‘Normalisation not benefiting Kashmiris’
* AJK President Maj Gen (r) Sardar Anwar says India not ready for serious talks on Kashmir
* Kashmiris do not expect Congress to deliver solution
* No militant camp in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
* Starting Kashmir bus service with visas would mean LoC is an international border
By Khawaja Naseer
LAHORE: Kashmiris in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir are not yet benefiting from the confidence building measures taken by India and Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Maj Gen (r) Sardar Muhammad Anwar told Daily Times in an interview on Sunday.
Mr Anwar also said a solution to the Kashmir dispute other than a plebiscite could be found if Kashmiri leaders were included in peace talks between Pakistan and India. He said Pakistan should take India’s increased defence spending seriously.
Daily Times: When do you think India and Pakistan should start a dialogue on the Kashmir issue as diplomatic ties, trade and people-to-people contacts between the two countries have been restored to a large extent?
Sardar Muhammad Anwar: A solution to the Kashmir dispute, a core issue between India and Pakistan, is a must for long-lasting peace in South Asia. Dialogue on other issues like the exchange of trade and cultural delegations can’t ensure a peaceful atmosphere between the two countries. Now the Kashmir issue has reached a very sensitive point. No doubt other forces like the United States, the United Kingdom and other western countries are interested in resolving the issue but it (the solution) is up to the new Indian leadership. Pakistan has taken a number of CBMs but these measures could not benefit the people of Indian-held Kashmir. The Indian leadership is ready to start trade with Pakistan and has already offered medical services but it is not ready to start a meaningful dialogue between the two countries.
DT: Do you think there is an alternative solution to the plebiscite proposed by United Nations resolutions in 1948?
SMA: No doubt Pakistan’s first priority will be the plebiscite. But an alternate solution is also available and that is to include Kashmiris in the dialogue. Both countries could reach an effective solution with the participation of Kashmiri leaders in the dialogue.
DT: Are you satisfied with the recent talks between the foreign affairs secretaries?
SMA: There was no major breakthrough, although it was a CBM to devise a formula to prepare the ground for dialogue. There were two major chances when meaningful dialogue could be started over the issue, the first in 1962 during the war between India and China and the second during the Agra Summit of 2002. In 1962, Pakistan lost the chance, while in 2002, the Indian leadership lost the chance because of the pressure of the Mujahideen.
DT: What will be the future of the Mujahideen if Pakistan withdraws its support and can you tell us the number of militant training camps in AJK?
SMA: Pakistan is not supporting any militant operation in Indian-held Kashmir. Kashmiris are fighting for their freedom and the government of Pakistan is supporting them on the political, moral and diplomatic fronts. There is no militant camp in AJK.
DT: Being the AJK president, how do you take the issue of fencing along the Line of Control (LoC) by India?
SMA: Fencing the LoC was not fair. India took advantage of the ceasefire with Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign Office has condemned the Indian step but the LoC’s status has not changed even after fencing.
DT: There have been reports in the foreign press that Pakistan’s boy scouts assisted the Indian Border Security Forces in fencing the LoC. What is your comment?
SMA: The news is baseless. Actually there was a SAARC Scouts Association meeting in Indian-held Kashmir when the Indian forces were fencing the LoC. Some people distorted this in the western media for their vested interests.
DT: Do you think a bus service should be started from Muzaffrabad to Srinagar?
SMA: India tried to trap us on the issue of a Kashmir bus service but our intentions were very clear. They asked us to start the service for Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC but passengers would have to get visas and other travelling documents. The Indian intentions were that once the Kashmiris crossed the LoC with visas and other documents, the LoC would automatically get the status of an international border. But we asked them to allow the Kashmiris to travel on the identity cards issued by the AJK government on our side and by the Indian-held Kashmir authorities on the other side. The Indian government did not respond to our reply and postponed the bus service project.
DT: How do you take the increase in the Indian defence budget and its impact on Pakistan’s security?
SMA: It is alarming for Pakistan and AJK and Pakistan should take this issue seriously.
DT: What’s your opinion on the Indian minister’s statement that Pakistan had occupied 78,000 square miles of Kashmir (AJK)?
SMA: Congress created this issue in 1947 and has always made it hard for Pakistan to have a meaningful dialogue on the Kashmir issue. In the general elections, Congress announced it would introduce more CBMs than its predecessor Bharatiya Janata Party, but Kashmiris are not hopeful about the Congress leadership because of their past record.
DT: Various Kashmiri leaders, including former AJK prime minister Chaudhry Sultan Mahmood, opposed the Mangla Raising Project and claimed that the government of Pakistan did not consult them before starting the project.
SMA: There is democracy in AJK and every one has the right to free speech. If someone opposed the project it would be his or her opinion. I think the project will solve the water shortage problem.
DT: What sort of development work is going on in AJK, particularly in the refugee camps?
SMA: The government of Pakistan has started development projects worth Rs 300 million in AJK. As for development in refugee camps, there are 20,000 refugees in these camps. We are trying our best to start development work there.