Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai has been a leading spokesman for the Kashmir movement for over four decades and has traveled to over forty-five countries lecturing on it. His articles have appeared in all the leading newspapers around the world like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and many more. He is the recipient of a host of awards in the United States and elsewhere and also a member of many prestigious bodies.
Despite wielding a hefty clout, Dr. Fai was arrested in July 2011 by the American authorities from Washington on several charges, one of which was that he took millions of dollars from Pakistan to influence the US position on Kashmir – this at a time when the Pak-US relations had started going south.
In a marathon conversation with Editor Kashmir Newsline, during which he chose to skip several questions, Dr. Fai talks about how he became an activist and ideologue of the Kashmir movement and shares his experiences and insights and also talks about what led to his arrest and the subsequent acquittal after he was cleared of all the charges against him.
Please talk me through your early, formative years and how you got associated with Kashmir movement and then, later, went abroad.
While American youth grow up idolizing their favorite football stars or Hollywood heroes and yearning for the latest technological innovation, it is no surprise that by the time Kashmiri youth go to college, their most driving passion is the passion for freedom and right to self-determination, a passion that has become the very bread and butter of their lives. This by now deeply embedded culture of resistance is a call of conscience and duty that is laid upon every child of Kashmir from the time that they are born until they die, firmly planted in the minds of every man, woman and child and every succeeding generation since the formal acknowledgement of this country’s distinct identity more than 70 years ago. The words freedom & independence (Aazadi) are more commonly on the lips of Kashmiri youth than the words iPhone and iPod are on American college campuses today.
My own passion for the plight of Kashmir is clearly nothing unique. As a child of Kashmir, born and raised in this environment myself, I am just one of the hundreds of thousands of youth who, through no fault or choice of their own, have become directly or indirectly involved and deeply and passionately motivated to do something positive for their country, however insignificant in the context of global affairs, to make a difference. A country can be destroyed but a nation cannot be defeated. Our struggle for freedom from this tyranny is the song in our heart, the poetry on our lips, and the vision that solidly unites us. It is the bedrock of our determination to continue unrelentingly to seek justice and truth for the people of Kashmir, despite our seeming powerlessness in the face of this occupation. Our hope is in our unity, in our love for one another as a people, as a nation, and as a divine spirit that pervades our history as a people with a unique cultural identity regardless of race, religion or creed, and our lasting belief that we cannot be denied our birth right to self-determination.
In 1980, an important event took place that touched my life in a very personal way. It has had the historic significance, not only in having an impact in a very real way upon my own survival and the personal vision I came to adopt for the rest of my life, but how it came to shape the very destiny of Kashmir itself.
I was in my early 30s then with a driving zeal, as is in every young man’s heart in Kashmir. We all wanted to make a significant impact somewhere and somehow on life’s stage. At this particular time, I had been placed in charge of the international section of a major conference being held in the capital of Kashmir, Srinagar. I was successful in inviting the Imam of Kaa’ba in Makkah, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Al-Subail, whose presence became instrumental in energizing and internationalizing the issue of Kashmir on the right to self-determination.
The main conference was attended by tens of thousands of people who came to listen to the Imam. It was then that the greatest moment of my role in the conference was realized: to adopt a resolution calling for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. The conference resolution was unanimously adopted by a show of hands. This was accomplished without a single window being broken, or a single stone being thrown but in an environment of peace and tranquility, in the presence of tens of thousands who were able to express on that day that the voice of the people of Kashmir was unified and firm in expressing their resolve for Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination.
This was a momentous occasion in the history of Kashmir. To call for the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir is even now considered a crime by the government of India. Then, however, the presence of the Imam of Kaa’ba and his participation prevented officials from enforcing the law, at least through direct intervention. It was a day that would forever seal my fate in Kashmir as a man whose deep affection for his own country would become common knowledge and a man perhaps most loathed on that particular day by the government of India.
A few days later, after the Imam’s departure, the state Administration of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (then the chief minister) discussed the impact of Imam’s visit on Kashmir where tens of thousands of people were able to listen to him in many cities and where the United Nations resolutions, which were considered seditious and illegal to even mention, were declared as legitimate. I was blamed for this evolutionary revolution in the consciousness of Kashmiris by raising the topic of the United Nations Security Council resolutions in every speech and the hope now more instilled that we would one day see freedom of Kashmir.
The senior staff in the office of the chief minister wanted to have a word with me.Next day, rather than meeting with the officials, I left Kashmir and then India, knowing that I was for the foreseeable future to live in exile, honored by my countrymen, condemned to a fate that I must either embrace or die from the sheer weight of it. As it had then become clear to me, Kashmir was my friend, my lover, my country, my honor, and my dignity, and my only dream or hope of any future at all. I was not about to forsake it.
In the time since I left Kashmir, I have always worked for its freedom, justice and right to self-determination. When I reached the United States in 1981-1982, I was extremely overjoyed to discover that its official policy conformed to the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir. American presidents from the Truman Administration to the Obama Administration have all been public and forthright about the need to resolve the Kashmir crisis according to the wishes of all parties involved, including the Kashmiri people themselves.
It was in 1989 that the latest phase of the resistance was initiated by the people of Kashmir. In response to this peaceful struggle, the Kashmiri American community became active in the United States to urge the US Administration to help resolve the issue of Kashmir. Then in 1990, we joined together to establish the Kashmiri American Council (KAC) with the same purpose. Our program has included public events, academic conferences and a constant attempt to have all the parties to the conflict – India, Pakistan & Kashmiri leadership – meet, discuss and plan strategy without any pre-condition from any side.
You’re not a votary for an independent Kashmir, but believe in the merger of the state with Pakistan. How do you explain that position? How do you see Pakistan’s role when you look at it dispassionately and not as someone who supports the accession of J&K with that country?
It seems to me that you’re taking this stand because of lack of knowledge about the facts. Here is my take on the concept of independence for the people of Kashmir.
The self-determination of peoples is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter, which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes. The applicability of the principle to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations. It was upheld equally by India and Pakistan when the Kashmir dispute was brought before the Security Council. Since, on the establishment of India and Pakistan as sovereign states, Jammu and Kashmir was not part of the territory of either, the two countries entered into an agreement to allow its people to exercise their right of self-determination under impartial auspices and in conditions free from coercion from either side. The agreement is embodied in the two resolutions of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan explicitly accepted by both Governments. It is binding on both Governments and no allegation of non-performance of any of its provisions by either side can render it inoperative.
In Part III of the resolution of 13 August 1948, the agreement stipulates:”The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the truce agreement, both Governments agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will be assured.”
The first of the “principles which are supplementary to the Commission’s resolution of 13 August 1948” (the words quoted are from the text) and which are formulated in the resolution of 5 January 1949 is: “The question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.”
It is commonly thought that the latter provision limited the choice of the people of the State regarding their future to accession to either India or Pakistan. Though understandable, the impression is erroneous because the right of self-determination, by definition, is an unrestricted right. By entering into the agreement, India and Pakistan excluded, and rendered inadmissible, each other’s claim to the State until that claim was accepted by the people through a vote taken under an impartial authority. They did not, as they could not, decide what options the people would wish to consider. No agreement between two parties can affect the rights of a third: this is an elementary principle of law and justice, which no international agreement, if legitimate, can possibly flout.
To put it in everyday language, it was entirely right for India and Pakistan to pledge to each other, as they did, ” Here is this large territory; let us not fight over it; let us make its people decide its status.” But it would be wholly illegitimate for them to say, ” Let one of us get the territory. Let us go through the motions of a plebiscite to decide which one”. That would not be a fair agreement; it would be a plot to deny the people of Kashmir the substance of self-determination while providing them its form. It would amount to telling them that they can choose independently but they cannot choose independence. It would make a mockery of democratic norms.
This is not a novel view of the Kashmir question. When India first brought the issue to the United Nations, its representative, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, set out three options for Jammu and Kashmir: (a) accession to India, (b) accession to Pakistan and (c) independence. The possibility of the third option is reflected in the wording of more than one resolution of the Security Council.
The idea of independence for Kashmir, if not for all its zones, has in fact never been beyond the mental horizon of its people. Demand for it, however, was either suppressed or somewhat muted because of two factors. The first was the cold war, which generated the fear that an independent Kashmir would be a likely victim of foreign aggression, subversion or intrigue. The second was the supposition that small states would not be able to sustain their independence.
Both these inhibiting factors have now disappeared. The cold war has ended. Scores of states, individually smaller in size and population than Kashmir, have taken their rightful place as fully sovereign members of the United Nations. This explains the resurgent support for independence among all the strata of the population of Kashmir.
It must be pointed out that an independent Kashmir would not be a Kashmir isolated from India and Pakistan. On the contrary, it would have close links, some of them established by trilateral treaty provisions, with both its neighbors. Indeed, it would provide them a meeting ground. In this respect, Kashmir could make a contribution to the stabilization of peace in South Asia, which no other entity can.
It was in 1989 that the latest phase of the resistance was initiated by the people of Kashmir. In response to this peaceful struggle, the Kashmiri American community became active in the United States to urge the US Administration to help resolve the issue of Kashmir. Then in 1990, we joined together to establish the Kashmiri American Council (KAC) with the same purpose.
When you were arrested in US, all kinds of stories were floated in the Indian as well as international media. Did this sudden clampdown on you have to do anything with the growing Indo-US relations? Was it a case of trying to arm-twist Pakistan and use you it as an alibi? You were convicted and then released. How much did it affect your anti-India spirit and did it act as some kind of a deterrent against you? When you look back, how do you see it all? Your Kashmir American Council, needless to say, must be under the US scanner. Has it stalled your pro-Kashmir activities?
This question embodies lot of queries. Being very sensitive in nature, I would suggest you read the piece ‘The Sentence of Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai: Setting the Record Straight’ written by Paul Barrow for Aljazeera on June 1, 2012. Paul Barrow is an American writer who is the Director of American Affairs for the International Council for Human Rights and Justice.
One of the charges against you was that you took millions of dollars from Pakistan to influence the US position on Kashmir. Did anything come of the lobbying you did for Kashmir?
Our aim is not to lobby against India or to lobby in support of Pakistan, but to represent the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir, and to put the Kashmir dispute on the international agenda. The United Nations has unfinished business in Kashmir. There exist multiple UN resolutions that clearly state that the people of Kashmir have the right to determine their own future through a free and impartial vote.
In fact, when the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-1948, the United States championed the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be ascertained in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the territory. The United States was the principal sponsor of the resolution # 47 which was adopted by the Security Council on 21 April 1948 and which was based on that unchallenged principle.
Since the official policy of the United States conforms to the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir, so there was no need to lobby the United States to change its policy towards Kashmir. The only issue was to educate and re-educate the United States policy-making agencies and personalities to follow through on its commitment to the people of Kashmir; and to articulate its principle stand into tangible and concrete plan of action.
There has always been the bi-partisan expression of the support in the United States administration on the issue of Kashmir. The part played traditionally by the United States Government is apparent from:
- The appeal made by President Harry Truman that any contentious issues between India and Pakistan relating to the implementation of the agreement on Kashmir must be submitted to arbitration;
- The appointment of an eminent American, Admiral Chester Nimitz, as Plebiscite Administrator on Kashmir;
iii. The bipartisan expressions of support for the U.S. position from statesmen as different otherwise as Adlai Stevenson and John Foster Dulles; The American position was bipartisan and maintained equally by Republicans and Democrats.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated on 5 February 1957 that: “We continue to believe that unless the parties are able to agree upon some other solution, the solution which was recommended by the Security Council should prevail, which is that there should be a plebiscite.
On 15 June 1962, the American representative to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, stated that: ” … The best approach is to take for a point of departure the area of common ground which exists between the parties. I refer of course to the resolutions which were accepted by both parties and which in essence provide for demilitarization of the territory and a plebiscite whereby the population may freely decide the future status of Jammu and Kashmir. This is in full conformity with the principle of the self‑determination of people which is enshrined in Article I of the Charter as one of the key purpose for which the United Nations exists;”
- The appeal personally made in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy to the President of Ireland to the effect that Ireland sponsor a resolution on Kashmir in the Security Council reaffirming the resolutions of the Commission;
- The forceful advocacy by the U.S. Delegation of points regarding the demilitarization of Kashmir preparatory to the plebiscite at countless meetings of the Security Council from the years 1947-48 to 1962 and its sponsorship of twelve substantive resolutions of the Council to that effect;
- The clarification made by President George W. Bush on February 22, 2006 that Kashmir solution must be acceptable not only to India and Pakistan but also to the citizens of Kashmir.
vii. The affirmation of President Obama on October 30, 2008 that “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants;”
Then again on November 8, 2010, President Obama said Kashmir was the long-standing dispute. “I have indicated to Prime Minister (of India) that we are happy to play any role the parties think is appropriate in reducing tensions. It is in the interest of the two countries, region and the US;”
So our basic objective was and still is to educate American policy makers to encourage great understanding and involvement of the United States in supporting the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir that will eventually lead to the final settlement of the conflict.
We have tried to heighten the visibility of both the political and human rights aspects of the situation in Kashmir.
Our approach was that the people of Kashmir believe that a dialogue is the only way to resolve the conflict of Kashmir but it has to be tripartite – Governments of India & Pakistan and the genuine leadership of the people of Kashmir that must have the broader support of the people from both sides of the Ceasefire Line.
The legislative actions taken by the United States Congress indicate that the U.S. Congress was concerned enough about the human rights situation in India to pass several legislative reprimands on this issue. Our objective was to raise the level of awareness in the US Congress and engage in discussions on these and other topics in order to gain the support for the people of Kashmir. We have had some successes in it. Here are just few examples for your perusal.
It is through the education process that the United States Congress unanimously voted to cut aid to send a signal to India on human rights policies in Kashmir. The vote occurred on June 17, 1993, which was an amendment sponsored by Congressman David Obey (Democrat from Washington) and Chairman, Congressional Foreign Operations Committee. It was a historic vote because it passed 425 in favor to 0 against. The amendment was designed to send a strong message to India that the United States Congress cannot support India if it continues to abuse human rights.
In the U.S. Congress, there have been several bills and resolutions, calling for an end to Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Senate resolution # 91 which was co-sponsored by Senator Howard Metzenbaum, Senator AL Gore, Senator Brown, Senator Bob Dole and others was introduced in the United States Senate, calling for negotiations between the governments of India and Pakistan along with the representatives of the people of Kashmir.
In the House of Representatives, House Bill # 1561 contained the following language: “the United States reiterates the need for all parties to the conflict to enter into negotiations and resolve the conflict peacefully. Further, the Congress urges the Administration to work with all parties to facilitate a peaceful negotiated settlement.”
It is important to note that this was the first time that language calling for a political settlement to the Kashmir dispute appeared in the body of a piece of legislation in either the US House or the US Senate. The US House resolution # 123 initiated by Congressman Rohrabacher spoke about the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir. It called upon the United States to work with the United Nations and the international community to bring all parties to the conflict together.
The Congressman Herger / Congressman Fazio amendment was passed unanimously, i.e., 425 against 0. The Congress went on record on this issue, criticizing India’s human rights record on Kashmir and called upon the Government of India to take significant steps to improve human rights in that country, including: granting unrestricted access by internationally recognized human rights monitoring organizations; beginning a process of political dialogue with a broad spectrum of Kashmiri representatives; and significantly curbing security and police forces.
Congressman Feighan / Congressman Solarz amendment passed by 271 votes against 144. This amendment called upon the Government of India to: promote adherence to internationally recognized human rights standards; pursue discussion and dialogue with representatives of a broad spectrum of the population of Punjab and Kashmir; urges the U.S. Secretary of State to raise Indian human rights issues with the Government of India.
Congressman Lagomarsino / Congressman Kostmeyer amendment passed 242 to 141. This amendment urged the President of the United States to certify to the Congress, in writing, that India has not developed additional nuclear explosive devices.
It’s been almost three decades after the armed uprising broke out in 1989. Do you believe in armed struggle? Some people advocate that Kashmiris should abandon militancy once for all as it defames the movement internationally. Do you subscribe to that?
I believe that non-violent movement is more forceful and helpful for the cause of Kashmir, now that the Kashmiri movement for self-determination is at a critical juncture. A youth-led, indigenous and spontaneous mass movement is underway. This movement is both internal, within Kashmir, and external throughout the world. It is mostly non-violent, pluralistic and resilient. This movement reverberates with cries of freedom and believes in a simple truth: a fair and impartial referendum in Kashmir. Time and time again, Kashmiris have surprised even the most hardened of their detractors. Attempts at delegitimizing the Kashmiri struggle have fallen entirely on deaf ears. No amount of wishful thinking has successfully persuaded growing international opinion that Kashmir is not an integral part of any society other than its own. This belief is unshakeable, consistent and formidable. Therefore, we must support the indigenous, popular and non-violent struggle to achieve the right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir.
The self-determination of peoples is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter, which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes. The applicability of the principle to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations.
After Trump’s anti-Pak harangue, Pak military and civil administration set some strong conditions for assistance in anti-terror war and told US not to scapegoat Pakistan for its (US’s) failure in Afghanistan. How important is Afghanistan, in your view, as for as peace in the region is concerned. Do you think peace, or the lack of it, has some kind of bearing on Kashmir. Please elaborate. Should it discourage the Kashmiris? Is it mere rhetoric to pressurize Pakistan or more than that? After Trump’s strong words, two major powers China and Russia endorsed Pakistan’s role and efforts generously.
Peace between India and Pakistan could help unlock another conflict with even higher stakes for the United States: the war in Afghanistan. Indeed, a growing chorus of experts has begun arguing that the road to Kabul runs through Kashmir—that the U.S. will never stabilize the former without peace in the latter.
President Obama was correct when he said on October 30, 2008 that “the most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan…We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.”
Therefore, bringing India and Pakistan together seems to be very much in America’s interest, which makes the Trump administration’s determination to avoid the issue increasingly hard to fathom.
The following considerations are most pertinent for an assessment of the dispute by the Trump Administration.
Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on July 14, 2009. “There is little doubt that normalized relations between India and Pakistan, including a regionally acceptable settlement on Kashmir, would offer tremendous benefits to the United States. Indo-Pak tensions are especially dangerous because they bring two nuclear states toe-to-toe; they distract Islamabad from the urgent task of combating terrorists and militants on its own soil; and they contribute to Pakistani suspicions about India’s activities in Afghanistan. Thus, the long-standing dispute over Kashmir is one part of a wider regional dynamic that has direct implications for Washington’s ability to support a stable Afghan state and to address the threat posed by terrorist groups in South Asia.”
Prof. Howard B. Schaffer, Deputy Director and Director of Studies, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, suggested on July 14, 2009. “The unsettled Kashmir dispute poses a potentially serious threat to the expanding interests the United States now has in South Asia. Any conflict between India and Pakistan sparked by the dispute could escalate into a catastrophic nuclear war. Pakistan’s critical role since September 11, 2001, in shaping the future of Afghanistan has given the issue a further major dimension…and until a settlement is reached, there will be no dearth of “spoilers” eager for opportunities to inflame India-Pakistan relations. Washington should look for opportunities to play a more active role in helping resolve the dispute while recognizing that this won’t be easy.”
Jonathan Tepperman’s article,‘The Road to Kabul Runs Through Kashmir,’ Newsweek, February 10, 2010 says. “To understand why Kashmir is so important to Afghanistan, start with the fact that the U.S. can’t defeat the Afghan insurgency without Pakistan’s help. Pakistan midwifed the Taliban and continues to provide it with shelter (and, allegedly, support). And that won’t change until Pakistan resolves its rivalry with India. … Yet even he (Richard Holbrooke) concedes that Kashmir makes Afghanistan “more difficult to resolve,” and Washington simply can’t afford to avoid it if it hopes to leave the region any time soon.”
Pankaj Mishra, an independent thinker and writer of Indian origin elaborated on the subject,‘Afghanistan: The India and Kashmir Connection, The New York Review of Books’. “As always, the road to stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan runs through the valley of Kashmir.’
Ahmed Rashid expounded in‘Foreign Affairs,’ on October 11, 2010, “There can be no peace in Afghanistan until these two neighbors (India & Pakistan) sit down and talk about a common approach to both Kabul and Kashmir, rather than negotiating by proxy war.”
Dr. Hasan Askarai Rizvi, Independent political and defense analyst explained on July 14, 2009 that “Durable peace in Afghanistan can never be achieved without settling the Kashmir dispute. World powers and the United Nations will have to seek an amicable solution to the Kashmir conflict through legal and moral mechanisms instead of political rhetoric and commercial interests.”
Laura Schuurmans elucidated that ‘Solution to the Afghan Problem Through the Valley of Kashmir,’ November 2013, “A new beginning can start from Kashmir and therefore, peace and stability can return to Afghanistan through the valleys of Kashmir.”
Patrick J Larkin, Naval Post Graduate Scholl, Monterey, California wrote on the subject, ‘Kashmir: The key to peace in Afghanistan,’ on March 2103. “The U.S. will not be able to achieve a lasting peace in Afghanistan without the unilateral support of Pakistan and India. If the conflict in Kashmir can be reconciled, this will aid U.S. objectives of a secure Afghanistan…Only by finding a final status on Kashmir with South Asia be able to achieve a real, lasting peace.”
Robert Fisk illustrated on August 13, 2010 that “The Road out of Kabul goes through Kashmir.”
Zbigniew Brezinski’s, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter (January 13, 2010) comments about Afghanistan toward the end of the interview (Pulse) are notable: as he points out, the US cannot resolve the conflict (in Afghanistan) unless it addresses the issue of Kashmir first. Zbigniew Brezinski, Afghanistan: The Kashmir Connection Pulse, www.therealnews.com
Steve Coll, New American foundation, Washington, D.C., New York Review of Books, September 30, 2010 said it the best that “The interests that the United States has in the Kashmir conflict are greater now than at any time in the postwar period …. The United States does not need to intervene directly in Kashmiri negotiations to support the Indo-Pakistani peace process. It does, however, need to rediscover the sense of urgency and international leadership that characterized its engagement with Kashmir in the 1950s and early 1960s.”
Given these facts, it is in the interest of the United States to engage with the Government of Pakistan and ultimately to set a stage to put the Kashmir dispute on the road to a lasting and durable solution.
If India or Pakistan or any other power would like to bring pressure on the people of Kashmir to capitulate, or to agree to any terms which will compromise their freedom, then any so-called peace process is foredoomed. The people of Kashmir wish to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind on that score.
One consideration becomes compelling clear that it is virtually impossible that a settlement, no matter how pleasing to the present leadership of India and Pakistan and even of certain interested foreign powers, will endure and carry a stamp of genuineness unless it has a rational framework, rests convincingly on principle and is transparently democratic.
If the United Nations is willing to explore the possibility to settle the Kashmir dispute, then China’s role cannot be ignored. In fact, I have suggested that polygonal engagement is critical to bring peace and stability to the whole region of South Asia. That means: India, Pakistan, Kashmiri leadership, United States and China.
A high-profile conference involving many important people from India, Pakistan and both sides of Kashmir, held in Dubai recently, came under heavy criticism from Salahuddin. He said conferences like these are India sponsored and the participants are on the payrolls. What is your take on that?
I hope that this kind of initiatives will help in bringing relief for the people of Kashmir. I also hope that it will enable the intelligentsia from both India and Pakistan to understand and realize that the resolution of the Kashmir issue is vital to peace in South Asia. However, it is very difficult to give my opinion with any confidence about the meeting that was held in Dubai unless we know the criteria with which the list of the participants was finalized. However, there is no necessity to reject such kind of meetings out right. Because, we are also keen and anxious to have a dialogue with the representatives of India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership from both sides of the Ceasefire Line. Nevertheless, such a dialogue is not feasible unless the leadership of Kashmiri political resistance is included to make such an initiative meaningful and purposeful. One may ask: who represents Kashmiri political resistance movement? The answer lies in the invitation that was extended by ‘India Today Conclave’ to these leaders in 2011, 2008 and 2006. We are convinced that the purpose of such meetings will be defeated if it includes those people who have stood aloof from our struggle and suffering and given direct or indirect support to the policy of repression and violations of human rights in Kashmir.
Where do we Kashmiris stand now as far as K-issue is concerned? What needs to be done? Do you have any message for the resistance leadership and the people of Kashmir?
My humble suggestion to our leadership and the people of Kashmir is simple: The sanctity of the Kashmir issue can be understood by the fact that both former President Obama and President Trump wished to play a role in resolving this conflict. President Obama did not do anything practically but at least in principle he is on record to have said on November 9, 2010 in New Delhi that the resolution of Kashmir is in the interest of United States. President Donald Trump asserted on the campaign trail in October 2016 that he would be willing to mediate in addressing the “very, very hot tinderbox” of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. “If it was necessary I would do that. If we could get India and Pakistan getting along, I would be honored to do that. That would be a tremendous achievement … I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator,” Donald Trump added.
Just recently, on June 21, 2017, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, suggested that his meetings between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could help resolve the ongoing conflict in Kashmir. Predictably, the Indian government in so many words told Guterres to mind his own business since agreements had long been in place establishing the conflict as strictly a bilateral issue. We are amazed that the Secretary General of the United Nations took the ‘no’ of India as an answer.
However, the issue is that they (Trump & Guterres) have yet to translate their understanding into tangible and concrete plan of action. The world powers, including the United States knows that the denial of self-determination in Kashmir and the international peace and security are interconnected. Acceding to self-determination is the answer to Kashmir’s agony. That acceptance would also relieve India of the multiple national security and economic adversities spawned by its denial of self-determination.
The strategy for various paths of resistance has to include long-term and short term planning. It is the responsibility of our leadership to plan these tactics and techniques and make decisions which are important for the movement no matter how unpopular.The leader has to define every step of every kind of resistance. Ultimately, it is the support of the people that matters and will ultimately bring one closer to achieve one’s goal. President John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
The Kashmiri leadership must involve all stakeholders in the planning, be it sit ins, mass demonstrations, Hartals, holding of seminars, meeting with foreign diplomats, including Indian intelligential, press briefings, etc. A leader must gain the confidence of the people and should be perceived by the people to be authentic before announcing a plan. As President Dwight Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible.”
Our leadership has to be always open to fresh ideas and new methodologies. George Washington Carver said, “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” Tactics, techniques and methodologies can change on a weekly or monthly basis. That is not only desirable but advisable as well. What cannot change is the ultimate objective, which is the right of self-determination of the people in Kashmir.
There is no doubt that the people are willing to make sacrifices when they see in their leader the qualities of persistence, insightfulness, optimism and accountability.
Kashmiri leadership should consider accepting constitutional limitations on itssovereignty in exercising self-determination, consisting of the following tobind a Kashmiri constitutional convention:
i. A renunciation of force or the treat of force ininternational affairs.
ii. A prohibition on any foreign military base or admission to a military alliance on
the soil of Kashmir.
iii. A requirement of permanent neutrality in internationalaffairs.
iv. Acceptance of right of both India & Pakistan toencroach on Kashmir’s airspace to guarantee Kashmir’s constitutional order,including compliance with international counterterrorism conventions. The right to intervene would be similar tothe right of the United States to intervene in Panama to secure the neutralityof the Panama Canal and the right of Turkey, Greece, and Great Britain tointervene in Cyprus under the Treaty of Guarantee to prevent threats to theconstitutional order.
v. Joint Indian – Pakistan – Kashmir customsand immigration control for an initial 10 years.
vi. A parliamentary system of government with an independent judiciary. Fair quotas in ministries, the civil service, the police, and the judiciary for minority groups, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, or otherwise.
vii. A prohibition on sectarian political parties.
viii. A Bill of Rights that protects freedom ofspeech, press, broadcast, religion, and association and prohibits racial, ethnic, gender, or religious discrimination.
- A federal system that generally confines thepowers of the central government to foreign affairs, national security,interstate and foreign commerce, telecommunications, broadcasting, currency,and immigration.
- A customs union with both India &Pakistan.
- A right to judicial review of theconstitutionality of laws or government action.
xii. One hundred delegates to a constitutionalconvention bound by these eleven precepts would be elected from constituencies in both Azad Kashmir and Indian occupied Kashmir. The period for campaigning would be a minimum of sixth months. The elections would be organized by the United Nations generally duplicating its role in Namibia, East Timor and Southern Sudan. An electoral code would also be promulgated and enforced by the United Nations, including the determination of voter eligibility. The military forces of both India and Pakistan would be thinned and placed in enclaves. The United Nations would administer Kashmir during the campaign period and until a popular vote on a Kashmir constitution. The constitutional convention would be provided six months to prepare a final and complete constitution for presentation to the people of Kashmir in a popular referendum. A two-thirds vote of approval would be necessary for ratification. Kashmiris would be offered three choices: accession to India or Pakistan, or, the independent sovereignty offered by the constitution.
A transition period is necessary to reassure both India and Pakistan that self-determination with sovereignty for Kashmir will prove advantageous to all concerned parties. The major transition elements would be as follows:
- The United States declares support for India’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council if Kashmir’s self-determination plan is implemented.
- Pakistan declares intent to sign permanent treaty of cooperation and non-aggression with India if Kashmir’s self-determination plan is implemented.
- India and Pakistan agree to consult with the leadership of Kashmiri political resistance and a special envoy of the United Nations Secretary General to fashion the timetable for beginning the selection of delegates to the constitutional convention.
- India permits free movement of identified leaders across the Cease-fire Line, and the free return of exiles whoare willing to play a constructive role in fashioning the future of Kashmir.
- The self-determination in Kashmir would eliminate the chief cause of India’s national security vulnerability. War with Pakistan would become fanciful. Attacks on its military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir would end, and those forces could be redeployed to the northeast or elsewhere to confront local secession in India.
- The freedom of Kashmir would not create a cascading dismembering of India. Its legal history is unique. And it speaks volumes that self-determination in East Timor, Eritrea, and Czechoslovakia did not occasion a spiraling disintegration of Indonesia, Ethiopia, or the Czech and Slovak republics.
- India’s economy would also be uplifted by self-determination for Kashmir. Investment would climb because of greater political stability. India would save billions in slashed military expense. A free trade accord could be fashioned between India and Kashmir to spur growth.
- In sum, a strong case can be made and should be made to India by the United States, the United Nations, the EU, and the OIC that its security and stature would jump rather than fall by accepting a Kashmir plebiscite with reasonable constitutional safeguards.
- During the time needed to persuade India of its enormous benefits from Kashmir self-determination, it should embrace measures calculated to alleviate the misery of Kashmiris and to diminish extremism. India should slash the number of its military and security personnel posted in Kashmir. Forces should be withdrawn completely from civilian inhabited areas, and bunkers should be dismantled. A seething siege mentality must be lifted from Kashmir to reduce bitterness and conflict.
- Emergency legislation that places the civilian Kashmir population at the disposal of India’s staggering military and paramilitary personnel should be repealed. Illustrative are the Jammu & Kashmir Disturbed Area Act of 1990 and the Armed Forces Jammu & Kashmir Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1990.
- All torture and extrajudicial killings by Indian forces should be unswervingly denounced and punished.
- All political prisoners should be released.
- International human rights organizations should be granted access to Jammu and Kashmir to monitor and document the human rights landscape. For example, the special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights should be allowed to visit Kashmir on both sides of the Ceasefire Line.
- All restrictions on peaceful political dissent or protest should be lifted.
- The leadership of Kashmiri political resistance should be permitted to travel abroad without hindrance. The Diaspora Kashmiri leadership should enjoy access and visas to visit Jammu and Kashmir.
- Direct talks over the future of Kashmir should be commenced with the All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC), with a pledge that the final status of the territory will not diverge from the wishes of the Kashmiri people and an exploration of what dispensation in the territory would scrupulously honor India’s national security and economic needs. And India should renounce any intent to build a Berlin-like wall along the Cease-fire Line.
- These unilateral gestures would not represent appeasement, but an enlightened understanding of India’s best interests in Kashmir. They would give heart to the peaceful forces in Kashmir.
This road map conception may be an improvement on the prevailing approach that seems to place high priority on confidence building measures (CBMs). I do not oppose CBMs. I support them. They may diminish human suffering. But their problem is that they leave the chief source of the Kashmiri convulsions entirely unaddressed, i.e., governing Kashmir without consulting the genuine wishes of the Kashmiri people.