Obama Administration Should Help Resolve Kashmir: Mushahid, Maleeha, Fai

24 July 2009
Associated Press of Pakistan

Washington DC: The United States is in a position to use its clout for resolution of the longstanding Kashmir dispute and President Barack Obama should make good on his election promise towards ending the underlying cause of South Asian tensions, prominent Pakistani lawmakers and experts said. Senator Mushahid Husain Sayed, former ambassador to the United States, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi and head of the Kashmiri-American Council, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai argued at the 10th Kashmir Peace Conference that stability in South Asia is inextricably linked with a just settlement of Jammu and Kashmir dispute. “The United States has today equal influence both in New Delhi and Islamabad,” Sayed, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, citing Washington’s close ties with the two regional powers. He recounted a number of occasions in recent decades when Washington intervened to ratchet down tensions between India and Pakistan including the 1999 Kargil conflict, 2002 military standoff, and last year’s Mumbai attacks. The lawmaker said the people of Occupied Kashmir have not accepted Indian legitimacy despite six decades of repression and asked New Delhi to come out of its denial mode on the issue. Mushahid Sayed also asked Indian leaders to give up reneging on their pledges to make progress on the issue and praised members of the Indian civil society for bringing to the fore the ground realities and the extent of human rights violations in Kashmir. “The election of Barack Hssein Obama is a positive change, hopefully it will be evident in United States’ relations with Muslim world - in the Muslim world there are two issues which are paramount and need attention - Palestine and Kashmir - both have legitimacy in the United Nations,” he stated. In her presentation, Dr Maleeha Lodhi pointed out that Islamabad’s ability to take decisive action against militancy and focus fully on its western frontier requires at the very least calm and normalized relations with India. “And the ability to effectively contain the forces of militancy needs a context of tangible progress on Kashmir.” In addition, she said, an unresolved dispute jeopardizes prospects for regional stability because the longer the issue festers, the greater the risk of a strengthening of the forces of radicalization. On Washington’s role toward settlement of the diapute, she noted that President Obama’s statements during the election campaign and soon after that “the road to Afghanistan’s stabilization runs through a Kashmir resolution were not just an acknowledgement of reality but showed his deep understanding of the interconnectedness of security issues in the region and the stakes for the international community.” However, she stated, the strategy Obama announced for Afghanistan and Pakistan and his appointment of a special representative for the region, appeared to be at odds with his earlier admission. “This makes his strategy partial and incomplete. Peace in South Asia is not just critical to international stability but essential to Washington’s core strategic objectives in the region of defeating terrorism and stabilizing Afghanistan. But excluding the India-Pakistan equation from the formal mandate of Richard Holbrooke will not make the convection between regional security issues disappear. Policies have to respond to realities and not the other way around,” Dr. Lodhi added. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, host of event and a leading Kashmir scholar, said “passivity and silence” over the Kashmir issue are not an option because it is a matter that affects lives of 1.25 billion people of South Asia. He emphasized that “conflicts should be resolved through peaceful negotiations” and not through military might and said the international community has a role in making that happen in the case of Kashmir - a nuclear flashpoint. Fai reminded the gathering of experts, diplomats and American lawmakers that President Harry Truman was instrumental in getting a UN resolution on Kashmir when the issue came up and that the UN Security Council resolutions remain valid. “President Obama needs to listen to what candidate Obama said on the eve of his election- appointment of a special envoy on Kashmir will greatly help and expedite progress towards its resolution.”