of the disputed region in a peaceful and democratic way. Whatever the outcome, it will be impartial and binding for all three parties â€“ India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.
Mr. Jeelani underlined that it is high time for action not words, as the people of Kashmir have gone through unprecedented suffering in quest to have a say on the future of their disputed homeland. But the question is, he asked, "will this fanfare of friendly relations between the two nuclear archrivals last long enough to resolve the most contentious issue of Kashmir?" Adding, "the KCC is concerned that without the active help of the United States of America there is a danger to the peace process getting bogged down minus any result-oriented dialogue, particularly â€“ on the issue of Kashmir."
"The KCC believes that to help move the process forward, Washington must assist the two nuclear rivals to rapidly work to build bridges of trust by tackling the longstanding issue of Kashmir in forthright manner and demanding participation of Kashmiris as equal partners in determining a negotiated solution of the issue," continued the Executive Director. "Moreover, both countries must help to facilitate an intra-Kashmiri dialogue from both sides of the ceasefire line â€“ this could serve as a cornerstone for promoting a real peace in the region."
He underscored that the US is in a position to play a key role in bringing an end to this longstanding political conflict in the interest of peace and prosperity of South Asia's billion plus people. Furthermore, it will also help to put an end to meaningless arms race between the two countries and allow them to focus entirely on sustainable development â€“ health, hunger, and education projects, reducing unemployment and eradicating poverty. This will start a new era of coexistence between India and Pakistan; it will be a source of peace and stability and prosperity for the entire world.
The Executive Director wished the President a safe, successful, and enjoyable trip to Asia. "I sincerely hope that the President will seize this historic opportunity to lay the foundation for regional peace, economic development and prosperity for generations to come," concluded Mr. Jeelani.