The barbaric situation in Bosnia and Kosova has outraged the world and caused regrets that the enormous toll of human lives was not averted by timely action at an earlier stage. The failure of the international community can be explained but not denied. Yet in another part of the globe – the Indian-held Kashmir – atrocities of a similar pattern have been, and are being, perpetrated with no fear of a corrective international response. To date, no one power or combination of powers has blown the whistle.
Kashmir, located in the heart of Asia, is surrounded by Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, India and with a narrow Wakhan stripe with Tajikistan and Krgystan. It has an area of 86,000 square miles, more than three times the size of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg combined and is larger than 87 sovereign countries. It has a population of 13 million and is bigger than 114 independent member states of the United Nations.
When the dispute of Kashmir was first brought to the United Nations, the Security Council, with the firm backing of the United States, urged that the people of Kashmir will have right of self- determination to decide the future status of their homeland. At that time, the Soviet Union did not dissent from it. Later, because of the cold war, the Soviet Union blocked every resolution of the Council calling for implementation of the settlement plan.
Since 1990, Indian forces have been engaged in a sustained campaign of slaughter, rape, arson and destruction. This state terrorism has resulted in more than 60,000 deaths. The intervention of the international community is needed to bring the genocide in Kashmir to a quick end. Initiation of a political dialogue between the Kashmiri leadership and the Governments of India and Pakistan will set the stage for a democratic and peaceful solution.
We, in the United States can do the following to bring the Kashmir issue to the forefront.
1. We should make it clear to the U.S. Administration that it is implausible to believe that India and Pakistan will either cap or renounce their respective nuclear genies after they have escaped the South Asian bottle unless the chief source of antagonism between the two — Kashmir– is resolved. It is obvious that no settlement can last if it is not based on justice for the people of Kashmir and recognition of their inherent rights.
2. The Governments of India and Pakistan should include the Kashmiri leadership with the peace process; and should a stalemate arise, both countries should be willing to invite or accept the mediation by an impartial and neutral international agency. As Northern Ireland required the participation of Sinn Fein in negotiations to succeed, Kashmir is no different.
3. We should urge President Bush to appoint a Special Envoy on Kashmir, a person of an international standing like former President Nelson Mandela or former President Carter or former Prime Minster Lady Thatcher.
4. The United States can initiate an intra-Kashmiri dialogue at a location outside South Asia with the participation of the leadership of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) and the leadership of other segments of Kashmiri society. The Indian government must be persuaded to issue travel documents to the leaders of the APHC.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is the executive director of the Washington, DC-based Kashmiri American Council.