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Pak-India forum treats Kashmir as 3rd entity - The Asian Age

Seema Mustafa ()
26 January 1997

Title : Pak-India forum treats Kashmir as 3rd entity
Author : Seema Mustafa
Publication : The Asian Age
Date : January 26, 1997

Leading intellectuals who attended a convention of the Pakistan-Indian
People's Forum for Peace and Democracy in Calcutta recently, have endorsed a
resolution that clearly puts Kashmir in the category of a third country,
after India and Pakistan.

The convention, which was attended by 164 journalists, academics, trade
unionists and others from Pakistan and India, was held in late December,
ostensibly to improve people-to-people contact between the two nations. West
Bengal's government, including chief minister Jyoti Basu, welcomed the
delegates at dinners and extended full cooperations to the organisers.

Not a single person, senior politician or intellectual, raised any objection
to the resolution on Kashmir, which reads like a document that could have
been drafted in Islamabad or Washington. The session was chaired by senior
journalist Mubashir Hassan, whose hard line on Kashmir is well known, and
activist Tapan Bose who, among other things, runs a voluntary organisation
from Kathamandu. The resolution, in repeated references to Kashmir as
separate from India, states: "Non-resolution of the Kashmir issue has caused
immense suffering to the people of India. Pakistan and Kashmir." It goes on
to say : "The existence of the armed forces of India and Pakistan in the
Kashmir region creates difficulty for the people of Kashmir."

The resolution does not even mention the fact that elections were held
recently in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no reference in the two-page document
ratified by the leading intellectuals of India about the installation of a
popular government in the state.

It is as if the elections have not taken place, a line incidentally taken by
organisations like the Kashmir Study Group in the US and extremist outfits
operating in Pakistan. The American groups, formed to evolve a "new strategy"
on Kashmir, refer to the elections merely to emphasise that these do not
constitute a solution. In Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq
Abdullah is referred to as a "traitor" and his government dismissed as being
a "puppet" of India.

In Calcutta, the resolution on Kashmir spoke of the desire of the people of
both countries to live peacefully, but does not even mention the fact that
some kind of process has begun through the elections in the Valley.

The resolution makes it clear that the forum is committed to its stand that
Kashmir not be seen as territorial dispute between the two countries but that
it "concerns the lives and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir on
both sides of the line of control."

Significantly, this is the argument used by the Hurriyat, which has
continuously laid stress on the line of control. The four-point charter
adopted by the intellectuals merely lays emphasis on establishing a dialogue
between Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the line of control. In fact, two
points in the charter are only concerned with establishing regular meetings
with Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the line of control.

This is task set out for the joint committee on Kashmir appointed at the
convention. The other two points concern the need to educate the people about
the "facts and real issues about Kashmir," although the document does not
specify what these are. The forum also feels is should exert pressure on both
governments to improve bilateral relations so that Kashmir can be discussed
in a "more cordial atmosphere."

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