The Pugwash Conference on Kashmir

24 March 2006

Prominent leaders from both sides of Kashmir participated in a three day conference from 10 to 12 March 2006 at Islamabad, Pakistan. This conference was organised by Pugwash an American think tank The conference was held under the broad theme 'Prospects for self-governance in Jammu and Kashmir, and present status of cooperation and communications across the LOC'. This gave a chance for the leaders from two sides of the Line of Control (LOC) to sit together and discuss the dispute and ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan.

Conference Participants
From Pakistani side, the following persons participated in the three day conference by Pugwash: Mushahid Hussain- a former Pakistani Minister, Samina Ahmed-the International crisis Group's project director in Islamabad, Dr Shirin Mazari-director-general of the ISSI, Amanullah Khan-founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front(JKLF) and its leader in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir( POK), Sardar Qayyum Khan-Former President and Prime minister of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Sardar Atiq-President of Muslim Conference , Majid Malik-former Chief Justice of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Farooq Rehmani-Chairman of the Jammu & Kashmir People's League, Barrister Sultan Mehmud-Prime Minister of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Maulana Fazlur Rehman- a key member of the MMA , Najam Sethi-editor-in-chief of The Friday Times and Daily Times, Sherry Rehman, Abdus Sattar and Najmuddin Sheikh.

From the Indian side, the following  key persons participated: Omar Abdullah-President of National Conference, Yasin Malik-Leader of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Mirwaiz Umer Farooq-Chairman of All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Abdul Ghani Bhatt-member of All Party Hurriyat Conference(APHC), Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai-Executive Director of the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council (KAC), Sajjad Lone-Leader of the People's Conference, Mohamamd Yusuf Tarigami-Leader of the Communist Party of India(M), Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain -representative of People's Democratic Party, Bhim Singh-president of Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party, Barrister Majeed Taamboo and Farooq Qatwari-Kashmiri Study Group were among the Kashmiri leaders from Indian administered Kashmir. Syed Ali Shah Geelani leader of the hardliner Hurriyat Conference was also invited but the Indian government did not allow him a passport.

In an effort to speed up the Kashmir peace process, Pugwash organised a three day dialogue from 10-12 March 2006 on Kashmir titled 'Prospects for Self Governance in Jammu and Kashmir and Present Status of Cooperation and Communications Across the LOC'. The discussions were held behind closed doors at Islamabad. Talat Masood was the chief coordinator for the Pakistan chapter who stated that the Pakistanis were " interested in taking the peace process forward and providing a platform to develop a consensus.”1 The dialogue was meant to provide a platform to Kashmiri politicians of diverse opinion who could discuss the future of their divided state with intellectuals and foreign affairs experts from India and Pakistan.
The most prominent contribution of the Pugwash Conference has been to bring together various shades of opinion in Jammu and Kashmir ranging from the National Conference to the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Balawaristan National Front (BNF) to the Panthers Party and the Socialist party in POK at a common platform. Pugwash is a neutral initiative and does not indulge in any back-channel diplomacy to influence the governments in India and Pakistan or the separatists to accept its preferred solution to the problem. The decision on a solution to the problem is left to the parties concerned.2 Three separate meetings were designed to let the participants brainstorm their concerns to be shared with the larger group at a later stage.

The Three Sessions and Main Proposals of the Pugwash Dialogue

On 10 March 2006, Pakistani President General Musharraf, while interacting with the leaders from the Indian side of Kashmir before the Pugwash conference, ruled out the possibility of an independent Kashmir and supported the idea of self governance, as it is applicable in the present political scenario. There was no set agenda for the meeting, even though most of the themes revolved self-governance, demilitarisation, need to end violence etc. On 10 March 2006, there were two plenary sessions, held under Chatham House rules, with individual participants highlighting what they thought was important for the conference.On the Second day, 11 March 2006, there were separate meetings which included participants from Jammu and Kashmir and those from other parts of India and Pakistan. The afternoon session on the same day was spent discussing the views expressed in the pre-lunch meetings. No consensus document was issued by the Pugwash participants at the end of the conference. In the last session of the conference on 12 March 2006, the participants came out with a unanimous view that all types of violence must end in Kashmir. It was also agreed by the participants that more opinions should be brought into the Pugwash initiative on Kashmir so that no one feels left out in what has become the most representative dialogue process on Kashmir. However, consensus eluded the international conference organised by Pugwash, participants were sharply divided on a number of issues though they were unanimous about carrying on with the India-Pakistan Peace process forward. The differences were mainly on the views on terrorism and demilitarisation.

* The major themes of the meeting included self-rule, autonomy, demilitarisation, steps to accelerate communication between the two sides and economic interaction in Kashmir to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.3
The participants were unanimous over continuing confidence building measures.

The View from Pakistan

For Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s proposals for demilitarisation and self-governance offer a practical solution to the Kashmir dispute. He stated that "an ultimate solution to the problem on these lines would make the Line of Control (LoC) irrelevant." At the three day Puwash meeting, Musharraf urged India's leadership to come forward with a timely response to suggestions advanced for promoting durable peace in South Asia. The President strongly believed that the environment had never been so conducive for the solution of this problem. He further added that, "such a solution would neither require redrawing of borders, nor make the Line of Control permanent; however, it will make the LoC irrelevant' and also "discourage militancy." Musharraf said that Pakistan was ready to discuss proposals for troop pullout but he also called for the mutual withdrawal of the forces from the defined territories of Kashmir. If Indians adopted a flexible position, all three parties could move towards a workable settlement of the dispute. Therefore, Musharaf reiterated that all three parties “must show courage to reconcile, as courage and boldness are all the more important in finding a solution to the lingering problem”.4

President Pervez Musharraf also said that he was also considering "taking steps backward" if India did not respond to his self-rule and demilitarisation proposals on Kashmir. He told Kashmiri leaders that they should "once and for all" give up their independence proposition as it was "not durable and no time should be wasted on such futile exercises".5 Musharraf asked the Hurriyat Conference leaders to work jointly and create a consensus on the issue, claiming that his government was training youths in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and had destroyed all militant hideouts there. 

Reactions from Kashmir

The separatist Hurriyat Conference chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, expressed concern over the Central government's “insincere” approach towards the dialogue for resolving the Kashmir issue, arguing that it would threaten the restoration of peace in the state. He expressed the need to involve “true and genuine” representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in any future dialogue. He also added that the government was misleading the international community by involving other leaders in the dialogue. Farooq was addressing a Friday congregation at the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar while the Pugwash meeting was being held in Islamabad. Mirwaiz Farooq's concern over the central government’s tardy approach to the dialogue process at this juncture is regarded as significant. He also blamed the ruling coalition partners, the Congress and the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, for “representing Kashmir” at the Pugwash meeting. Farooq said, "those advocating the idea of self rule should first join the ranks of the (freedom) movement.” 6

For the Kashmiri leaders attending the Pugwash meeting, the proposals advanced by President Musharraf on self governance, demilitarisation and joint management were a step forward towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Supreme head of the Muslim Conference, Sardar Abdul Qayyum, said that the proposals offered by President Musharraf are a step forward towards settlement of the Kashmir problem but they don't offer a final solution to the issue. Chief of Jammu and Kashmir's Panther party, Bhim Singh, said that the Pakistanis and the Indians should seriously consider General Musharraf's ideas with regard to the resolution of Kashmir issue. Yaseen Malik, Sardar Khalid Ibrahim, Barrister Sultan Mehmood, Dr Karan Singh, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Haider Sajjad Ghani Lon, Sardar Atiq Ahmad and other Kashmiri leaders also spoke on the occasion. In Jammu occupied Kashmir, Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement (JKSM) and former Hizb commander, Zafar Akbar Bhatt, accused India of being insincere in resolving the Kashmir conundrum. Bhatt spoke to Pakistani reporters saying that if India continued to maintain a rigid position and did not show sincerity in facilitating the peace talks, then the ongoing Indo-Pak dialogue was bound to fail. Bhatt also said that after Hizb announced a cease-fire in July 2000, the Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement and other such organisations gave up arms and joined the political mainstream to strive for the solution of the Kashmir issue peacefully. Even though the arms were surrendered, and the government had promised the release of detainees, it failed to go through with its promises.7 Jammu and Kashmir National Panther's Party chairman and member of Legislative Assembly, Bhim Singh proposed the  reunion of the two parts of Kashmir, saying it would pave the way for a solution to the dispute acceptable to majority of the Kashmiris. "Once the two sides were united, this would provide the people an opportunity to change their thinking and find a workable solution to the lingering dispute. Both parts should be allowed to remain independent and free of Indian and Pakistani control." 8

Leader of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Farooq Ahmed Kashmir emphasised that Kashmiris should be given the right to self-determination. All leaders of Indian Held Kashmir should put away their party interest aside and think about  national interests. According to Ahmed, the Pugwash conference was a historic occasion and that leadership of both sides had come together to find a suitable solution to the Kashmir issue. Ahmed urged India to take positive steps for the resolution of the Kashmir issue and make sincere efforts to resolve the long-standing dispute by reducing troops in Jammu and Kashmir. A resolution of the Kashmir issue was important for the security of South Asia.9 

The Indian View

One incisive article in The Indian Express opined after the Pugwash conference "the aftershocks are still being felt in the separatist landscape of the Valley. In signs of a widening divergence between the Pakistani establishment and the separatists here, Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani today called for the indigenisation of the Kashmir struggle. This came simultaneously with the statement of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today, who called upon mainstream leaders to join the separatist ranks, if their `pro-Kashmir solution talk` in Pakistan is taken seriously. `Kashmir now needs an indigenous separatist struggle, which is independent of Pakistan control,` Geelani told The Indian Express in his first-ever advocacy of such a decisive break-up with Pakistan. `I know, it will be a long-term struggle, but there can be no short-cuts for the people`s struggle,` he said. The past week has been one of serious soul searching in the Valley`s separatist camp. Pugwash has brought home the separatists` worst fears about Pakistan`s changed outlook on Kashmir: that they are no longer indispensable for Islamabad. They think by hosting assorted mainstream leaders, including National Conference president Omar Abdullah, Pakistan has become a party to the dilution of the separatists` claims of representing Kashmir. `Pakistan has helped prove that Kashmiris are represented by a motley group of inconsequential leadership with separatists as one among many,` Geelani said, adding, `What Manmohan Singh could not prove by holding a round-table meet, Musharraf went to great lengths to show.`"

The President of Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), Omar Abdullah, stressed demilitarisation as a necessary step in Kashmir if both India and Pakistan desire a durable and long-lasting peace in the region. In his words, "don't waste this opportunity in the wake of 9-11 which forced both countries to chalk out a long-lasting and transparent solution of Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of people." Abdullah further argued that history would not give them a second chance if Kashmiris did not unite at this critical juncture and if they continued waiting for better leaders than Manmohan and Musharraf.  He said the world had changed and in accordance with the situation,  the Kashmiris will have to change their way of thinking. Moreover, imposing a ready made solution on the people of Kashmir would be detrimental to them. They (the Kashmiris) would never accept such an agreement. Abdullah appealed to both Indian and Pakistani governments to include the Kashmiris in a composite dialogue process in order to find a solution of  the Kashmir issue, which is acceptable to all three parties; Pakistan, India and Kashmiris. He also pointed out that in the past, several mistakes were committed and the region was paying a heavy price ever since. It was important not to repeat the same mistakes.10

Omar Abdullah said that President Musharraf's proposal regarding a joint Indo-Pak management without changing the sovereignty on either side of the border as a solution to the Kashmir problem was based on logic. Abdullah was full of praise for President Musharraf saying, "first he asked me about my impressions about Pakistan and then asked about our autonomy proposal. I told him that it is restoration of Kashmir's autonomy to the position where Union of India has jurisdiction only over foreign affairs, defence and currency." 11 Musharaf left Abdullah with the impression that he wanted to incorporate several aspects of the autonomy proposal and that the joint Indo-Pak management proposal for both sides of Jammu and Kashmir should arise from both sides and then be allowed to create a group consisting of Indians, Pakistanis and the representatives of either side of Kashmir to monitor it.

Abdullah's statements, however, were met with strong criticisms from the BJP. Nirmal Singh of the BJP attacked Abdullah and the Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh for their statements in Pakistan. Nirmal Singh took strong exception to Omar Abdullah`s statement that the accession to India by J-K Maharaja in 1947 was a historical blunder. Expressing dismay, he said "it is unfortunate that a politician from the mainstream was talking like that and we strongly condemn the statement." Nirmal Singh was further surprised by the statements by Bhim Singh in Pakistan where he talked about how Kashmir on both sides of the LOC should be made independent and the militants in the Indian jails should be released. Nirmal Singh said that the impression he felt strongly after meeting Musharraf was that the President was under tremendous pressure after US President George Bush' visit. Singh said that in the conference he countered the proposals of self-governance by stressing that J&K is the only state in the country that enjoys residuary powers and the power of taxation. Nirmal Singh also said that he conveyed that no talk on Kashmir issue is complete without representation from Gilgit and Baltistan. 12

In Search of Common Ground

Despite all the ambitious proposals, consensus seemed to elude the Pugwash meet. Participants were sharply divided on a number of issues though they were unanimous on the need to carry forward the India-Pakistan peace process and the quest for a solution to the Kashmir issue. Self-governance, de-militarisation and terrorism were the sticky points. As a result, the organisers of the conference chose to skip the customary consensus statement. Talat Masood, convener of the Pakistan chapter of Pugwash, told reporters that while there was a convergence of views on the need to speed up the India-Pakistan and intra-Kashmir dialogue process, the divergence pertained to priorities. Abdullah stated that the "differences were essentially on the sequence of steps needed to give a push to the process. There was no commonality of views on terrorism and de-militarisation. At the same time the conference achieved the objective of getting together leaders of various hues on one platform and engage each other on the dynamics of the India-Pakistan peace dialogue and the ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir." Also Mr. Abdullah was returning home with the impression that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had shown greater flexibility than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in moving forward the peace process and the dialogue on Kashmir. It was time New Delhi responded to the pro-active approach of Gen. Musharraf. Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, CPI (M) member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly said it would be unfair to term the conference a flop. "Such characterisation is the result of high expectations that the conference would throw up a solution to Kashmir. It is impractical and unreasonable to expect a conference to come up with a solution to problem that has eluded for six decades." The conference provided an opportunity for Kashmiris to meet and understand each other's view point. "It has certainly helped in lessening the confusion in our minds on the issues and possible solutions." Mr. Tarigami said New Delhi and Islamabad must use their influence to facilitate the return of Pandits to the Valley as well those who had moved into PoK and Pakistan after the militant phase. "I also firmly believe that the militants in Kashmir need to be engaged purposefully to make the India-Pakistan dialogue meaningful." 13

1. "Dialogue on Kashmir begins in Islamabad", The Dawn, Islamabad, March 9, 2006.
2. Happymon Jacob, "Creating Conditions for Peace in Kashmir: Pugwash Conference in Islamabad", IPCS Article, 19 March 2006.
3. "3-day Kashmir Moot Begins", The Pakistan Observer, Islamabad , March 10, 2006.
4. "Musharraf renews demilitarisation, autonomy proposals", The Dawn, Islamabad, March 10, 2006.
5. "I May Backtrack If India Remains Mum, The Indian Express, Jammu , March 18, 2006.
6. "Hurriyat Chief Unhappy With Center Over Dialogue Process", The Tribune, March 11, 2006.
7."Musharraf Proposal A Step To Kashmir Solution", The Pakistan Observer, Islamabad , 11 March 2006.
8. "Panthers party chief for Kashmir’s reunification",The Dawn, Islamabad, March 11, 2006.
9. "Panthers party chief for Kashmir’s reunification",The Dawn, Islamabad, March 11, 2006.
10. "Demilitarization In Kashmir Necessary For Peace: Omar", The Frontier Post, Islamabad , 12 March 2006.
11. "Demilitarization In Kashmir Necessary For Peace: Omar", The Frontier Post, Islamabad , 12 March 2006.
12. "BJP Aghast Over Omar, Bhim's Remark In Pakistan, The Indian Express, Jammu , March 16, 2006.
13. "Consensus eludes Pugwash meet", The Hindu, New Delhi, March 17, 2006.

About Pugwash

The Series of Pugwash Conferences take their name from the location of the first meeting, which was held in 1957 in the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada, birthplace of the American philanthropist Cyrus Eaton, who hosted the meeting. The stimulus for that gathering was a Manifesto issued in 1955 by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein -- and signed also by Max Born, Percy Bridgman, Leopold Infeld, Frederic Joliot-Curie, Herman Muller, Linus Pauling, Cecil Powell, Joseph Rotblat, and Hideki Yukawa -- which called upon scientists of all political persuasions to assemble to discuss the threat posed to civilization by the advent of thermonuclear weapons. From that beginning evolved both a continuing series of meetings at locations all over the world -- with a growing number and diversity of participants -- and a rather decentralized organizational structure to coordinate and finance this activity. By late 2002, there have been over 275 Pugwash Conferences, Symposia, and Workshops, with a total attendance of over 10,000 The Conferences, which are held annually, are attended by 150 to 250 people; the more frequent topical Workshops and Symposia typically involve 30 to 50 participants. The purpose of the Pugwash Conferences is to bring together, from around the world, influential scholars and public figures concerned with reducing the danger of armed conflict and seeking cooperative solutions for global problems. Meeting in private as individuals, rather than as representatives of governments or institutions, Pugwash participants exchange views and explore alternative approaches to arms control and tension reduction with a combination of candor, continuity, and flexibility seldom attained in official East-West and North-South discussions and negotiations.