Remarks by Ambassador Touqir Hussain, on Kashmir Event
Thank you for the introduction. I am thankful to the Ambassador for giving me the opportunity to speak on the Kashmir dispute. And I thank the audience including some of my good friends American and Pakistani for taking time out to listen to my talk. Unfortunately the Ambassador is not here but I am sure I speak for you in welcoming her appointment. She is indeed a breath of fresh air. She is very well regarded in the academic and think tank community some of whose representatives are here. The goodwill that an Ambassador enjoys in the host country is a great asset in creating trust and trust is critically important in diplomacy as it is in human relationships. We need it in handling the important relationship between our two countries in these critical times.
Let me now turn to my talk. Kashmir is no ordinary dispute. It is about a territory, its people and their history, culture, and aspirations for freedom. And it is about the ethics of international politics.
As a young diplomat I always thought part of the problem we had difficulty explaining our case about Kashmir to the world was that the case about Pakistan itself was not well known. In this context I used to wonder why we use the word partition of India. It is something that is an integral whole that is partitioned and the pre 1947 India was nothing like that. It was an empire. And empires are not partitioned, they are dissolved. And that is what happened in 1947 and two independent nation states that did not exist before came into being.
The ancient India, not the modern India that emerged in 1947, had been for much of its history a loose assortment of kingdoms, principalities, and fiefdoms. It went on to become seat of three great empires—Hindu, Muslim and the British—as a curious mixture of areas directly administered by the imperial power and hundreds of princely states enjoying varying degree of autonomy. If there was a unity of empire it was essentially military and administrative. The British rule, the last of the empires, however did give India more than an administrative unity. It introduced modern political ideas and exposed the Indians to such European concepts as nationalism and democracy spurring Indian aspirations for freedom.
The leaders of the majority Hindu community began resting their concept of a free India on one nation embracing one civilization. But the fact was that India was not a nation not even a state; much less a single nation civilization. It lacked a linguistic and cultural unity and a collective historical experience. Some Hindu leaders even went further. Their view was as reflected in a piece on Kashmir in the Foreign Affairs magazine in 2002 written by Mr Bajpai former Indian Ambassador to Washington “that Indians were all one people, whose varying faiths and practices enriched a common culture”. Common culture? I ask.
As Steve Cohen has said the Muslims saw in the unitary Hindu view the first signs of the majority community’s aspirations to be the masters of a united India dominating a minority and began thinking of going their own separate way. India had clearly two distinct communities with their own culture, identities, and historical experience. Yes there was a certain shared sense of being an Indian but it fell short of a national consciousness as it could not over ride political, communal and socio economic differences, clash of history and regional biases between the two communities. And in the end the Hindu majority community had their state and the Muslim theirs. Neither existed before and nor was it carved out of the other. So what was it that was partitioned? I wonder.
The fact is India committed aggression in Kashmir, simple as that. The fate of the state was pre-empted by India’s territorial ambitions. India went against the principles of decolonization of British India in 1947. It intervened in all three states, Kashmir, Hydrabad and Junagadh on behalf of the self determination principle where it suited her and in violation of it when necessary. The approach was heads I win tails you lose. In fact if there was ever an original sin in the India Pakistan relations that was it.
India has thwarted all attempts by the United Nations to organize a plebiscite in Kashmir. While frustrating the implementation of the UN resolutions and thus hoping to erode their relevance, if not validity, over a period of time, India went about creating new ground realities by manipulating the political process inside Kashmir that could give its occupation and Kashmir’s controversial accession to India a semblance of legitimacy. Kashmiris protested as did Pakistan but Indian grip over Kashmir was too firm and it had enough influence in the world to blunt Pakistan’s challenge.
After Pakistan’s unsuccessful bid to seek a military solution to the dispute in 1965, and its break up in 1971 facilitated by India Pakistan virtually played itself out from the Kashmir dispute weakening the morale of the nationalist political leadership in Kashmir. This gave India the license to rig the political process further. Elections continued to be flawed and manipulated and a succession of Indian sponsored governments handed a rank misrule to the state, alienating and despairing the population, an ideal environment for people to resort to radical solutions.
When the time honored tradition of electoral fraud was repeated in 1987, ever more blatantly, India overplayed its hand. But events came at an inopportune moment for India. The mantle of leadership in the state was passing to a younger generation, which had become desperate and radicalized by decades of political manipulation by India, mis-governance and corruption, denial of social justice and economic opportunities, and systematic abuse of personal liberties and human rights by wide ranging draconian laws.
Thus began a Kashmiri Intifada. India sought to suppress the resistance with a massive use of force, killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children in the year it began, 1989. According to Government of Pakistan official sources more than 60,000 Kashmiris have been killed since 1989 directly at the hands of over 600,000 Indian troops or in hostilities undertaken on their behalf by the state security apparatus and renegade militants. Indeed the scale and horror of violence have been well documented by international and even Indian human rights organizations. Several reports of organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have extensively documented the gross and systematic violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people by Indian military and para-military forces including judicial killings, involuntary disappearances, arbitrary detentions, rapes and torture.
In recent years, taking advantage of the growing global anxiety about fundamentalism and religious extremism and militancy, India has tried to delegitimize the Kashmiri resistance by redefining it in terms of international terrorism and blamed the insurgency on cross border infiltrations by the Jihadists. Whatever the truth the fact is the substance of Kashmiri resistance has remained indigenous. No external influence could have persuaded the Kashmiri people to sustain their struggle for so long. And it is only genuine and popular quest for freedom which evokes such monumental sacrifices.
The question was fully examined by the International Commission of Jurist’s report of 1995 Its report says that “If, as the ICJ mission has concluded, the people of Kashmir have a right of self determination, it follows that their insurgency is legitimate” even if Pakistan has no right to support it.
As a U S Institute of Peace Special Report on Kashmir by a prominent serving Indian IAS officer in 2004 who was a senior fellow there observes “whatever the legal right, the Accession was more than 50 years ago. Does that right still hold through all that has happened since? Nations, much less democratic nations, may be created but not built as a result of legal decree alone. Military strength in itself can secure only a transient unity. The will of the people, or at the very least their willing acceptance, must be the binding force of a nation,”
The Security Council has adopted 18 resolutions so far directly or indirectly dealing with the Kashmir dispute. All affirm that the final disposition of Jammu and Kashmir should be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through a UN supervised plebiscite. The most recent resolution was No.1172, adopted in 1998,
Now where do we go from here? Pakistan sees the Kashmir dispute at several levels, a moral issue going to the heart of the political aspirations of the Muslims of British India for a separate homeland, an act of bad faith by India in denying the accession of the state to Pakistan, and a symbol of India’s rejection of the very idea of Pakistan. Pakistan’s case has rested essentially on the illegality of Kashmir’s accession to India and its rejection by the Kashmiris, and on the sanctity of UN resolutions calling for a fair and independent plebiscite in the state allowing its population the opportunity to exercise their right of self determination.
But the reality is a lot has changed and both India and Pakistan need to revisit their long held positions. India has to ask itself if the territory is its integral part as claimed, then do you really need to keep the estimated 700,000 troops there. But if you do, surely that means it may not belong to you as you need to keep it by force. India has to confront this reality. And then the fact is the accession was just a piece of paper. And it has become irrelevant specially as a critical part of it said that it was temporary and the permanent future of the state was to have been determined by ascertaining the wishes of the Kashmiri people. And people of Kashmir have spoken through the Intifada.
What is a settlement that India can afford, Kashmiris can accept and Pakistan can live with? While there is a growing awareness in Pakistan that victory remains elusive, there is also a feeling that defeat is not an option. Pakistan will not accept an agreement that is unacceptable to the Kashmiris.
The gains will manifest themselves in lasting prospects of peace and stability, within Kashmir and between India and Pakistan, and in staving off risks of a nuclear war, and enhance the potential for their economic co-operation in the region leading to the emergence of an integrated regional market. And address other critical issues, such as energy, sharing of water resources, security, and good neighborly relations. It will also undercut forces of extremism, help stabilize Pakistan. But n o gain is worth a strategic betrayal. Pakistan can explore all avenues of seeking a solution to the dispute but cannot betray the Kashmir cause. And it needs India also to be a partner in the search for an honorable solution.
Has India given an incentive for such a vision. No. Nor has the US the other big player in the equation. The US keeps repeating the standard line the dispute should be resolved through direct negotiations. But it forgets that the given its heavy engagement with the region and its military presence it too has become a party. So it too has to be involved.
Threats and opportunities in the region have all become complex and interlocked. And US cannot achieve its strategic purposes without peaceful relations between India and Pakistan without which Afghanistan cannot be stabilized. Indeed the rewards that a stable Afghanistan could possibly bring that may eventually include an integrated South Asia market that also takes care of the water and energy issues are a strong incentive to both India and Pakistan to normalize their overall relations
It too now recognizes that the totality of its current and future interests in the region will not be served if the Kashmir dispute and the relations between India and Pakistan are not addressed. The US needs both India and Pakistan to achieve their objectives in the region, specially in the war against terrorism, and it cannot do so without the normalization of relations. India, Pakistan and the US, therefore, may have come to have interlocking interests.
For years India resisted the US role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. But since 9/11 and India’s rise and rise in the US India relations it has modified its position. It does not mind the US intervention as long as it is on India’s behalf. That surely gives legitimacy to Pakistan’s demand for America’s role which India continues to oppose. Obviously there is a contradiction here.
We should continue to support the Kashmir cause diplomatically, morally and politically. Specially in the US. We need to be active with meetings like this and our role as US citizens to influence the political leadership here about the just Kashmir cause. I really appreciate the Ambassador’s thoughtfulness to call this meeting to tap the resources of all of you. And I feel honored by you all with your valued presence here and the Ambassador’s kind invitation to me to give me the privilege of addressing you.
WASHINGTON - February 22 2012