Saturday 7 February 2015

Kashmiris would be the final arbiters of their destiny

              Arshed Saued Khosa
Pakistani Ambassador to Nepal
 South Asia, one of world’s most important regions, with almost one fifth of the world’s population comprises most ancient cultures, traditions and values in the world. It has also become a democratic region. In the last two years every country of the region passed through the process of elections. General elections were held in Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan in 2013. Elections were also held in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in 2014. Almost everywhere we have new governments firmly in place. The new government in Nepal, which came to power after the November 2013 elections, successfully organized the summit of the South Asian leaders, last year in November. All SAARC heads of state/government were here in Kathmandu for the 18th Summit of the SAARC states. The hall mark of the summit, we all know, was the handshake between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India, which was duly acknowledged by all.
            Pakistan is of the firm view that without peace, in and around our region, there can be no lasting stability, which is essential for achieving economic and social prosperity in South Asia. We are convinced that South Asia has the potential to become a region of economic and social prosperity. However, this would only be possible if we are able to resolve the disputes that afflict our region. We all agree that pursuit of domination or hegemony, by a state, in a region, is often responsible for regional conflicts.
            A major dispute, which has impeded development in our region, is the Kashmir dispute. In the post World War II era, Kashmiris were among the first to be promised their right of self determination by the international community, through unanimously adopted UN Resolutions. However, more than half a century later these commitments remain unfulfilled. As a consequence, peace has eluded South Asia and it will continue to be evasive, till the international community honors its pledges.
            5th February, the Kashmir Solidarity Day, is commemorated as a day when Pakistani populace, across the world, re-news their pledge to support the peaceful struggle of freedom of their Kashmiri brethren. This day stands as a pledge for those millions of Kashmiris who have been engaged in the struggle to win their right to self determination. The day, observed since 1991, highlights their right to choose their fate themselves, as guaranteed by UN resolutions. This right of their’s must be acknowledged.
Seminars and conferences are organized on this day to highlight important aspects of the Kashmir dispute and the gross human rights violations being perpetrated there. At the same time, the world community is reminded that resolution of the Kashmir dispute is imperative for ensuring peace and stability in South Asia.
            5th February also makes us recall the basic facts that revolve round the UN Security Council resolutions on the dispute. Some of the important facts of the matter are:
·                     The issue of Kashmir was initiated by India in the UN Security Council;
·                     The UN Security Council explicitly and by implication, rejected India’s claim that Kashmir is legally Indian territory.
·                     The UN resolutions established self – determination as the governing principal for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute. This is the world body’s commitment to the people of Kashmir;
·                     The resolutions endorsed a binding agreement between India and Pakistan, reached through the mediation UN Commission for India and Pakistan, that a plebiscite would be held, under agreed and specified conditions.
·                     Pakistan continues to adhere to the UN resolutions, which are binding on the other side, as well.
            5th of February, Ladies & Gentlemen, also translates into an act of promise in which the people of Pakistan vow to uphold the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to self determination, in conformity with the resolutions of United Nations Security Council, which call for impartial and above-board plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.
Here, I would like to remind you of a few quotes of the Indian leaders, related to promises to grant the right of self determination to the Kashmiris:-
·                     Mr. Ghandi, during a speech, at a Prayer Meeting on 26 October 1947 had said, “If the people of Kashmir are in favour of opting for Pakistan, no power on earth can stop them from doing so. They should be left free to decide for themselves”.
Allow me to also quote Jawahar Lal Nehru, as well. In his statements and messages Mr. Nehru had said, and I quote:
·                     “Our view, which we have repeatedly made public, is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view” (27 October 1947).
·                     “Leave the decision regarding the future of this State to the people of the State. It is not merely a promise to your Government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world” (31 October 1947).
·                     “And let me make it clear that it has been our policy all along that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state” (2 November 1947).
·                     “We have always, right from the beginning, accepted the idea of the Kashmiri people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite……” (16 January 1951).
·                     “We had given our pledge to the people of Kashmir, and subsequently to the United Nations; we stood by it and we stand by it today. Let the people of Kashmir decide” (12 February 1951).
·                     “We have taken the issue to the United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation, we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision” (2 January 1952).
·                     “If, after a proper plebiscite, the people of Kashmir said, ‘We do not want to be with India’, we are committed to accept that, we will accept it though it might pain us. We will not send any army against them. We will accept that, however, hurt we might feel about it, we will change the Constitution, if necessary” (26 June 1952).
The above quoted statements of Mr. Nehru were made in the Indian parliament and for the media.
            There are a number of legitimate and genuine reasons for the people of Pakistan to express solidarity with their oppressed Kashmiri brethren. Both share special bonds of history and religion, cultural heritage and geography and goals and aspiration. The number of Kashmiris who migrated to Pakistan, from occupied Kashmir, in 1947, are in hundreds of thousands. This is a clear manifestation of the emotional attachment of the Kashmiris with Pakistan.
            Pakistan desires a peaceful environment in the region. The biggest impediment, however, on the path to lasting peace in South Asia is the Kashmir dispute. Its effects are not limited to Pakistan and India only, but instead the repercussions are felt in the region as a whole and as well as on the world at large.
            On its part, Pakistan has been consistent in giving all out moral and diplomatic support to the just cause of Kashmiri people. It has acted as a strong advocate of the Kashmir cause at the international fora. The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had termed Kashmir the “jugular vein” of Pakistan. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, had vowed to wage a thousand-year war for Kashmir. Former President, Asif Ali Zardari, in his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2012, deplored that Kashmir remained a symbol of failures, rather than strengths of the UN system, while stressing the early settlement of the dispute. The incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, right from assuming office in June 2013 has been calling for settling the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
            Pakistan would continue to vigorously pursue a peaceful solution, based on the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people. We have no doubt that ultimately, Kashmiris would be the final arbiters of their destiny and no plan would succeed that does not reflect this reality.
            5th February is a reminder to the international stake holders that they should employ reason and solve this dispute which has human proportions. The supreme sacrifices of the Kashmiri’s must not go unheard and waste.
The way to everlasting peace in the region, Ladies and Gentlemen, lies in the resolution of Kashmir issue, as per aspirations of the Kashmiris. This would no doubt bring about regional peace and greater prosperity in South Asia.
5th February, 2015, Kathmndu


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