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Leaders Urged To Help Resolve Kashmir Dispute

Wednesday, December 3, 2003, 11:59 pm

KCC urges Commonwealth leaders to help resolve Kashmir dispute

Toronto - December 4, 2003 - On the occasion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja (December 5-8), the Kashmiri-Canadian Council (KCC) has urged the Commonwealth leaders to help the people of Kashmir to exercise their right of self determination as promised to them by India, Pakistan and the United Nation.

Mr. Mushtaq A. Jeelani, Executive Director of the KCC, in separate letters to 52 heads of government of the Commonwealth (out of 54 member nations) and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, expressed his serious concern about systematic and gross human rights abuses in Indian-administered area of the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir.

He reminded the leaders that the boiling pot of political tension in South Asia is being stirred by the non-resolution of the ongoing Kashmir conflict coupled with the fact that both India and Pakistan have refused to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Mr. Jeelani underlined that the Kashmir issue has dominated the geopolitics of South Asia for the past 56 years because India has failed to honour its international commitment and is trying to mislead the global community by categorising the Kashmiri uprising against its occupation, as terrorism. 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 and by the occupation forces' repression to silence each and every individual voice demanding their right of self-determination. 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. New Delhi seems to believe the solution is to crush all opposition against its occupation, rather than to find a peacefully negotiated settlement through tripartite dialogue, involving India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.

He said the fact remains that 700,000 Indian soldiers have not been able to crush the Kashmiris' freedom struggle despite killing more than 86,000 people, should be enough of an eye opener for the world community. No people can be kept in perpetual bondage against their will; the sooner India realizes it, the better it would be for the region.

The Executive Director recalled that last April Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee raised many hopes when he offered Pakistan "the hand of friendship" from a public rally at Srinagar, the capital of the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir. The greatest of these hopes was that South Asia's long, dark night of confrontation, bitter hostility and dangerous brinkmanship that has continued for the past 56 years because of the unresolved Kashmir dispute would soon end.

He said that almost seven months later, that hope is on the verge of turning into despair. All that the two nuclear-armed rivals have done is restoration of ambassador-level relations and a reduced twice-weekly Lahore-Delhi bus service. All this is cosmetic compared to the magnitude of the problems. At stake are the issues of settlement of the longstanding Kashmir conflict and creating sustainable peace between two neighbours. Both issues are interrelated, that makes it essential to settle the former in order to achieve the latter.

Mr. Jeelani stated that unfortunately, India's recent 12-point proposal for confidence-building measure once again is a flippant exercise rather than a real diplomacy; because it sidesteps any indication of resolving the Kashmir dispute - the nuclear flashpoint of South Asia.

He reminded the leaders that in 1972 the Simla Accord, signed by both India and Pakistan, committed both parties to reach a "final settlement." This has yet to happen. The delay is causing unparalleled suffering only for the people of Kashmir. After Simla two more summits, Lahore and Agra, added to the list of failed bilateralism that has made "Kashmir most dangerous part in the world."

Mr. Jeelani recalled that last year under tremendous international pressure, India and Pakistan were forced to withdraw the troops they massed along their border. But after pushing one another to the brink of a catastrophic conflict many world leaders feared would escalate into nuclear war, the rivals are going forward towards the possibility that they will have to fight it one day. The alarming situation is that this year has seen both neighbours' renewed efforts to accelerate their nuclear and missiles capabilities. Moreover, both countries are developing sophisticated missile delivery vehicles.

He cautioned the leaders that although the rivals claim not to be involved in any kind of arms race, but according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India's military expenditure has gone up from about $9.4 billion in 1998 to $12.9 billion in 2002, with an increase of over $1 billion just in 2002. During the same period Pakistan's military budget went up from $2.8 billion to about $3.2 billion. The unresolved Kashmir dispute between the rivals is the chief cause of competing in perilous arms race which has resulted into the diversion of their scarce resources from human development to militarization. It seems the rivals are willing to abandon more than 500-million dirt-poor of the region.

The Executive Director warned the leaders that the Commonwealth must intensify pressure against Indian and Pakistani arms race and to oppose new arms sales to both countries otherwise the danger remains that the two nuclear-armed rivals would seek to rapidly build-up their military capabilities.

Mr. Jeelani underscored that the prospects of peace and progress in South Asia are inseparably linked with the recognition of the Kashmiri people's right to decide their future, and this rests upon the international community's willingness to make positive contribution towards resolving the dispute within this framework.

He emphasised that the Commonwealth is uniquely qualified to help India and Pakistan work through their differences in a spirit of partnership and collaboration. It is in the same spirit that the leaders are urged for the Commonwealth's helping hand in establishing lasting peace in South Asia by enabling the people of Kashmir to exercise their right of self determination as pledged to them by India, Pakistan and the United Nation Security Council.

The Executive Director urged the 52 leaders of the Commonwealth nations to ask both India and Pakistan to come up with some kind of a road map aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement of the Kashmir dispute, which is fuelled by political alienation. However, a Band-Aid solution to cooling-off border tensions (ceasefire) and leaving the dispute unsettled merely invites more crises, more bloodshed and more military and nuclear brinkmanship.

He said that the KCC urges leaders to examine at the Abuja Summit whether to allow India and Pakistan to remain locked in this bitter conflict, and if so for how much longer. And added, "how long will the member nations of the Commonwealth allow two of their partners - New Delhi and Islamabad, to divert their valuable resources away from issues of sustainable development - hunger, health, and education projects - in order to fuel the pot of discontent in Kashmir?" concluded Mr. Jeelani.

-30-


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