President Obama Can Help Bring Peace in South Asia. By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
22 Jan 2015
“We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis…” President Obama, October 30, 2008
Your planned visit to India has inspired hopes, in the hearts of Americans of Kashmiri origin, that your global statesmanship may move the frozen dispute over the status of Kashmir towards a settlement based on justice and rationality. We would hasten to add that while we are fully aware of the multiplicity of issues that you will be devoting your time and attention during your forthcoming visit to India, you may perhaps like to remember that Kashmir is not a new issue, having been on the agenda of and in the cognizance of the United Nations for nearly 68 years. Ironically, it is the only entity in the region of South Asia which has so far been denied the opportunity to determine its political future.
It has been most unfortunate that throughout the pendency of the dispute and especially since the uprising in 1989, India has taken full advantage of United States policy, regardless of the intent of that policy. Pronouncements emanating from the highest levels of the US government to the effect that India and Pakistan must settle the dispute bilaterally have been taken by Indian policy-makers as endorsement of their stand. They may not like the balancing statement that the United States regards the whole of Kashmir as disputed territory but they consider it as immaterial.
Equally distressing has been the reported canvassing by some Indian officials of the idea of autonomy for Kashmir within the Indian Union. Kashmiri leadership has the support of mass opinion for its stand that this idea is totally unacceptable as, in addition to its inherent defects, it would be liable to revision or repeal by the Indian legislature. Unless a settlement of the Kashmir dispute, other than what is embodied in the jointly accepted resolutions of the Security Council, is incorporated in an international treaty or agreement with the expressed support of all states neighboring Kashmir, it will amount only to redesigning the dispute rather than settling it. Also in order for resolution of Kashmir dispute to be credible and lasting, the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir must be included in all future negotiations between India and Pakistan. We also believe that an appointment of a special envoy on Kashmir will go a long way to hasten the process of peace and stability in the region of South Asia – home to one fifth of total human race.
Our plea is based on confidence that the United States is sensitive to human rights situations regardless of the location of their occurrence. We have been deeply moved by reports of almost the entire population of major towns in Kashmir coming out on the streets demanding the fulfillment by the world community of the pledge embodied in the resolutions of the Security Council that they will be enabled to determine their own future. This massive, indigenous and peaceful upsurge defying suppression cannot be seen other than unmistakable expression of resentment by Kashmiris of the neglect of the human tragedy caused by the international community's failure to resolve the dispute. We also view this as yet another indication of the yearning by Kashmiris for an amicable settlement of dispute so they can live in peace and prosperity.
Our hope that the Kashmir dispute will not be allowed to lead to a massive tragedy has been strengthened by statements you made in October, 2008. It underscored the United States interest in working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir issue in a “serious way” and as a result, remove the basis of militant extremism in South Asia, and also the cause of the arms race between India and Pakistan.
We place our trust in the statesmanship of our President. It is not imaginable to us that you will in any way countenance any attempt to ignore or bypass the wishes of the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Their determination has to be made by giving the people right to self-determination. It is obvious, that, if the people of any region of Jammu & Kashmir wish to stay either with India or with Pakistan or to choose to be independent of both, their will has to be fully respected.
(Dr. Fai can be reached at; email@example.com)