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Can The US play an effective role in Kashmir?

Can The US play an effective role in Kashmir?

By Sarwat Hassan, Sydney, Australia

The death of ninety thousand people and the injury of more than a hundred thousand people in the troubled paradise of South Asia, Kashmir brought the entire globe to a standstill on October 8 th 2005. As people turned on their television sets, they opened their eyes to a blissful part of the world they had never paid real attention to before. The massive destruction of infrastructure, loss of lives and the cries of children could be felt by the masses of public in every country. At the same time, among the ruins, the world witnessed the most remarkable and breath-taking landscapes that never make it to the top tourist destination spots. Ironically, the heart-felt tears in the eyes of the common man were for the natural-disaster, the Earthquake that shook the edges of South Asia, it wasn't for the man-made chaos and loss of human lives taken every day in the Kashmir region.

We as a human race are still skirmishing over land at the beginning of the 21st century. As human beings, we proudly hold our heads high, especially in the West, for the laws and legislations that give us freedom. Every corner of the globe, a declaration is uttered freely, perhaps more often at the round talks at the United Nations Headquarters from New York to Vienna - "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood" [i] .US President George W. Bush as an ambassador to this declaration headed towards South Asia to encourage human liberty.

"India in the 21st century is a natural partner of the United States because we are brothers in the cause of human liberty [ii]," stated President Bush in New Delhi, India. Similarly, in Pakistan President Bush praised President Musharraf for making a bold decision for his people and for peace, after September the 11th, when Pakistan chose to fight the terrorists [iii]. Despite, being such great nations they fall short when it comes to their humanitarian efforts.

Visualize, Kashmir, a land that does not have the right of free speech and freedom of the press. A land where people are still i ll-treated, tortured and left to die in custody. A fellow human being speaks out but is denied the rights to a fair trail and the right to a secure life. Imagine your fellow citizens of the state disappearing everyday and you do not know their whereabouts. Imagine not being safe in your own home and your children are assaulted everyday. Imagine it being the norm to sexually and physically assault a woman as a weapon of combat. Envision the leaders of this dubious land speak about humanity and human liberty; yet, their uphill struggle is carrying out the actual opposite.

The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan has lead to deaths of more than hundred thousand people, while other statistics on both sides state a higher number. Following the opening of discussion between Pakistani President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, matters have apparently improved. However, Amnesty International has said in its most recent report, released on May 24 2005, that serious violations such as rape and extra judicial killings continue, brushing aside claims of improvement. It remains to be clear whether Indian actions to control the problem have had any effect [iv] or whether Pakistan request to negotiate still lie waiting on the table, with no real resolution.

Both India and Pakistan continue to assert their sovereignty or rights over the entire region of Kashmir. India considers all of Kashmir to be an integral part of India, and often makes statements domestically about acquiring the Pakistani half, known in Pakistan as 'Azad' (free) Kashmir. In international forums however it has offered to make the Line of Control (LOC) a permanent border on a number of occasions. Officially Pakistan insists on a UN sponsored plebiscite, so that the people of Kashmir will have a free say in which country all of Kashmir should be incorporated into [v].

Fifty-nine years ago, a decision on Kashmir had been taken by both the leaders of Pakistan and India, founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah stated, "After the lapse of paramountcy(sic) the Indian States would be constitutionally and legally sovereign States and free to adapt for themselves any course they wished. It is open to the States to join Hindustan, Pakistan or to decide to remain independent. In my opinion they are free to remain independent if they desire." [vi] Agreeing, the Last Viceroy to India, Mountabatten replied ""The Indian Independence Act releases the States from all their obligations to the Crown. The States will have complete freedom- technically and legally they become independent." [vii] Unfortunately, as these leaders perished so did their words, however, if present today, their vision for Kashmiris would be for complete freedom, for them to choose their own fate, for their own land, and for their own people.

If India and Pakistan, desire to save human lives as they articulate then the resolution for Kashmir would not take as long. If they do believe that the United Nations will aid and resolve the issue, then we would have to wait for the death of another hundred thousand people till it steps in. If India and Pakistan believe that the United States can assist in solving the difference of opinion, they should think again.

United States President Bush's visit to South Asia in March 2006 left the public awry as his bold statements encouraging the leaders, seemed persistent, "Pakistan and India now have a historic opportunity to work toward lasting peace. ... I encourage all sides to continue to make progress on important issues, including Kashmir." [viii] President Bush further insisted that the leaders of both the countries should step up and lead to solve the pending issue. President Bush said that Pakistani President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have signaled a new willingness to work on Kashmir, the disputed territory that has been the cause of two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since independence in 1947 . Paradoxically, United States itself has been caught up in two wars itself in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent times.

President Musharraf, said that he hoped President Bush would lead a renewed push towards a solution. "All that I expect is his weight, his voice pressurising all three groups - me, Indians and Kashmiris - to resolve the dispute now because now is the ideal time, ideal environment to resolve it, [ix]" he said to BBC before the visit of President Bush to the South Asia region. Despite, President Musharraf's keen hopes for President Bush to pressurize the three groups, no substantial amount of weight was placed on the issue, except the common idea that the two leaders of India and Pakistan should hold bilateral talks.

United States currently is in no position to play the mediator or to hold bilateral talks between India and Pakistan, due to its own continued human rights issues it faces in front of the international arena, being heavily criticized at the United Nations. Hundreds of detainees continued to be held without charge or trial at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In Iraq and Afghanistan thousands of people were detained during US military and security operations and routinely denied access to their families and lawyers. Military investigations were initiated or conducted into allegations of torture and ill treatment of detainees by US personnel in Abu Gharaib prison in Iraq and into reports of deaths in custody and ill treatment by US forces elsewhere in Iraq, and in Afghanistan and Guantánamo [x]. Notwithstanding, its own blunders US has continued to highlight flaws of Pakistan and India in relation to Kashmir, whether it be extra judicial killings in Pakistan or the military Indian human right abuses that need to be tackled; while at the same time it is conducting the same alleged abuses that the Kashmir people face.

A country that is tied up in its own web of war cannot solve Kashmir. In May 2003, when US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited the Indo-Pak region he denied speculation in South Asia that the US might have drawn up peace proposals for Kashmir, like its roadmap for peace in the Middle East. While speaking to BBC he said, " The suggestion that I have some sort of a roadmap [for Kashmir] is false," [xi]. Three years later, it seems that the US still does not have that roadmap for peace planned. Before the visit it was quite noticeable to see the US President Bush highlighting the human element, whether it be ' human liberty' or their continued endeavor to fight against terrorism and freeing the people from injustice around the world, but soon after entering the South Asia region, the human element disappeared from his statements. Perhaps, it would be inappropriate to be making those statements and signing the sharing of technology in such areas as space systems and dual-use civilian and defense items, particularly nuclear technology. Strangely enough, while previously stating the great concern of the US for India and Pakistan being in conflict with nuclear weapons, which could have a catastrophic affect for the future of South Asia.

Arguably, the most United States has done practically so far, positively after the post President Bush visit is to offer $510 million to support the relief and reconstruction efforts for the Kashmir region affected by the Earthquake to the Pakistani Government over the next four years. United States cannot be blamed for the rocky edges the South Asia region lies in; to stabilize this region would be purely in the hands of the individual States.

The United States in its 2004-2005, Human Rights and Democracy record stated that it had sought to strengthen human rights and democratic institutions in South Asia. To address the key human rights concerns the United States supported professionalism of security forces, combating trafficking in persons and reduce violence against women. The United States also encouraged peaceful settlements of internal conflicts and prevention of abuses by security forces. It further stated that it is working with governments and non-governmental organizations in the region to address these challenges. [xii] As great as it sounds, the great accomplishment for the United States so far, has been its economic and trade boost in the South Asia region post President Bush's visit rather than its active role in the human rights and democratic institutions in South Asia.

According, to Dr. Subhash Kapila, an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst, the United States, has a strategic objective, of using Kashmir as a "pressure-point" in the conduct of its policies in the Indian sub-continent. The United States has strategic interests in Kashmir as an independent entity. An independent Kashmir would be wholly dependent on the United States and would facilitate establishing a permanent military presence of the United States. [xiii]. Whether or not this is true, in recent times due to its US engaging war in Afghanistan, it is a possibility that if it plays a role in gaining Kashmir as an independent state it could have a more stronger hold in this part of the South Asian region.

Kashmir should be looked at by India and Pakistan through its human dimension. The human dimension has always been visible but has been used by the past and present leaders as a tool to increase the emotions of the Indian and Pakistani citizens, to continue to wage the never-ending conflict. A Kashmiri citizen Ghulam Mohiuddin Khan, 24, in search of work has lived in Srinagar, Anantnag and Kargil states that " Everyday here people get hurt and some die. We are caught in the middle of two groups slugging it out - the security forces and the militants are fighting a war and we are right in the middle of it all. All we want is peace and to be left alone. Life is hard here - we need to be able to do ordinary everyday things without worrying about our safety." [xiv] His comments are not new; thousands of Kashmiris experience the same dilemma that this man faces. They all are striving to achieve Peace, Freedom & Dignity - three words that are a fundamental right of every Kashmiri.


[i] Article 1United Nation Human Right Declaration Bill 19

[ii] President George W. Bush N ew Delhi, India March 3, 2006

[iii] President George W. Bush Islamabad, Pakistan March 4, 2006

[iv]Amnesty International Report Reference 24/6/2005

[v] History of the Kashmir Conflict

[vi] Mohammad Ali Jinnah, quotes

[vii] Last Viceroy to India, Mountabatten

[viii] CNN World News, Bush on Kashmir

[ix] Greater Kashmir Online

[x] Amnesty International, Report on US Human Right Abuse

[xi] US denies Kashmir Roadmap,

[xii] Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004 – 2005

[xiii] United States Obsession With The Kashmir Issue: An Analysis – Dr.Subhash Kapila Paper 403 2002

[xiv] Ghulam Mohiuddin Khan, Voices of Kashmir


Miss. Sarwat Hassan, The author is a student of Journalism at University of Western Sydney, Australia and a freelance journalist. @

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