- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2000

I am a Kashmiri American. I have been exiled from my homeland for two decades. I am exasperated that 13 million Kashmiris, both natives and expatriates, have been studiously excluded from negotiations addressing our political fate, like the abandoned Czechoslovaks over the Sudetenland at Munich in 1938.

Our treatment as a dispensable pawn on an international "big power" chessboard is resented, especially because the United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions stipulating a self-determination in Kashmir conducted by the United Nations celebrated by no less a United Nations figure than the father of Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

International law is defied with impunity, however, to appease economic and national security interests of the United States. A bilateral India-Pakistan formula to resolve the Kashmir conflict has proven bankrupt for more than half a century. Time and circumstances have only hardened each nation's intransigence. Yet the United States persists in saluting the discredited formula, an insult to the cerebrum.

Kashmiris know and feel the following. The resolute resistance in Kashmir foreign illegal occupation is overwhelmingly indigenous. Unwanted infiltrators or "Afghan Arab" extremists are marginal to its chronic convulsions. No genius is required to understand why Kashmiris resist, whether by massive boycotting of staged elections or non-cooperation with foreign officials or their quislings, like the despised chief minister of Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah.

Human rights violations chill the spine, including tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, disappearances, and arbitrary detentions. A close relation of mine, Mr. Shabir Siddique, whose hallmark was education, was herded in November 1993 into a house near Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar with 18 Kashmiris, where all were killed when their oppressors sealed and torched the premises. Such commonplace horrors, however, are kept from newspaper headlines and television, unlike the cases of Kosovo and East Timor that spurred international intervention, by a virtual exclusion from Kashmir of unchaperoned foreign reporters. But that neither lessens the suffering nor makes the violations any less unlawful under international law.

If you were a Kashmiri wouldn't you resist? It is like South African blacks resisting apartheid. Who ever knew of a human who didn't instinctively rebel against subjugation and debasement? If the Kashmir resistance were not primarily indigenous, what can explain the 700,000 foreign military and paramilitary forces stationed on the territory, numbers vastly exceeding what is needed to conduct a campaign against a few foreign terrorists or infiltrators? Indeed, Kashmir is the most densely soldiered territory on the planet.

For the Kashmir conflict to end, authentic representatives of the Kashmiri people must be senior partners at the negotiating table. No solution will endure without their consent voiced in a referendum. The negotiating representatives should be selected in an internationally supervised election.

Kashmiris recognize that any solution must also answer the genuine national security and communal concerns of both India and Pakistan. Thus, if independent statehood is approved, the 13 million people of Kashmir would accept permanent neutrality like Austria in the 1955 State Treaty that ended foreign occupation. There would be no foreign military bases or alliances, and no Kashmir army, following the model of Costa Rica. And Kashmir would renounce the use of force or threat of force in international affairs, which finds a parallel in the Japanese Constitution.

Kashmiris would also embrace communal quotas in government institutions legislative, executive, and judicial as insurance against discrimination or abuses of Pandits (Hindus), Sikhs, Buddhists or Muslims, coupled with strong local autonomy. In family law matters, the religious precepts or customs of the interested parties would govern. Any Kashmiri opposed to independence would be relocated to either India or Pakistan to begin anew with an adequate sum funded by the United Nations.

Wretchedness has plagued Kashmir for more than 52 years since its short-lived independence from the British raj, attained on Aug. 15, 1947. If left unattended, the disputed land could spark nuclear volleys between India and Pakistan, which explains its designation by President Clinton as the most dangerous place on the globe. Kashmiris, contrary to prevailing orthodoxy, are an indispensable party to forestalling such a nuclear winter and bringing peace and security to South Asia.

Until that lesson is learned, all the phantasmagoric summits between international grandees will remain no more than sound and fury signifying nothing.



Ghulam Nabi Fai is the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council.

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