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Old Friday, November 18, 2005
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Default New thinking on Kashmir

New thinking on Kashmir: text of Mirwaiz’s speech

NEW DELHI: The head of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has proposed a United States of Kashmir to involve all provinces of the disputed region. He made the proposal while speaking on Wednesday at the Hindustan Times’ Leadership Summit on “New Thinking on Kashmir.”

The following is the full text of Mirwaiz speech:

I am profoundly grateful to the organizers of “the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit” for the opportunity to speak to such an esteemed and even more profound audience on the subject, “New Thinking on Kashmir.”

Ladies, and Gentlemen, for the greater part of its history, Kashmir has maintained an independent existence. Its individuality has been shaped by its distinctive natural setting, the diligence and craftsmanship of its people, its long experience of phases of growth and decline and its sustained traditions of amity and tolerance between the different religious or cultural communities. The conflict over the disputed territory of Kashmir is soluble only if pragmatic, realistic and tangible strategy is established to help seta stage to put the Kashmir issue on the road to a just and durable settlement.

Since, we are concerned at this time with setting a stage for settlement rather than the shape, the settlement will take, we believe that it is both untimely and harmful to indulge in, or encourage, controversies about the most desirable solution.

We deprecate raising of quasi-legal or pseudo-legal questions during the preparatory phase about the final settlement. It only serves to befog the issue and to convey the wrong impression that the dispute is too complex to be resolved and that India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir hold equally inflexible positions. Such an impression does great injury to the cause. Anymore, complexity is in the eyes of beholder. There is not a single international issue that is not complex. If there is an interest then the complexity becomes a motivating factor. And, if there is none, then complexity becomes an instrument of passivity and inaction.

I believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable if all parties to the dispute make some sacrifices. Each party to the dispute will have to modify her position so that common ground could be found. Therefore, the plan should be such which neither promotes nor rules out any conceivable settlement of the dispute – accession in whole or in part to India or Pakistan, the eventual joining or separation of any two regions, independence or quasi-independence etc.

The whole idea behind it is not to impose or recommend any particular solution but instead to get the representatives of the different regions of Kashmir themselves to decide a settlement without pressure either from India or Pakistan and even from one dominant region or another.

Let it not be said that Hurriyat does not recognize the diversity within the State. It is has repeatedly acknowledged, advocated the representation of these diversities and in such recognition have mooted a “United States of Kashmir”. This may or may not be acceptable to the State’s diverse population.

But to verify that we need an atmosphere in which we, the diverse people of the State can meet freely without fear of labels, talk amongst ourselves, understand each other and determine what is practicable. Clearly the government of India and Pakistan need to be generous to allow this internal dialogue amongst ourselves. The Hurriyat favours a mechanism that I have often described as “triangular dialogue”.

What we mean by this is that the leadership from across the ceasefire line of the State be allowed to talk to the Indian and Pakistani leadership separately and alternatively and to return to its populaces with their views. This will take time and it will require effort. But let it be said here and now, both will be needed in generous amounts if we are to embark on the road to the resolution of the Kashmir problem.

We have welcomed the initiation of talks between the Governments of India and Pakistan. We owe it to the interests of peace to enter two caveats along with this welcome. The first caveat is that as the dispute involves three parties — India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir who are the most directly affected — any attempt to strike a deal between the two without the association of the third, will fail to yield a credible settlement. This has been made unmistakably clear by the flimsy agreements that were contrived in the past. The agreement between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehruin 1952; and the pact between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Mrs. IndiraGandhi in 1975; and an agreement between Mr. Farooq Abdullah and Mr.Rajiv Gandhi in 1980’s sought to bypass Pakistan, leaving the basic issue of Kashmir unsettled. Likewise, the Tashkent Agreement of 1966 between India and Pakistan; the Simla Agreement of 1972; and the Lahore Declaration of 1998 sought to bypass the people of Kashmir and it resulted in a failure. So the time has come that talks need to be tripartite.

It is quite obvious that no formula that fails to command the consent of the Kashmiri people will be worth the paper on which it is written. The idea is neither novel nor grasping. Sinn Fein was a negotiating partner in Northern Ireland, the Palestinian Liberation Organizationin the Middle East, East Timorese leaders in East Timor, and the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo.

The policy that aims at merely defusing the situation, and buying time whatever that may mean and not encouraging a credible settlement has not paid in the past. It is likely to do even less now. We all know that the best remedy for any tragedy is the coming together of people from all walks of life. Nothing has dramatized the cruelty of the artificial lines that separate and divide us in Kashmir than the recent earthquake that had devastated Muzaffarabad and laid much of the State on either side of ceasefire line to waste. Again we appreciate the moderation in Delhi and Islamabad in allowing people from the two sides to meet, share our grief and help each other. I would like to take this opportunity to urge India and Pakistan and the State of Jammu and Kashmir in its entirety to expand this new season of trust and apathy. It is this, that is normal; it is this, that is natural; it is precisely what is needed if we are to end the uncertainty that has plagued the politics of South Asia, a population of almost a billion and a half, for over half a century.

It must be noted, that although we commend India and Pakistan for allowing the five points of entry along the Ceasefire Line to be opened, and the restraint displayed by India for not retaliating or building up troops on the borders.

Until the people of Kashmir are able to freely travel from one side of the Ceasefire Line to the other, the Kashmiri people will still be faced with a feeling of seclusion and imprisonment. We understand the concerns of India and Pakistan regarding security issues, and that by opening the crossings for aid to travel freely to both sides is an incredible concession and confidence-building measure for both sides, and they should be commended for putting people before politics. But more needs to be done…..(Ladies and Gentlemen, let us stand for a minute in silence in memory of those who have lost their lives and those who have been otherwise devastated in the recent earthquake.)

Recently, both Dr. Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf have taken some initiatives towards a new re-thinking of Kashmir, an approach that both sides have come to embrace. Additionally, both leaders have involved input from Kashmiri leadership, something that has always been a necessity to finding a solution. I can personally tell you that the talks have been fruitful, and that our input was well received, and received in good faith. We only hope that this will continue, as we believe the more Kashmiri leadership is involved and received in good faith by Pakistan and India, the greater the results will be witnessed on the ground.

In another sign of moving forward, President Musharraf stated last month that it is time for Kashmir to be demilitarized. Both Indian troops, as well as Pakistani and troops throughout the regions of Kashmir. This would not only benefit India and Pakistan, but this would pave the way for further dialogue between both sides of Kashmir to become closer with one another.

Therefore, the urgent necessities are:

a) To demilitarize the arena of conflict — the state of Jammu andKashmir — through a phased withdrawal of the troops (including para-military forces) of both India and Pakistan from the areas under their respective control.

b) To take the sting out of the dispute by detaching moves towards demilitarization of the State from the rights, claims or recognized positions of the three parties involved. In order to do this, it might be necessary to make the demilitarization of the State the first step towards the reduction of Indian and Pakistani forces on their borders outside of Kashmir.

c). It is after the peace-process is set afoot that the rights and claims of the parties can be considered in a non-violent atmosphere.

Ladies and Gentlemen, contrary to some pundits who revel in teaching what they don’t know that the Kashmir conflict is neither fuelled by Islamic fundamentalism nor the machinations of extremism and terrorism. Militancy is not the only aspect of the Kashmir issue. It began decades ago in 1931 before the so-called “Afghan Arabs” appeared on the international terrorism and before Islamic “fundamentalism” was even minted by the Western press; the resistance displays no particular affection for any country.

More so, the term fundamentalism is inapplicable to Kashmiri society. It has a long tradition of moderation and non-violence. Its culture does not generate extremism. The Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits), though a tiny minority – just less than 2 per cent of the total population – flourished under the Kashmiri Muslim majority.

They equally believe, as do their Muslim compatriots, that the resistance in Kashmir is not communal. It cannot be communal and should not be. The compulsions of Kashmir’s history and the demands of its future alike forbid religious conflict or sectarian strife. Despite some cultural divergences, Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits are tied harmoniously together by a common history, folklore, tragedies, habitat, seasons, soil, language, heritage, customs, and socioeconomic interdependence.

Their commonalities dwarf their differences, and explains their remarkable record of fraternity and solidarity. The present situation inside Kashmir makes it clear that, if talks between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir are to mean anything, they must be accompanied by practical measures to restore an environment of non-violence.

Nevertheless, the continued talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris can be useful if they reflect a sense of urgency and prepare the ground for an earnest effort to frame a step-by-step plan of settlement. If a response to the gravity of the situation is intended, we firmly believe that the following measuresare essential:

i. The immediate and complete cessation of military, para-military and militant actions;

ii. Withdrawal of the military presence from towns and villages;

iii. Dismantling of bunkers, watch towers and barricades;

iv. Releasing of political prisoners;

v. Human Rights violations especially custodial killings continue apace and are often dismissed as one of aberrations. This cavalier attitude must cease.

vi. Annulling various special repressive laws;

vii. Restoring the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations;

viii. Permitting to travel abroad without hindrance, Kashmiri leadership who favour a negotiated resolution;

ix. Issuing visas to the Diaspora Kashmiri leadership to visit Jammu and Kashmir to help sustain the peace process;

x. Creating necessary condition and providing facilities for an intra-Kashmiri dialogue embracing both sides of the Ceasefire Line.

xi). Allowing a transitional phase, a phase of detoxification, before its decisive elements are put into effect.

I would like to conclude my presentation to you on a personal note. As many of you know, many of my colleagues and I had an opportunity, a few months ago to visit the other side of the Ceasefire Line that divides us. When we boarded our cars at the Hurriyat office, I was intensely aware that I was taking the same route that my grandfather, Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, had taken in 1947 when he was exiled.

I remember thinking, as I boarded the bus, that those were bitter times. A bitterness that had dominated us for almost six decades. The time has come to change that. And we travelled further up the roads that links the two sides of Kashmir, I remember committing myself to preventing my children from living in the atmosphere that we had experienced in our times. It convinced me that I must personally contribute towards the process that will end the bitterness and bring resolution to the dispute.

The Kashmir problem, ladies and gentlemen, is a human tragedy. The time has come to end it and move forward. We in Kashmir are ready. The roar of the gun in Kashmir will stop; it has to stop but ladies and gentlemen what needs to be addressed is the roar in the minds and hearts of the Kashmiris. I believe that with Kashmiri participation, anything is possible. Without it, nothing is.

Thank you for your patient hearing.

Note: Kashmir means entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed on 14th August 1947
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