US Congressman demands plebiscite
30 October 2003
WASHINGTON: A key US Congressman and ranking member of the House Committee on International Relations has urged New Delhi to give the people of Kashmir the right to choose whether they want to live with India or Pakistan. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, also admonished the Bush administration for its 'inaction in Kashmir.' The strong expression of support for the Kashmir cause from a lawmaker, who also professed to 'like the people of India better than the people of Pakistan,' took everyone by surprise. Even Pakistani diplomats, worried at the presence of a former RAW official B. Raman among the witnesses, were taken by surprise. Wednesday's open hearing was on 'the challenge of terrorism in Asia and the Pacific' and attracted a large crowd, among the both Indian and Pakistani diplomats and journalists. The Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific also had invited Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca, US' ambassador-at- large for counter-terrorism J. Cofer Black and Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Matthew Daley as panel witness. Later, a panel of four experts, including Mr Raman and former US ambassador to Pakistan Robert B. Oakley, also assisted the committee. Mr Rohrabacher's comments on Kashmir came after Mr Raman's testimony in which he launched a vicious attack on Pakistan, blaming it for almost everything that's going wrong in the world. 'Mr. Raman, just a note. I mean, you can come up with every excuse in the world. India is not permitting the people of Kashmir to have a vote, to determine their destiny by a vote. This will all be over if the people of Kashmir will be given the right to determine their destiny with a vote,' said the Congressman when Mr Raman finished his tirade about how Pakistan was sending terrorists into Kashmir and destabilizing South Asia. 'All the other things you say may be true. The bottom line is right now we need to solve the problem, and Americans believe - and I believe Indians believe it's true as well - that people have a right to control their own destiny via the ballot box,' said Mr Rohrabacher when RAW's former chief of counter-terrorism once again attacked Pakistan for stirring troubles in Kashmir. 'And I would suggest that people of good faith in India and in Pakistan get together to try to find a solution to which the people of Kashmir will vote for and approve,' he added. Mr Rohrabacher then presented his own proposal to resolve the Kashmir issue, urging India and Pakistan to divide the disputed territory according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir. When Mr Raman suggested that the Indian government has already held several state elections in Kashmir and those elections were fair and free, the Congressman said 'I have heard no one ever deny the fact that a large proportion of the people of Kashmir are not satisfied and would vote either to be independent or be part of Pakistan.' He interrupted Mr Raman again and very strongly urged India to look for a solution rather than trying to hide under excuses such as the holding of state elections. 'Let's try to solve it. Let's quit lying. Let's quit changing the subject,' he warned. 'But to solve this problem,' he said, 'it goes right down to 'let's give the people of Kashmir a right to determine that.' It's going to go on and on and on till that.' He said there could be no peace in South Asia until the Kashmir dispute is resolved. 'All the rest of these problems are going to fester. Pakistan will continue to be destabilized because what we're doing is we're empowering the most radical elements in Pakistan by keeping the Kashmir an issue.' When Mr Raman asked would the United States hold a referendum in Hawaii to let the people decide whether they want to be a part of the union, Mr Rohrabacher said 'If we don't have faith in Americans then there is no reason for them to stay wit us. It's about the rights of the people, not about the state.'