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US must shape Kashmir peace

Boston Globe, USA
July 28, 2002

By Ghulam Nabi Fai

PEACE AND JUSTICE in Kashmir are achievable if all parties concerned - India, Pakistan, and Kashmiris - make some sacrifices. Each party will have to modify its position so that common ground is found. It will be impossible to find a solution that respects all the sensitivities of Indian authorities, values all the sentiments of Pakistan, keeps intact the unity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and safeguards the rights and interests of the people of all the different zones of the state. Yet this does not mean that we cannot find an imaginative solution.

As Secretary of State Colin Powell visits India and Pakistan this weekend, he has two choices before him. One is to continue confining himself to warning both Pakistan and India against going to war with each other. The second option is to play a more activist, mediatory role in regard to Kashmir by initiating a peace process. This can take the shape of a quadrilateral dialogue - United States, India, Pakistan, and Kashmir - or an appropriate use of the newly developed procedures and mechanics at the United Nati ons.

In neither case would the handling of the dispute be a rehash of the old arid and acrimonious debates at the UN. The United States by itself or through the UN would supply the catalyst that is needed for a settlement. There are alternative courses of action which can be spelled out and involve a sequence of interactive steps over a period of time. None of them would put the peace process in the straitjacket of rigid adherence to old texts.

When the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-48, the United States championed the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be determined by the will of the people of the territory and that their wishes must be ascertained under the supervision and control of the United Nations. The United States was a principal sponsor of the resolution which was adopted by the Security Council on April 21, 1948, and which was based on that unchallenged principle. The basic formula for settlement was incorporated in the later resolutions.

These are not resolutions in the routine sense of the term. Their provisions were negotiated in detail by the UN Commission on India and Pakistan, and it was only after the consent of both India and Pakistan was explicitly obtained that they were endorsed by the Security Council.

The urgent necessities are:

(a) To demilitarize the arena of conflict - the state of Jammu and Kashmir - through a phased withdrawal of the troops (including paramilitary forces) of both India and Pakistan from the area 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 demilitarization of the state the first step towards the reduction of Indian and Pakistani forces on their borders outside of Kashmir. It is after the peace-process is set afoot that the rights and claims of the parties can be considered in a nonviolent atmosphere.

Such an initiative by the United States will not only end bloodshed and suffering in Kashmir, but also have a direct positive effect on international security by eliminating regional fighting, national tensions, and the risk of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

It is in everyone's interest to settle the Kashmir conflict peacefully without further delay. We don't want to see the horrific nightly scenes from Bosnia and Kosovo replaced by an even greater catastrophe in Kashmir.

Ghulam Nabi Fai is executive director of the Kashmiri American Council.


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