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Presidents Speach at International Conference in Geneva

Statement of Mr. Masroor Abbas Ansari, President Ittihadul Muslimeen Jammu & Kashmir



At The

"Geneva Convention on Kashmir - The Making of peace in Kashmir at Geneva - Analyzing the promotion and protection of Human Rights and Right to Self-Determination”

Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

24 September 2007

Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a matter of great honor for me to address this International convention on Kashmir here in Geneva. I would like to express my appreciation for the role of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) and International Council for Human Rights (ICHR) jointly holding this convention. On behalf of the Kashmiri people, I thank the organizers and assure them that it remains a great source of strength for us in difficult times.

Excellencies, The Kashmir dispute is one of the oldest unresolved international conflicts in the world today. Generations of Kashmiris have grown up under the shadow of the gun. India and Pakistan have already fought three wars over Kashmir but the Kashmir dispute primarily involves the life and the future of thirteen million people. Because of its impact on the relations between India and Pakistan, this directly affects the peace and stability of the South Asian sub-continent, a region that contains one-fifth of the total human race.

One of the challenging prepositions in Kashmir is how peace can be won and the aspirations of the people of the state be realized and it is of utmost importance in any process of conflict resolution. Most debated topic at the present moment in all-important political and intellectual circles is, how to find a possible solution to the vexed problem of Kashmir? Many options have been proposed in the past and new ones are being discussed now. It is for the first time that possible proposals for resolution of the dispute, instead of hackneyed rhetoric, have become focus of the discussion amongst various parties. President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf in a historic and positive approach towards the solution of long pending Issue of Kashmir outlined a four point formula. To change the course of the events to peace and development, Musharraf’s formula seems most relevant and desirable. This is indeed a workable and practicable approach towards the Kashmir Solution. Its acceptance and then enforcement shall assure a new phase towards the resolution of long pending Kashmir conflict.

It would not be out of place to emphasize that a pre-conceived mindset can be a major obstacle and a deterrent in any forward movement. A process, which does not recognize the multidimensional factors operative on the ground, can be a time wasting exercise. As All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) represents the sentiments of the people of Kashmir, it also represents the change. It believes in flexibility in approach, realism in attitude and change in mindset. We therefore welcome all proposals with open arms. Being the biggest stake-holders in the peace, people of Jammu Kashmir, are enthusiastically rallying around the democratic and peaceful means for the resolution of the dispute. The leadership in New Delhi and Islamabad must make determined political and diplomatic moves to grab this historic opportunity and permanently settle this long-standing contentious dispute in the region. 

Before discussing and reviewing the formula it must be noted that the arrangement worked out on the broadest definitions of this formula between India and Pakistan could have sanctity and viability only when ratified by Kashmiris through internationally supervised referendum.

Excellencies, The First Point of the formula is Identifying Kashmir. The name Kashmir is supposed to denote the erstwhile princely State of Jammu & Kashmir and comprises of five regions, Kashmir Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, “Azad” Kashmir, and Northern Areas. Each region has its own peculiarity and history. It is a complete diversity which has a unity imposed externally. When the first step in President Musharaffa’s four point formula is reviewed it becomes clear that all the regions of erstwhile princely State of Jammu & Kashmir form a disputed territory and all the people living in these five regions are the first and main party to the dispute. Like Indian administered Jammu & Kashmir, Azad Kashmir and Northern areas under Pakistan have to be brought in the realm of resolution. So there will be neither any ”integral part of India” nor any “inseparable region of Pakistan’’. The diversity of Kashmir, being a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual state, makes it clear that Kashmir issue is not a religious, ethnic, regional or divisional Issue but the fate of the people living in this disputed territory is at stake. People of different faith and religions are living in the state in complete communal harmony and presently there are eight languages being spoken by the people of Jammu & Kashmir. So first and foremost requirement is to accept without any reservations whatsoever the existence of the problem not as a territorial dispute but as a human problem concerning the future of millions. I must hasten to add that President Musharraf has been able to move away from the frozen embrace of the past and has made a paradigmatic shift from dispute-centric to people-centric approach. He has publicly declared that it is primarily the satisfaction and aspirations of Kashmiris which is of paramount importance. But unfortunately on the other hand, India continues to live in the tight and frozen embrace of the ossified and fossilized position of the past and nothing short of her continued grip on Kashmir is acceptable to her. In fact India is using novel ways of tightening her grip on Kashmir through different ways.   

Excellencies, the second step pertains to “Demilitarization” of identified “Kashmir”. This demand for total withdrawal of troops has been already included in the Security Council Resolutions in 1950’s directing holding of a Plebiscite under UN auspices and demilitarization of the State. However, none of these resolutions could be implemented so far, as the first step of demilitarization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir has not been possible because of the intransigence of the two neighboring countries laying claims to the State.

Ensuring demilitarization has its own challenges. The practical implementation of the measure can be judged only after the actual ground situation of the security forces is considered. For all practical purposes, Kashmir valley or rather the whole State is at present like an oversized cantonment or a military barrack.  The whole State is indeed most densely soldiered territory of the world. The Indian troops-to-Kashmiri people ratio in the occupied Kashmir is the largest ever soldiers-to-civilians ratio in the world. There are approximately 100,000 Indian military forces—including regular army, para-military troops, border security force and police—currently deployed in Kashmir. This is in addition to thousands of “counter-militants”—the civilians hired by the Indian forces to crush the popular movement.

When President called for Demilitarization, He probably forgot to mention about the repeal of the draconian legislations giving unbridled powers to these forces in dealing with civilian insurgency. The various draconian legislations have delegated to security forces such vast and unquestionable powers that the entire state resembles a totalitarian police state. The writ of the security forces runs in every sphere of day to day life. They can violate all restrictions and regulations and no one has the courage to challenge or stop them.

In view of the above analysis of the security situation, it is difficult to imagine a way forward. It can only happen if the leaders of two countries take some bold and drastic decisions and ensure demilitarization in a phased manner. First it must be the removal of security forces from all civilian areas by withdrawing them to their barracks, then removal of all draconian legislations giving unbridled powers to the security forces and finally gradual decreasing of the level of forces in all regions by their dispatch back to mainland in each country. Simultaneously a peace keeping force of NATO or SAARC countries can supervise and control the day to day security matters until Kashmir had its own trained forces.

Excellencies, The third step in the formula for the solution of Kashmir problem moots devolution of “Self Governance” for the “Identified” Kashmir after its “demilitarization”. He did not specify exactly what is meant by “Self Governance”. Neither did he mention about the methodology to achieve it and the parameters under which it would function. Probably his intention was to make a bold and unconventional suggestion, the technical details of which could be worked out on the ground subsequently after an agreement is reached. What type of “Self Governance” would the people of this area want? This can only be answered by them through their genuine and popular leaders if given a chance!

The main hurdle for “Self Governance” is an unending mistrust between the two countries. Unless this is addressed, there will be no progress in this regard. Most of the leaders in India and Pakistan try to avoid facing this problem of resolving mistrust. Unless and until government of India and Pakistan give space to each other and both give some room to the people of Kashmir there will be no progress.

The Indian controlled Kashmir has all along lacked the “Self Governance”. Having had its so called elected legislative assembly for the last sixty years it is being argued that Indian controlled Kashmir has always had self rule, its own constitution and its own flag. People who argue this need to understand that in a democratic setup the governments are run by a coordinated mechanism of multidimensional organizations. It comprises of an elected body such as a parliament or a legislative assembly, an impartial indigenous judiciary system, civil defense or police for internal security, finance for economic guarantees, foreign affairs for international relations and armed forces to take care of its borders. Through an unwritten agreement, pending a UN sponsored plebiscite to decide the future of the state, the defense, foreign affairs and finance of the state was looked after by government of India in case of J & K and government of Pakistan in Azad Kashmir since 1947. Unfortunately this agreement was gradually but skillfully eroded by the government in J&K, without realizing that doing so will invite troubles rather than solve issues. The titles of Sadri Riyasat (President) and Prime Minister were replaced by governor and chief minister. Security personnel were changed to totally insignificant and powerless police servants. At the same time the state flag seemed to go into hiding. Similarly our judiciary, civil secretariat, post & telegraph and finance departments got filled with people from outside the state. On the other side, the “Self Governance” of Azad Kashmir will also depend upon the true aspirations of its inhabitants conveyed through their genuine representatives.

In order to have a “Self Governance” in identified and demilitarized Kashmir we will have to look into all these issues and restore these institutions to their original dignified status with international guarantees against any future tampering. Let us hope the present political leadership in the sub-continent that appears to be genuinely interested in settling this difficult problem has the will and strength to take some momentous and historical decisions to reach this goal!

Excellencies, the last point in the four point formula pertains to “Joint Management” of the “Identified”, “Demilitarized”, and “Self Governing” Kashmir. The first three points defining the measures to be taken for the solution of the vexed problem appear people centric. These show that the main concern is for the suffering people of Kashmir. All three steps could constitute a possible way forward for their emancipation and release from untold miseries and sufferings. However, the point regarding “Joint Management” does not seem to gel with other proposed measures. Are the people of Kashmir dumb driven cattle that could be jointly managed by wo owners? Or is it a question of some real estate and dividing of some disputed land among two rivals with serious differences about its ownership? The question is not only of the beautiful and enchanting piece of land but of over 13 million “living people” with hopes and aspirations. The words “Joint Management” sound more like “Joint Slavery” when uttered in reference to living people. It seems as if two neighboring shepherds have failed to control a group of unruly and unmanageable sheep individually and in their mutual interest, they decide to control them jointly.

However in the present political context the most possible and acceptable definition for the “joint management” may be that the elected civilian authority of “Self Governing” Kashmir will supervise and run the defense, foreign affairs and finance of the state with India and Pakistan and have an joint agreement with their armed forces to take care of its borders. But the most ideal approach would be to explore the possibility of implementing the first three measures of the proposal to allow emergence of a practical and workable final solution by consensus and then extend a “Joint Guarantee” for its sustenance. Both the countries should agree for a “Joint Guarantee” for the rights of the people of the State rather than their “Joint Management”. Whatever final solution comes about, it can sustain only if guaranteed by the India and Pakistan. In fact, to be really sustainable, it may have to be guaranteed by the Chinese also as they not only have a long border with J & K but a good chunk of the State is with them.

“Joint Guarantee” itself has innumerable options. The most discussed these days is an Independent State of Jammu & Kashmir with a federal structure, guaranteed jointly by its neighbors, India, Pakistan, & China and also by world powers. It has also been given the name of “United States of Kashmir”. Kashmir which is called the Switzerland of Asia due to its physical appearance could be same politically also. It can survive in the presence of the present gigantic neighbors if they have a gentleman’s agreement or “Joint Guarantee” to leave it alone. If the neighbors of Switzerland could allow it to survive the two most destructive wars in the world, why not Kashmir? China, India and Pakistan have to agree to make it truly and really the Switzerland of Asia. It could be the meeting point for all these three giants.

This proposition with all other options can be considered only after the implementation of the first three points of the Musharraf formula which would address and remove the harshest conditions presently faced by the people of the State. The four point formula if taken as an approach and not as a solution in itself within the parameters suggested above could possibly be the only way out of the tragedy of Kashmir and may end the half century long suffering and misery of its people. If we fail to grasp the opportunity now, the history will never forgive us and Kashmir will continue to bleed.

Excellencies, Finally I would like to say that the challenging time has come. If we have to remain on the path of historic and promising “peace process”, finding an acceptable and durable solution to the Kashmir conflict is necessary. It cannot come by the mere stroke of a pen or by giving formulas and road maps. It has to come through the hearts and minds of the people. I am sure that if implemented in proper way and guaranteed by neighbors and world powers, the four point formula can bring peace and prosperity to the whole region of south Asia in particular and to the world in general. However, in order to clear the road and build a congenial atmosphere to enable people to participate without any fear there are some primary requisitions. First and foremost is the immediate seize fire from all sides and stoppage of violence, total removal of all restrictions on free public expression of political thought and ideas and the release of all political prisoners wherever held. Next is the total softening of borders to allow unhindered interaction among all regions on both sides of the Line of Control and facilitating intra and inter Kashmiri dialogue among various regions and sects and between two kashmiris so that Kashmiris can freely build consensus about the agreement arrived at between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and can vote in the full knowledge of what they are going for. Then demilitarization of security forces from both civilian areas and restoration of the civil authority presently superseded by the security forces. And finally engagement of representatives from all sections of the society with the representatives of the two countries and international guaranteers to achieve a consensus for proceeding to the goal of the ultimate solution. The whole process must be made time bound and not to be left to the future generations for final fulfillment. This is the only solution, practical and realistic for this most vexed problem. Time is running out fast. Any other patchwork will only delay the periodic volcanic eruption, which Kashmir along with the entire sub-continent has become used to by now. However, the next eruption will have the dimensions of destructive nuclear power and may leave nothing to be solved!

                                     JKIM: First & largest Political Party of Kashmiri Shias

Copyright 2008-Ittihadul Muslimeen, Karanagar,Srinagar,Kashmir,190010