- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 3, 2004

The Group of Eight summit last month in Sea Island, Ga., championed democracy and human rights in the Middle East, but was silent about subjugated Kashmir. The G8 deplored nuclear and missile proliferation, but was silent about the weapons proliferation in South Asia fueled by Kashmir.

Leaders of the key industrial nations identified global terrorism as the pre-eminent threat to peace and security, but were silent about the terrorism flowing from wholesale denial of political freedoms in Kashmir. These three neglects of the G8 summit must be addressed to escape international peril.

The G8 recognized democracy and human rights militate against extremism and strife in the Broader Middle East and North Africa. But that recognition applies equally to Kashmir, an erstwhile princely state denied self-determination and political dissent since its occupation by India 57 years ago.

The United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions stipulating a free and fair self-determination plebiscite “under the auspices of the United Nations.” The stipulations echoed icons of India’s politics. Mahatma Gandhi amplified on Oct. 30, 1947, that, “[Kashmir’s] accession [to India] was provisional upon an impartial plebiscite being taken by Kashmiris.” Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s celebrated first prime minister, declared on Jan. 2, 1952: “We have taken the issue to the United Nations and given our word of honor. We have left the question of final solution to the people of Kashmir.”

India, however, reneged on its international law obligation, and imposed puppet governments in Kashmir through rigged elections for contrived reasons of national security and secularism. The fundamental right to speak and to demonstrate in favor of self-determination was ruthlessly suppressed. The consequences have been harrowing.

Kashmir is the most densely soldiered territory in the world, hosting more than 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary personnel. Since the 1989 Kashmiri uprising against alien illegal occupation, more than 88,000 Kashmiris have been killed or more than all U.S. military fatalities during the Vietnam War.

Furthermore, thousands of Kashmiris have disappeared in custody; torture has paralyzed additional thousands; women of all ages have been routinely raped; property worth billions of dollars has been destroyed; and, arbitrary detentions have become as regular as the rising of the sun in the east and its setting in the west. Elections in Kashmir have been overwhelmingly boycotted despite India’s attempt to coerce balloting through intimidation and prodding by bayonets.

The denial of democracy and human rights in Kashmir, especially self-determination, has spawned nuclear and missile proliferation. Kashmir has been an open wound in India-Pakistan relations for more than 50 years.

The rivals have fought two wars over the territory, and have fortified their positions by testing nuclear weapons and developing intermediate range missiles. Neither country is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Expert consensus has Kashmir, not North Korea or Iran, as the most dangerous nuclear hot spot on the planet.

A hallmark of Kashmir has been its long tradition of nonviolence, tolerance, amity, good will and friendships across religious and cultural boundaries: Muslims, Pandits, Buddhists, and Sikhs. But the closing of peaceful political avenues in support of self-determination and human rights has boosted the attraction of violence and killings in this unfortunate land. Resolving Kashmir in accord with the wishes of its 13 million people would mark a major defeat for international terrorists.

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain scoffed at the Nazi menace to Czechoslovakia as a dispute over a faraway country about which little was known. His irresponsible neglect precipitated World War II. The G8 should learn from that, and end its neglect of Kashmir to avoid a corresponding calamity.

GHULAM NABI FAI

Executive director

Kashmiri American Council.

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