Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai,
The Kashmiri American community has been informed of the deep gratitude felt by the people of Kashmir at the forthright and principle stand taken by President Donald J. Trump for offering his office of mediation to settle the 71-years old dispute between India and Pakistan. President Trump was quoted to have said at the White House on July 22, 2019, during his meeting with Mr. Imran Khan, the Prime Minster of Pakistan, “ If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know.” President Trump added, “ I heard so much about Kashmir. Such a beautiful name. Such a beautiful part of the world.” The sentiments expressed by President Trump were both humane and pragmatic and should gather full support within the United States and beyond.
It’s very clear that Kashmir needs a strong and determined will and the genius of an imagination that has the negotiating skills and knows how to bring people together. We believe that there cannot be a better person than President Trump himself to mediate between the parties concerned. Mediation by the President would be free from the jealousies and the ambitions that characterize individual initiative. President Trump will have to remain under no obligation to please any particular power or particular set of powers or groups.
Without reservation, it can be said that the person who becomes instrumental in resolving the Kashmir dispute – the bone of contention between the two very potentially dangerous countries – deserves not only the Nobel Peace Prize but also a special place in history. The resolution of the dispute will bring unparalleled honor to the one who help to achieve it. That honor could be yours, Mr. President. Your leadership in helping to settle the Kashmir dispute should not be seen to favor India or Pakistan but to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in the region of South Asia.
We do not wish the future dialogue on Kashmir between India and Pakistan to stagnate or be broken off. Nor do we want it to be just make-believe. We remind all concerned that there are equal dangers for peace in the two possibilities. Each of them can be averted only by the mediation of President Trump.
India and Pakistan have had more than 150 official rounds of talks in the last seven decades to discuss conflicts and differences between them. The by-product of every round of talk was an agreement to meet again to talk. In consequence, the peace process between India and Pakistan has always remained an illusion. Talks have always proved barren because both India and Pakistan have never defined the parameters of talks. The talks were never meant to be time bound with specific benchmarks that would define and characterize progress.
We are fully aware that the settlement of the Kashmir dispute cannot be achieved in one move. Like all qualified observers, we visualize successive steps or intermediate solutions in the process. It is one thing, however, to think of a settlement over a relatively extended period of time. It is atrociously different to postpone the beginning of the process on that account.
What is desperately needed is an affirmation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Imran Khan of the necessity of taking new measures to effect the settlement of the dispute within a reasonable time frame. To that end, India and Pakistan must together prepare a plan for the demilitarization of the State with safeguards for security worked out together.
All parties need to understand that ultimately the Kashmir issue will only be resolved across the table through tripartite negotiations between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership. And if that is true, then why wait? Any delay will cause more death and destruction in the region.
The demand of the people of Kashmir that the Kashmiri leadership should be included in the talks is not based on passion alone but on important principles long acknowledged by the international community. Yet they have been contaminated with this long history of failed talks and agreements that have not resolved the issue and that do not even meet the very minimum requirement of those principles. So much political posturing; so absent of real intent.
The refusal by India to sit down to the table with Pakistan or those who represent the Kashmiris indicate that India is not even close to addressing the realities of Kashmir and the will of the people. This must change. Peace in the region would benefit not only those who are directly impacted by this conflict but India as well, whose economy is seriously drained by the maintenance of such a massive amount of troops in Kashmir, and the diversion it creates from other challenges it faces in raising the living standards of its population. Sounder minds must prevail. More rational methods of dealing with differences must be sought. Repeating the same mistakes while expecting different results has long ago been found to be the path of failure. Seventy one years should demonstrate a need for a change in policy, a policy that accepts the need for coming together in a process that accepts the right of all people to determine their own destiny.
The uncertainty over Kashmir will lead not only India and Pakistan to disaster but it will also destroy any possibility of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. Fortunately, any resolution of the Kashmir conflict will directly impact the stability of Afghanistan as many experts have started realizing that the key to peace in Afghanistan lies in Kashmir.—that the U.S. will never stabilize the former without peace in the latter. Suddenly, bringing India and Pakistan together seems to be very much in America’s interest.
Dr. Fai is the Secretary General, Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum. He can be reached at: 1-202-607-6435 or [email protected]