Kashmir is “gaping wound” in South Asia: William Dalrymple

The Disputed Territory : Shown in green is Kas...

The Disputed Territory : Shown in green is Kashmiri region under Pakistani control. The orange-brown region represents Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir while the Aksai Chin is under Chinese occupation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Ali Imran

WASHINGTON, March 18: British historian William Dalrymple has offered some food for thought to the South Asian and world leaders describing the lingering Jammu and Kashmir issue a ‘gaping wound’ that needs to be healed for achievement of long-dreamt peace and prosperity in the region.

Speaking at the Emirates Literary Festival in Dubai, Dalrymple noted that the resolution of the decades-old Kashmir dispute remained the key to a peaceful South Asia.

His remarks merit serious attention in the wake of renewed tensions along the Line of Control in Kashmir, the bone of contention between two regional political and nuclear powers India and Pakistan.

The two countries have fought several wars and skirmishes over the UN-recognized dispute, and recently killing of soldiers escalated the tensions between them, threatening to break the ceasefire the two have observed for several years now.

Meanwhile, according to several reports, New Delhi’s secret hanging of a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, has agitated the people in the Occupied Himalayan valley. The trial of Guru, who had been accused of involvement in terrorism by New Delhi, has been widely seen as politically motivated and human rights bodies, Indian activists and Amnesty International have condemned the controversial hanging without giving his family a chance to see him.

In his remarks, Dalrymple the author of The Last Mughal, The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, saw instability haunting the region, unless New Delhi and Islamabad resolved the longstanding dispute.

He also summed up the depressing mood in the Indian occupied Kashmir.

“We are currently in a situation where the people of Kashmir feel that they are under a military occupation and frankly the recent reports coming out of the Valley make for a very grim reading,” Dalrymple observed, according to reports in Pakistan Today and The Kashmir Times.

Dalrymple, who was reportedly shot at while covering Kashmir previously for international publications, said the Kashmir problem could be likened to a lesion that has been left festering for a long time.

The author, whose recent book Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan has won glowing reviews, also noted that there is great cultural similarity between Delhi and Lahore than there is between Delhi and Mumbai.

Meanwhile, in Washington a group of American and Kashmiri rights activists staged a demonstration in front of the Indian embassy to register their protest over human rights violations in Kashmir, where political leaders are often subjected to severe restrictions.The protestors also demanded the realization of long-denied right to self-determinations for the people of Kashmir, where Indian maintains over 500,000 armed forces to quell Kashmiris’ voice for freedom.

At the State Department, spokesperson Victoria Nuland underscored the importance for India and Pakistan to carry forward their dialogue.

“I think you know how strongly we’ve been supporting, both on the Indian side and the Pakistani side, direct dialogue between them and improvement in their relationship. They’ve already made some good strides on the economic side, on the visa side,” the spokesperson added.

“We want that to continue. We want it to be expanded to some of these security concerns that they have with each other,” Nuland noted.

Nuland’s remarks echoed Islamabad’s emphasis on resolution of security issues that impede any worthwhile progress towards detente in relations between two uneasy neighbors, who, despite having made some progress in areas like trade openings and visa easing initiatives, have seen their tensions escalate with cross-LoC firing in the disputed Kashmir region.

South Asian experts believe that the two countries need to step back from their hardened positions on the Kashmir dispute and chart out a clear-cut path towards a compromise settlement  that ends the excruciating sufferings of the people and pave the way for peaceful coexistence in the region.

But, due to failure of repeated bilateral attempts to sort out the multidimensional India-Pakistan tensions stemming from Kashmir issue including the political future of the people and water and security issue and the constant cycle of trading allegations, the fact remains that the strongest basis for the resolution of the dispute is provided by UN resolutions. These resolutions explicitly call for affording the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir a right to self-determination. Pakistan and India are parties to the dispute but the will of Kashmiris cannot be ignored under any circumstance.

 

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