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Many voices and concerns on Kashmir - any solutions?

Monday, January 11, 2010 10:03:52 PM, Sarwar Kashani, IANS

Omar pleads for Kashmir's image change, calls for investments: Striking an emotional chord with the Indian diaspora at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas .... Read Full

New Delhi: An India-Pakistan peace conference to lay a road map for resolving disputes, including Kashmir, turned into a vociferous exchange of ideas when many voices from different regions and ethnic groups of the divided state raised their concerns about being "left out".


Emotions and tensions ran high in the track-II diplomatic effort here Monday as participants and people from the audience said the Kashmir issue was not about the Muslim-dominated valley alone. It was a symbolic reference to the complexity of the six-decade-old dispute of the state that is divided between India and Pakistan.


So when two separatist leaders - Yasin Malik of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Sajjad Lone of the Peoples Conference - voiced their ideas on how to resolve the dispute, some people from other regional and ethnic groups of the state in the audience also wanted to make their point.


Peaceniks of the two nuclear armed neighbours who organised the three-day peace conference at the India International Centre (IIC) had a tough time to let all voices be heard, but they did.


A student from Ladakh shouted: "Who has given Malik and Sajjad the contract to speak for the entire state?"


A man from Gilgit-Baltistan said the Shia-dominated region in Pakistani Kashmir was a part of the undivided state till 1947, but "why is there no mention of us when you try to solve the dispute?"

"When you talk about the Kashmir problem you are referring to 11 percent of its geographic area (the Kashmir Valley). What about the other 89 percent? The impasse will linger until you accommodate our view point," he said.


Some members of the migrant Kashmir Pandits said their plight of living like "refugees in our own country" was being overlooked.

The solutions mooted were as many as the voices, making the problem look more complex than it actually may be.


"In Jammu and Kashmir, sentiments vary even as a majority is for independence. The problem is too complex... more than it appears to be," said Lone.


"Pakistan speaks about UN resolutions but only when it comes to Indian Kashmir. What about the other regions under its occupation and the part it has gifted to China," the Peoples Conference leader said, referring to territory, including the northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, under Pakistan administration.


"Can we arrive at an affordable position where all these solution converge? There may be a point definitely," he said.


Lone said it was not possible for India and Pakistan to give up "even an inch of land".


"But can we still reunite the divided Jammu and Kashmir without sticking to our extreme positions? Yes, we can if we have a political will on all the three sides - India, Pakistan and Kashmir. Let economy do that. Let trade do that," he said.


"Let's have a power sharing evolution. A new set of arrangements which rises above the monotony of sovereignty," said Lone, the only separatist leader who has drafted a resolution "Achievable Nationhood" on the Kashmir issue.


Lone said it was easy to contain violence "but difficult to beat it". "You cannot defeat it without delivering on your promises."


JKLF leader Yasin Malik traced the roots of the problem to broken promises and "deficiency of trust between India and Kashmiris".


"You will have to restore the credibility of the dialogue process in Kashmir if you want to make peace," he said.


"People have lost faith in the institution of dialogue for reasons best known to everybody. Dialogue in Kashmir is a synonym to sell-out," said the former militant commander who gave up arms in 1994 for a political struggle.


Referring to thousands of people killed in the Kashmir armed conflict, Malik stressed that the issue should be resolved "before it consumes another generation".


The conference organised by 11 organisations from India and Pakistan ends Tuesday. It has eminent personalities from both countries deliberating on a host of issues that unite rather than divide them.












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