“There is but one fair, just, legal and moral solution to Kashmir, which was provided by the United Nations acknowledging the right of the people of Kashmir to determine their own future through an impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices.” This was the message that came out loud and clear from a two-day international conference on Kashmir titled, “Kashmir Turmoil: Emerging Threats to Peace and the Role of International Community” organized by Lahore Center for Peace Research in collaboration with Turkish Think Tank “Institute of Strategic Thinking” (SDE) on 20-21 November 2019, in Ankara, Turkey.
The Conference was attended as special guests by President Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Sardar Masood Khan, Vice President of Turkey Mr. Fuat Oktay, Pakistan’s Senator Sherry Rehman, Member of UK Parliament Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chief Justice of Turkey Mr Ismail Rustu Cirit, Member of Turkish Parliament Erkan Akcay, member of Turkish Parliament Sureyya Sadi Bilgic, Chairman Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Coordinator, Self-Determination Council Mr. Ranjit Singh, President Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights Syed Nazir Gillani, Scholar-Historian and Author on Kashmir Prof Victoria Schofield, and CNN Anchor and Analyst Mrs. Kimberly Dozier.
Eminent speakers from several countries including Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Russia, Germany, Netherland, United Kingdom and United States participated in the Conference which was co-chaired by LCPR Chairman, Pakistan’s Former Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad and President of Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE) Muhammet Sawas Kafkasyali. The Conference was attended by a distinguished audience consisting of parliamentarians, academia, members of the diplomatic corps, journalists, members of think tank community and students.
The Conference reviewed the historical, legal, political and humanitarian dimensions of the current crisis in Kashmir where India is not only seeking to change the demographic reality of its occupied territories but also taking arbitrary measures in utter disregard of normal life through frequent curfews, arrests, detentions and sometimes disappearances of innocent civilians. A complete military lockdown keeps the people of Kashmir deprived of basic liberties including access to the outside world. The continued wholesale incarceration of Kashmiri political leadership including the erstwhile pro-India leaders has resulted in a political vacuum which carries the danger of hijacking of the resistance movement by extremist elements.
The Conference noted with concern the prospect of a genocide in Indian-occupied Kashmir, if the current military crackdown continues unabated. Besides the human rights abuses in Indian-held Kashmir, the basic dispute over the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir remains unaddressed. India and Pakistan have fought wars and still remain locked in a conflictual mode. Major powers and the United Nations have an obligation to prevent any new conflict between India-Pakistan over Kashmir.
As one of the oldest unresolved international conflicts, Kashmir today is a sombre reminder to the world that it cannot continue to ignore the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people. A solution has to be found in conformity with the wishes of the Kashmiri people as called for in UN Security Council resolutions. There was consensus at the Conference that no matter what India claims, the situation in Kashmir today is highly worrisome requiring urgent intervention by the international community. The world community also needs to rush relief supplies to the beleaguered people in the Indian occupied Kashmir.
Specific recommendations emerging from the Conference include:
- Kashmir is a question involving the fundamental right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, pledged to them by the international community as well as by both India and Pakistan in UN Security Council resolutions. Beyond UNSC resolutions, there is no compact formula or tailor-made solution available for addressing this long outstanding issue.
- Over the years, Kashmir has turned into a global issue of peace and security. It has magnified manifold becoming today a veritable nuclear flash point. The United Nations must fulfill its responsibility to prevent the Kashmir issue from erupting into another India-Pakistan conflict with perilous consequences for the region and beyond.
- The world powers, including the United States should also facilitate these efforts to achieve a fair and lasting settlement of the dispute, fair to the people most immediately involved and fair to their own commitments to freedom and human rights. They must stand on the side of justice and legality. It will earn the gratitude of generations in Kashmir, in Pakistan and even in India itself.
- To start with, India must restore normalcy in Kashmir by ending human rights abuses and its ill-motivated efforts to change the nature of the disputed territory through demographic engineering in Kashmir. Revocation of these illegal Indian actions and release of political and civilian prisoners followed by resumption of a political dialogue between the parties concerned could set the stage for a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue. Meanwhile India must avoid intimidation and hurling of threats against Pakistan.
- The UN Secretary-General must also consider appointing an eminent person of an international standing from the list of World’s Elders as his special envoy on Kashmir to monitor the situation in Kashmir including the human rights situation and other illegal measures being taken by India to change the demographic reality of the occupied territory.
- UN’s human rights agencies, notably the Human Rights Council, Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as well as other international agencies including ICRC, Amnesty International and International Crisis Group must remain engaged to monitor the on-ground situation in Indian-held Kashmir.
- As recommended by United Nations High Commissioners for Human Rights in their two successive reports, a commission of enquiry should be established to carry out independent investigation into human rights violations in the Indian occupied Kashmir.
The Conference placed on record its gratitude to the Turkish Government for its cooperation and hospitality and also expressed appreciation to all the distinguished participants for their valuable contribution in making the Conference a great success.
Ankara (Turkey) November 22, 2019