by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 11, Rabi' al-Thani, 1438)
The ongoing tragedy and suffering of the people of Kashmir will be the focus of a conference organized by Pakistan’s young parliamentarians in Islamabad on January 5 and 6. Parliamentarians, academics and activists from all over the world will attend the two-day event.
The Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) of Pakistan has planned an international conference on the long-festering Kashmir dispute to be held in Islamabad on January 5–6, 2017. Parliamentarians, representatives of the Kashmiri community from both sides of the Line of Control, academics, journalists, and activists from all over the world have been invited to participate in the two-day conference to address such themes as “Role of the United Nations and Major Powers in the Kashmir Dispute,” “Kashmir Issue: a Humanitarian Crisis,” and “India-Pakistan Relations: Socio-economic and Security Implications.”
Given the seriousness of the crisis in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that is once again in the throes of an uprising since the brutal killing of the young Kashmiri activist Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, the conference is timely. Equally important is the presence of a large number of parliamentarians from the UK and Europe. Among them are such well-known figures as Lord Nazir Ahmed and Lord Qurban Hussain, both from the UK, and Ms. Julie Ward, Amjad Bashir, and Afzal Khan, all Members of the European Parliament (MEP). There is also a two-member delegation from Canada including Ken Stone of the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA) and member of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War.
Speaker of the Pakistan National Assembly, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq is expected to deliver the keynote address at the opening session of the conference after Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja, MNA and General Secretary of the Young Parliamentarians Forum has formally welcomed the conference participants.
Other speakers at the opening session are expected to be Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, and Barjees Tahir, Federal Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan. The conference organizers have indicated that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may also attend the opening session.
President of Azad Jammu Kashmir Masood Khan, Prime Minister Azad Jammu Kashmir Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan, and Speaker of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Parliament Shah Ghulam Qadir will also attend the conference together with a number of journalists and activists from Indian-Occupied Kashmir (provided they are able to leave the area and come to Pakistan).
Pakistani senators and members of parliament will also participate and address the conference together with a number of academics from Pakistan, Europe, and North America. The aim is to focus on the long-festering dispute in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and chalk out a strategy for not only highlighting the issue at international forums but also seek ways for its speedy resolution.
Lord Nazir Ahmed, who has served as Chairman All Parliamentary Parties Group on Kashmir (APPG) in the British Parliament has rendered great service in highlighting the cause of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He regularly raises questions in the House of Lords about India’s ongoing atrocities in Kashmir. Since Britain was responsible for creating the problem in the first place, there is great demand that the British actively pursue a policy toward its resolution. While it would be unrealistic to expect that the British would do so (after all they deliberately created the problem in the first place), highlighting their nefarious role is essential to understanding the genesis of the problem.
What is indisputable is that India has and continues to perpetrate egregious crimes against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Since early-1989, the 700,000-strong Indian army of occupation and tens of thousands of paramilitary and police forces have murdered nearly 100,000 Kashmiris, most of them youth. Among their other crimes are the disappearances of thousands of Kashmiri youth and the rape of more than 10,000 Kashmiri women and girls. Thousands of unmarked graves have also been discovered in Kashmir. All these crimes have been fully documented over the years. Such international human rights bodies as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and even Indian human rights organizations such as Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society have compiled detailed reports based on the testimony of victims and/or their relatives.
Western media outlets such as the BBC, The Guardian (UK) and the New York Times have all been forced to report on them. Despite such exposure, most Western governments have maintained total silence on and turned a blind eye on Indian crimes against innocent Kashmiris. It is clear that for these regimes, their economic interests supersede the rights of the Kashmiris to life, liberty, and freedom. There is brisk business with India and Western rulers are eager to invite Narendra Modi, an extremely prejudicial racist Hindu and war criminal, to their capital cities and entertain him lavishly. All this is done to get a slice of the Indian economic pie.
What the Western rulers ignore is that their conduct exposes them as hypocrites. The next time these rulers talk about the human rights situation in any country they do not like, they should be reminded of India’s egregious crimes in Kashmir. Further, and based purely on economic factors, India is not such a hot market. Western rulers forget that there are more than 400 million people living in absolute poverty in India. This is a huge drag on the country’s economy. Its pretensions to regional power status are illusory and not likely to be realized.
There are other factors and developments as well that do not portend well for India. Geographically, India has no strategic value. Other countries in the region — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran — are far more important. Massive economic projects such as the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of China’s New Silk Road project will transform the region in radical ways. India is acting as a spoiler in this game but it is highly unlikely to succeed simply because China is determined to press ahead for its own economic progress.
If CPEC has been described as a “game-changer” for Pakistan, it is likely to become a game-changer for the entire region. There is incentive in this for India to join this massive project — and Pakistan has indicated it is willing to accept India as a partner provided it improves its atrocious behavior. Is that possible?
The litmus test would be India’s attitude to resolving the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. People of the state have shown they are determined to rid themselves of Indian hegemony. India’s nearly one million strong army and paramilitary forces of occupation have failed to cow the people into submission. While India may think it can continue to bear the cost of this horrible occupation, its troops are suffering a deep psychological trauma. Thousands of soldiers have suffered mental breakdowns and desertions are widespread. These are hardly the hallmarks of a great army.
The Islamabad conference on Kashmir will not only draw attention to this dispute but also formulate proposals for its resolution. It will serve as a milestone in highlighting the suffering of the Kashmiri people who deserve the support of all freedom loving people in the world.