President Obama, India And Kashmir
By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
01 November, 2010
On the eve of the visit to India by President Barack Obama which may well prove truly historic if it begins to move the Kashmir dispute towards a genuine settlement. Americans of Kashmiri origin beg to submit to President Obama that it has been most unfortunate that, since the beginning of the resistance in Kashmir in 1989, India has taken full advantage of US policy, regardless of the intent of that policy. Pronouncements to the effect that India and Pakistan must settle the dispute bilaterally have been taken by Indian policy-makers as endorsement of their stand. They may not like the balancing statement that the US regards the whole of Kashmir as disputed territory but they regard it as immaterial.
Between India’s insistence that a settlement must be “within the four corners of the Indian constitution” and Pakistan’s demand that it must be based on the international agreement embodied in the UN Security Council resolutions, there cannot be a meeting point which the two governments can find by themselves. Neither can disentangle itself from the massive under growth of the dispute. There needs to be a third way which neither admits nor challenges any claim or proposition on the question of sovereignty over Kashmir nor on the desirability or otherwise of the partition or reunification of the State. Both these questions need to be set aside if the dispute is to be put on the road to a settlement.
Equally distressing has been the reported canvassing by some quarters in Indian establishment of the idea of autonomy for Kashmir with the Indian Union. Kashmiri leadership has the support of mass opinion for its stand that this is totally unacceptable as (i) it would be liable to revision or repeal by the Indian legislature, with or without a change of Administration: (ii) most importantly, it would not be incorporated in an international treaty or agreement with the expressed support of all states neighboring Kashmir as well as the permanent members of the Security Council.
There exist apprehensions that, whether on account of its internal weakness or under external pressure, Pakistan will be forced to dilute its stand on Kashmir. If this happens, it will not end the dispute because Kashmiris will not consent to rule by a power that has visited death and destruction on them to brutalize them into submission.
The element that has been missing in efforts toward a settlement is the political representation of Kashmiris. There is no way to provide this on a principled basis except by election in Kashmir under impartial control and supervision. This would enable all the different ethnic communities and zones in Kashmir to elect representatives who in turn will appoint a team or teams with the mandate to negotiate a settlement with both India and Pakistan and to manage the transitional phase in the State. No drastic overhaul of the existing administrative machinery will be required to initiate this phase. But the removal of the military and para-military troops from towns and villages and freedom of movement of State subjects between the two parts will be pre-requisite.
As President Obama has rightly observed, the key role the United States can play in resolving the Kashmir issue was to facilitate better understanding between Pakistan and India. Resolving the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan is very likely, as President Obama articulated on several occasions, eliminate the raison d’être for militant extremism in South Asia, and will address the root cause of the arms race between India and Pakistan.
We have faith that the United States policy towards Kashmir will be shaped not by the relative strategic value to the U.S. of India or Pakistan but by the principles of a just and durable peace. We also hope that the United States will not continuance any attempt to ignore the wishes of the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and by pass the expression of those sentiments.
We trust that President Obama during his forthcoming visit to India will bring its influence to bear on both India and Pakistan to initiate peace process with witch the United Nations as well as the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be associated so as to ensure that settlement arrived at will be based on the principle of justice.
We also believe that an appointment of a special envoy on Kashmir will go a long way to hasten the process of peace and stability in the region of South Asia – home to one fifth of total human race.
Dr. Fai is the Executive Director of the Kashmiri American Council. He can be reached at email@example.com
Kashmiri American Council
1111 Sixteenth Street, NW Suite 420, Washington, DC 20036.
Tel: 202-607-6585 / 202-628-6789/ 202-628-6788
Fax: 202-393-0062 / 703-295-8683