G8’s role can bring a peaceful political settlement of Kashmir imbroglio

The leaders of the world’s major industrialised democracies – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States of America and also President of the European commission – are meeting at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland (July 6-8) for the 2005 G8 Summit at a time when rhetoric of the peace process between India and Pakistan is making headlines in the world press, however the unfortunate situation is that there has been no let-up in gross and systematic abuses of human rights against 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.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed region of Kashmir. The sudden thaw in rivals’ on again –” off again tensions came in November 2003, when India agreed to a Pakistani offer of a ceasefire across the divided line in the disputed State of Kashmir, which came into effect on November 26th, 2003; but the thaw in relations is just a thaw, rather than a breakthrough.

The peace process was launched with the “Islamabad joint statement” issued by the former Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of SAARC summit in Islamabad on January 6th, 2004 committed to resolve the Kashmir issue along with other issues through peaceful negotiations. Unfortunately, to date there has been no indication of any serious discussion on the question of Kashmir; in addition, political repression continues in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir.

The fact remains that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are politically alienated and disaffected. The disputed region is the densest and the largest militarily occupied area of the world. The uprising against India’s rule in Kashmir that began in 1989 after New Delhi’s rigged elections in 1987 has been worsened by the brutal oppression of the Indian occupation forces against 15 million Kashmiris demanding freedom, justice and respect for human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During the past 16 years, the 700,000 strong Indian forces have killed more than 90,000 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.

Impunity has become a licence for the occupation forces to wreak havoc with the lives of Kashmiris. The deliberate and unprovoked attacks and other patterns of abuse have all become too frequent to report. No perpetrator has ever been prosecuted in a real manner, despite the fact that such crimes have been extensively documented by many international human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Kashmir is not a territorial or bilateral issue, it is about the future of the 15 million people, and it does not constitute an un-demarcated frontier between India and Pakistan which could be marked through bilateral negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad. The disputed Jammu and Kashmir is inhabited by a people with their own history of independence; their own language and culture; their own individuality; it is not real estate, which can be parcelled out between the two rivals.

The Charter of the United Nations, signed sixty years ago, speaks of a wider freedom as the sustainable foundation for a more peaceful and prosperous world. The very Charter firmly acknowledges the right of self-determination as an inherent right; it cannot be extinguished until it is exercised. The people of Jammu and Kashmir will never compromise on that 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 fact of the matter is that the highly publicised proclamations of confidence-building measures did not deter New Delhi and Islamabad from acceleration in their nuclear and missiles capabilities. Moreover, both neighbours are developing sophisticated missile delivery vehicles. The much boasted bus service and ceasefire have little importance compared to the magnitude of the problems. At stake are the issues of settlement of the Kashmir imbroglio –” a root-cause of tensions during the past fifty-eight years, and creating sustainable peace between the two neighbours. Until then the distrust between the rivals will push them to compete in dangerous arms race, which has resulted into the diversion of their scarce resources from human development to militarisation. Therefore, the leaders must intensify pressure against Indian and Pakistani arms race and oppose new arms sales to them from all sources.

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. The Kashmiris’ demand is 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 –” India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.

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: will this fanfare of friendly relations between the two nuclear archrivals last long enough to resolve the most contentious issue of Kashmir? The Kashmiri-Canadian Council (KCC) is concerned that without the active help of the G8 nations there is a danger to the peace process getting bogged down minus any result-oriented dialogue, particularly –” on the issue of Kashmir.

To help move the process forward, the leaders at Perthshire G8 Summit 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 demand participation of Kashmiris as equal partners in determining a negotiated solution of the issue. Moreover, both countries must help to facilitate an intra-Kashmiri dialogue from both sides of the ceasefire line –” this could serve as a cornerstone for promoting a real peace in the region.

The KCC believes that the leaders of the G8 nations are in a position to play a key role in bringing an end to the 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 by both countries, and both Islamabad and New Delhi can focus entirely on sustainable development –” health, hunger, education projects, reducing unemployment and eradicating poverty. This will start a new era of coexistence between India and Pakistan.

Given the G8 leaders commitment to world peace and stability in the region and their support for freedom, justice and human rights, time is ripe for them to press for a roadmap aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement of the conflict and an end to untold misery in Kashmir.