POSTCARD USA: Kashmir but no UN please —Khalid Hasan
Doesn’t anybody have to answer for turning a democratic movement for self-determination into a byword for terrorism, for playing favourites in the Kashmiri struggle and for sponsoring meaningless conferences on Kashmir at massive expense? Is there to be no course correction, no reappraisal, no reassessment and no rendering of accounts?
It was such an irony. Right across the street from the headquarters of the United Nations, in the conference room of an expensive hotel, the organisers of a conference on Kashmir were not prepared to make even a reference to any of the six resolutions of the Security Council that recognise the inalienable right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to determine their future.
The “Fourth International Peace Conference”, held on February 24 and 25 in New York, which chose as its theme ‘Peace Initiatives in South Asia: exploring possible options for Kashmir’ was organised by the Kashmiri-American Council. Given the practicalities of life, the Council operates within a given circumference. While some of the good work it has done for the cause in the past cannot be denied, it has its limitations that it can only infringe at the risk of going out of business. More than that one need not say since in the words of Faiz Ahmed Faiz : Jaan jayain ge jaan-nay walay.
The “international” aspect of the Conference left a great deal to be desired. Predictably, no Kashmiri leader — except Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who landed a day after the conference ended — was able to come, the Indian government having once again been unable to complete work on the travel documents of those invited. That is the official explanation; in simple English, it means, it refused permission for them to travel. So much for the ongoing peace process. In a way, it is good the Kashmiris from the Valley — barring Prof Hameeda Banu who is now more into NGO land than Kashmir — did not come because they, too, would have had to adopt a document that did not have the courage, if also not the permission, to even mention the Security Council resolutions.
Only one Indian turned up –a senior editor from the Times of India newspaper. Kuldip Nayar, the Indo-Pak peace groupie, had to stay back as his doctors wanted to take a closer look at his ticker. There were two Europeans, one a member of the Norwegian parliament who has been part of this kind of landscape for several years, and a young woman from Holland who runs some sort of an NGO. The Indian ambassador to the United Nations, who was invited to speak, declined and even left town. He could have sent his number two but didn’t. The old war horse Munir Akram, Pakistan’s man at the UN, whom a number of countries would like to chase out of the UN and Pakistan’s foreign service itself, came and spoke with a passion that was refreshing in a room where the words United Nations and self-determination appeared to be taboo.
The question that should be asked and truthfully answered is if there is a change in Pakistan’s basic position on Kashmir. Such conferences as the one in New York are good indicators of which way the wind is blowing in Islamabad. Since Gen Pervez Musharraf, for reasons not entirely clear to those who take an interest in Kashmir and may know a thing or two about it, appeared to have pushed the Security Council resolutions aside, an area of darkness has developed around Kashmir. The Indian establishment and that country’s press believe that Pakistan has finally recognised the futility of those resolutions and their ever taking effect and has thrown in the towel. Unilateral concessions never work because when you take the table to negotiate, you really have very little to negotiate with. It is like going into business after squandering your capital. And this is what is wrong with governments where all important decisions are made by a single person. No viewpoint other than the decision-maker’s goes into them, which is a recipe for disaster.
It is time those in Pakistan who have been in charge of Kashmir — and it is not the Foreign Office — were divested of that responsibility. Doesn’t anybody have to answer for turning a democratic movement for self-determination into a byword for terrorism, for playing favourites in the Kashmiri struggle and for sponsoring meaningless conferences on Kashmir at massive expense? Is there to be no course correction, no reappraisal, no reassessment and no rendering of accounts? Folly not wisdom is at work. And if experience is any guide, that is the way it is going to remain.
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is email@example.com