Kashmir Issue Escalates: Lobbyists Announce Million-Man-March In New York
Jammu and Kashmir
NEW DELHI: The recent snap in India Pakistan relations over Kashmir has led to a freeze that both sides are no longer sure will thaw in the immediate future. The United Nations General Assembly in New York does provide an opportunity for a meeting, although Pakistan is increasingly of the view that any meetings should be either at the Prime Ministers level or if not that, then between the foreign secretaries of the two countries.
There is little likelihood of any attempt now to revive the National Security Advisor level talks for two basic reasons. One, there is a certain reluctance now in Islamabad to engage with NSA Ajit Doval who is seen to bring only an intelligence perspective to the table. And secondly, Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz is of Minister rank while Doval being just the NSA remains lower in protocol hierarchy that usually brings its own sensitivities and problems to the table.
Significantly, even at the time of the last NSA level talks that were eventually cancelled Pakistan had wanted a foreign secretary level dialogue alongside to discuss and fix the modalities for the talks on the composite dialogue agenda. India refused and this, according to sources, was the first indication for Islamabad that New Delhi was not likely to discuss all the outstanding issues in a hurry after the NSA talks on terrorism were over.
The effort at least insofar as Pakistan is concerned, will be to ensure that talks as and when these are revived are at the foreign secretary level. UNGA is being perceived as a possible for a meeting of the foreign secretaries, though both governments have still to move to make this a certainty.
In the meanwhile the first steps for renewed efforts for the internationalisation of Kashmir, an opportunity given to Pakistan and the international community by the failure of the NSA level talks, have been taken by lobbyists and pro-Kashmir groups in the United States. The India-Pakistan face off on Jammu and Kashmir has given a shot of adrenalin to Kashmir lobbyists who have decided to up the ante with a “Million Man March” in New York on October 25. Ghulam Nabi Fai, , a known Kashmir lobbyist working out of Washington,is one of the organisers with Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary, former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir and others who met recently to take the decision, and finalise the event.
The demonstration will take place before the United Nations and is expected to be attended by “all Kashmiri American expatriates and friends of Kashmir, irrespective of their political beliefs, religious affiliations and linguistic limitations,according to Barrister Sultan. Hurriyat leaders are also expected to attend as in his words,“we want the United Nations and the United States to know that a political leadership exists in Jammu & Kashmir, with broad popular support, which seeks a peaceful and negotiated settlement. That leadership is APHC. APHC is ready to negotiate the final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir with the Governments of India and Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan has shown eagerness to accept APHC as an equal partner. The only question is whether the Government of India will join them at the peace table or opt for repression over dialogue.”
Fai had been put out of business with a probe and subsequent arrest a while ago. He is now the Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness and clearly has the mandate again to step up the propaganda for Kashmir. He said at the meeting held at Springfield Virgina, “We firmly believe that the only way to achieve a peaceful and lasting solution to the Kashmir crisis in through dialogue and negotiations. There can be no solution to the conflict without the participation of the leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.” Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmed Shah are to be invited for the Million-Man-March.
The meeting “appreciated” the statement issued by Special Assistant to US President Barack Obama on South Asian Affairs, peter R.Lavoy for his statement on August 20 where he said, “Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory. I think its up to them (India and Pakistan) to address these issues together. I expect they probably will.” Fai insisted that it was time for the US to recognise the Kashmiris as a central party to the “dispute.”