Our struggle is for United Kashmir
Text of speech delivered by Dr Shabir Choudhry in a Seminar organised by IKA in Brussels on 28th February 2004.
The word Kashmir has been wrongly understood and projected, and therefore needs some explanation. When we speak of Kashmir we mean the State of Jammu and Kashmir which consist of five regions namely Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, Jammu, Ladakh and the Valley.
Similarly the term struggle has been wrongly used and projected. This struggle is not for accession to another country, but it is struggle for unification and independence of the State. The struggle is not a religious fight- a fight of one religion against another religion; nor it is jihad in the sense projected by people with vested interest and those who want to spread hatred and communalism.
Of course it is jihad because it is jihad to speak against injustice and oppression, it is jihad to fight for your rights and promote democracy, tolerance and peaceful existence between different communities. Our struggle is to fight for our right to determine our future without any intimidation; it is struggle to promote our national identity a sense of belonging to a nation. It is a struggle to promote civil society, to promote rights of other communities and right to hold and express our views, and above all our right to exist as a nation and benefit from fruits of freedom.
I welcome the peace process initiated by the Prime Minister of India and appropriately reciprocated by the President of Pakistan. I welcome this realisation that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. I welcome this acknowledgement that forces of communalism and hatred have to be controlled if we are to have peace and stability in the region. I also welcome this realisation that the UN resolutions have failed to provide an acceptable solution and that they could be set aside in order to find a peaceful solution.
When we pointed out these issues some years ago and we were criticised for this, and we were labelled as being ‘pro India’. Now same policies are being pursued, one suggested by us, by the government of Pakistan, but we won’t criticise them or even remind them of their past mistakes, as my one Western diplomat said me: ‘Shabir now that the government is on the right track we don’t need to criticise it or do anything to make life difficult for them.’
Now we can see some common ground- both governments want to find a peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute, and want to continue with the process until a solution is found. We are also pro peace and pro people. We also want to support the process, but we want to add that there could be no lasting solution if the people of Kashmir are not part of the process. Both governments could resolve bilateral issues, for example, issues related to trade, smuggling, nuclear, no war, Sir Crick etc. but when it comes to Kashmir they have to work out a mechanism to include people of Kashmir.
It is not a good enough reason to say that people of Kashmir are not united and therefore there is no one to represent them in the dialogue process. It is part of human nature to differ with each other over different issues, it is part of democracy, and we know there are divisions within the Pakistani society and there are divisions within the Indian society.
So why make big issue of differences within the Kashmiri society, especially when we are forcibly separated for the past 56 years. In any case people of Kashmir could be put into three schools of thought namely those who are pro Pakistan, Pro India and those who want unification and independence. Those who want to join Pakistan and consider themselves as Pakistanis there are Pakistani officials to protect their interests, similarly those who are pro Indian their interests are protected by a large Indian machinery, but there is no one to protect my rights and rights of all those who believe in united and independent Kashmir. And it should be us on the negotiating table
If India and Pakistan think that they can leave out the people of Kashmir in this peace process then they are wrong, then they are mistaken. They can, by all means, have another agreement like Shimla and Tashkant, but let me tell them that this new agreement will have similar fate to Shimla and Tashkant, and there won’t be peace and stability in the region. And all those who want to have peace and stability in the region, be it for economic reasons, strategic reasons or any other reason need to ensure that all parties to the dispute are present in this process of dialogue.
International Kashmir Alliance came in to being because APHC has failed to play its due role. It has only contained itself to only some parts of the Valley, it has failed to represent the interest of the all sections of the Kashmiri community. Also it has failed to act independently and prudently to protect lives and interest of the ordinary people. We from the platform of the IKA speak for all regions of the State, if wrong is done on the Indian side of the divide we protest against it and if wrong is done on this side of the divide we also speak against it.
We want to bring all the Kashmiris to a platform where they can speak to each other, resolve their differences, and work out a strategy to protect interest of the Kashmiri people. For this purpose we have announced two days International Kashmir Conference which will take place in London on 24/25 April. We want to ensure that people from all regions of Kashmir and representatives of all sections of the Kashmiri community are present.
We also plan to invite those leaders from India and Pakistan who believe that the dispute could only be resolved through a process of dialogue; and those who believe that we have to meet challenges of the 21st century, and that could only be done if the Kashmir dispute is resolved.
People of Kashmir and people of India and Pakistan want peace. They have to live as good neighbors and fight the common enemy which is poverty, illiteracy and rising extremism. We need to get our priorities right and after resolving the of Kashmir dispute embark on social and welfare programmes to alleviate poverty and misery.