President Obama Can Help Bring Peace in South Asia

ghulamnabifai_thumb.jpg

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

January 21, 2014

“We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis…” President Obama, October 30, 2008

Your planned visit to India has inspired hopes, in the hearts of Americans of Kashmiri origin, that your global statesmanship may move the frozen dispute over the status of Kashmir towards a settlement based on justice and rationality. We would hasten to add that while we are fully aware of the multiplicity of issues that you will be devoting your time and attention during your forthcoming visit to India, you may perhaps like to remember that Kashmir is not a new issue, having been on the agenda of and in the cognizance of the United Nations for nearly 68 years. Ironically, it is the only entity in the region of South Asia which has so far been denied the opportunity to determine its political future.

It has been most unfortunate that throughout the pendency of the dispute and especially since the uprising in 1989, India has taken full advantage of United States policy, regardless of the intent of that policy. Pronouncements emanating from the highest levels of the US government to the effect that India and Pakistan must settle the dispute bilaterally have been taken by Indian policy-makers as endorsement of their stand. They may not like the balancing statement that the United States regards the whole of Kashmir as disputed territory but they consider it as immaterial.

Equally distressing has been the reported canvassing by some Indian officials of the idea of autonomy for Kashmir within the Indian Union. Kashmiri leadership has the support of mass opinion for its stand that this idea  is totally unacceptable as, in addition to its inherent defects, it would be liable to revision or repeal by the Indian legislature. Unless a settlement of the Kashmir dispute, other than what is embodied in the jointly accepted resolutions of the Security Council, is incorporated in an international treaty or agreement with the expressed support of all states neighboring Kashmir, it will amount only to redesigning the dispute rather than settling it. Also in order for resolution of Kashmir dispute to be credible and lasting, the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir must be included in all future negotiations between India and Pakistan. We also believe that an appointment of a special envoy on Kashmir will go a long way to hasten the process of peace and stability in the region of South Asia – home to one fifth of total human race.

Our plea is based on confidence that the United States is sensitive to human rights situations regardless of the location of their occurrence . We have been deeply moved by reports of almost the entire population of major towns in Kashmir coming out on the streets demanding the fulfillment by the world community of the pledge embodied in the resolutions of the Security Council that they will be enabled to determine their own future. This massive, indigenous and peaceful upsurge defying suppression cannot be seen other than unmistakable expression of resentment by Kashmiris of the neglect of the human tragedy caused by the international community’s failure to resolve the dispute. We also view this as yet another indication of the yearning by Kashmiris for an amicable settlement of dispute so they can live in peace and prosperity.

Our hope that the Kashmir dispute will not be allowed to lead to a massive tragedy has been strengthened by statements you made in October, 2008. It underscored the United States interest in working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir issue in a “serious way” and as a result, remove the basis  of militant extremism in South Asia, and also the cause of the arms race between India and Pakistan.

We place our trust in the statesmanship of our President. It is not imaginable to us that you will in any way countenance any attempt to ignore or bypass the wishes of the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Their determination has to be made by giving the people right to self-determination. It is obvious, that, if the people of any region of Jammu & Kashmir wish to stay either with India or with Pakistan or to choose to be independent of both, their will has to be fully respected.

Dr. Fai can be reached at; gnfai2003@yahoo.com

I Am Not Charlie

Je ne suis pas Charlie copySupport for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo murders by carrying signs saying “Je suis Charlie” seems to be  la chose à faire in keeping with the latest fad of identifying with victims everywhere of some unfortunate fate.  I am not one of them.

Yes, I support freedom of speech, but I do not support people who make a career out of insulting others and enflaming racial, religious and and cultural tensions.  Freedom of speech to me is the right to speak the truth where there is corruption and injustice.  It was not intended by our First Amendment to be a right to bully others whose private beliefs differ from our own.

Why do we not use the “n” word in speaking of African Americans?  Why are we counseled to avoid challenging the holocaust?  Why have over 115 professional organizations representing civil rights, educational, athletic, and scientific experts published resolutions or policies that state that the NFL’s use of the name Washington Redskins is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping that promotes misunderstanding and prejudice?

Freedom is not the highest priority among progressives.  Respect for our differences as human beings is.

It’s a curious irony that cartoonist Maurice Sinet, who works under the pen name Sine, faced state charges of “inciting racial hatred” for a column he wrote in July 2008 in Charlie Hebdo.  He was dismissed from the magazine for refusing to take back a comment he made about the president’s son, following the latter’s engagement to Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, the Jewish heiress of an electronic goods chain.  When it was rumored that Mr. Sarkosy planned to convert to Judaism, Sine quipped: “He’ll go a long way in life, that little lad.”   Such a slight to Jewish dignity is of course mild compared to the attacks upon Muslim beliefs, but as Voltaire has written, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

No, I don’t believe that we should pass laws to prohibit people from criticizing whoever they want to criticize.  But we do have laws against those who would incite violence and engage in hate speech.  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

There are two types of hate law regulations:  those that protect the public order and those that protect human dignity.

Charlie Hebdo violated both.

Bad for Business: India’s White Elephant Kashmir (Part II)

by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

ghulamnabifai_thumb.jpgUltimately the referendum in Scotland was held in a peaceful manner, and the people decided according to their own free will not to be an independent nation. This was undoubtedly a victory for democratic principles and universal values. The people of Kashmir do not want anything more than that. They want the same principle to be equally applicable to Kashmir. Let the people decide.

They want a transparent, free and fair election, devoid of rigging, manipulation and external coercion. They do not want the interference of either army, be it Indian or Pakistani. They want the demilitarization of Kashmir on either side of the Ceasefire Line before the referendum takes place. The people of Kashmir want what was promised to them by both India and Pakistan and agreed upon by the world community — an election where the people of Kashmir are free to exercise their right to self-determination, i.e., whether they want to be the part of India or Pakistan or want to become independent.

The people of Kashmir want what Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the founding Prime Minister of India wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on November 21, 1949, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by Plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations.”

What is good for goose should be good for the gander. If it is up to the people of Scotland to decide, as the Indian foreign minister says, then it should be up to the people of all zones of Jammu & Kashmir to decide as well.

All neutral reporters who have visited Kashmir say that the word referendum is common on the lips of Kashmiris and it stirs up excitement among them. Professor Richard Price, a well-known British historian says, “If Kashmir somehow secured a vote for its independence, the people would probably vote to secede.” Yes, probably, but one thing should be clear: whatever the outcome of the referendum –- be it India, Pakistan or independence — provided it is conducted, monitored and supervised by an internationally neutral agency, it must be binding and must be acceptable to all parties – India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership.

On Sunday November 9, 2014 Catalans, like the Scots, also voted in a referendum for independence from Spain. These are two instances in which people believed that their own uniqueness deserved not only autonomy but sovereignty. Both countries have a form of “devolved” government in which they have some control over their affairs. And while the Scottish referendum had legal force and recognition, the Catalonian referendum did not and was officially banned by the central government and its courts. Undoubtedly, with more than 80% voting in favor of independence, the matter will be given greater attention by Spanish authorities. Nevertheless, both proceeded without violence or relative interference from the central government. The balloting was conducted peacefully, which allowed people to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal.

However, in Kashmir, which now, at least in theory, supposedly enjoys a semi-autonomous status as well, and has a several decades-old tradition of demanding a referendum, anyone who makes such an effort to hold a plebiscite would probably be executed on charges of sedition by the government. The mere mention of the word independence is likely to get you shot by troops who may use their own discretion to decide whether or not you are a threat to the integrity of India’s claim over that territory. Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize-winning novelist of India, faced sedition charges in 2010 simply because she said , “the disputed territory of Kashmir is not an integral part of India.” Yet, in acquiring such control after a war with Pakistan, India agreed in 1948 to allow such a plebiscite or referendum to take place. It has never happened.

Kashmir and India share a common heritage, and yet both have their own unique qualities which make them different. Just as siblings have differences that demand that each be given their own private space, Kashmir and India are similar. Were India to allow Kashmir its independence, both sides would be much more accepting of their differences, and both might share in the cultural and economic values that both have to offer in a marriage of mutual cooperation that supports each other’s identity. Today, only divorce is on the table.

It was for the very same reasons that when Britain gave India her independence that Pakistan was created as a separate country to give both Hindus and Muslims their own unique cultural identity and space. Kashmir was somehow caught in the middle, and was illegally acceded to India by its Maharajah against the wishes of its people and in violation of the rules governing the Partition of India with the breakup of the British Indian empire.

However, there is still great opportunity for peace in Kashmir, but it cannot occur unless the people of Kashmir are permitted to have their own identity and chart their own course. The referendum in Scotland outlines the ideal path for that to take place.

Fundamentally it is a win-win solution for both India and Kashmir, and peace might finally come to the Ceasefire Line with Pakistan. India needs greater allocation of its resources to solving its internal problems of poverty, disease and corruption. Allowing a peaceful resolution to this long festering problem with Kashmir would be a bold step toward that goal, toward true democracy, and would be a shining light unto the world of one country’s willingness to do the right thing.

Concluded.

Dr. Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness.

He can be reached at 202-607-6435 OR gnfai2003@yahoo.com

http://www.kashmirawareness.org

Bad for Business: India’s White Elephant Kashmir

ghulamnabifai_thumb.jpgWashington, D.C. January 3, 2014. “It is nothing less than astounding that intelligent men who are charged with the responsibility of leading a country cannot comprehend that spending billions of dollars to maintain possession of a very small disputed territory to its north with millions of troops at the expense of their own national quality of life makes any sense at all. While millions of Indians don’t even have a toilet (As Prime Minister Modi said, “My real thought is to first have toilets and then temples”) and live in squalor in cardboard shelters, the government feeds off their meager incomes in order to possess and control a nation that itself is kept in a dire state economically and cannot possibly pay any return on such an investment,” said Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness.

“Moody’s has a Baa3 rating on India, the lowest investment-grade rating assigned by the company. India’s government debt to GDP ratio is the highest among BRICS nations and major developing countries at 67.9 in 2013, compared with 60.3 for Brazil, 42.9 for the Philippines, 24.5 for Indonesia and 34.4 for Turkey. The Indian financial system’s ability to absorb rising government debt has been diminished significantly as a result of low economic growth and high inflation.”

“Primarily due to energy needs, India is running an overall trade deficit of 7%, Yet, at $8.2 billion expenditures annually, India insists upon being the world’s largest importer of arms, while 205 of its 640 Districts are afflicted by political violence and unrest. This has been going on for years, and military solutions obviously offer no solutions. This, supposedly the world’s largest democracy, does not have its own house in order,” Fai added.

“Indeed,” the South Asia Terrorism Portal, in its 2014 report on India, says, “the lackadaisical, often corruption-led approach to India’s security is everywhere in evidence, with crucial projects, acquisitions and plans delayed beyond measure, or implemented in a fitful manner that destroys the very possibility of their efficacy in securing intended ends…..More than five years after the debacle in Mumbai, and the many political declarations of determination and intent, capacity augmentation has been no more than marginal, and most state agencies continue to struggle with manpower, technology and resource deficits that are little different from the situation in 2008.”

Common corporate strategy is to cut production and services that are not profitable and maintain those that are, so that the company maintains its own health and vitality and has no red ink. The bottom line for India is that it needs to shrink rather than expand, if it is going to be a profitable business.

Fai stressed that “Releasing the chains of bondage it holds on Kashmir would be a first logical step in that direction. It’s first priority should be to develop quality of life for the people now within its borders, so that they can become productive citizens and add to the wealth of the nation. Not only does it keep its own people barely hanging on to survival, it ravages Kashmir with destructive measures and policies that serve no one. The desire to possess Kashmir is nothing but a fantasy, an extremely poor business decision, and an outrageous ego trip.”

This not only humanitarian but sound business objective would involve nothing more than to allow Kashmir to hold the long-overdue referendum it was promised 67 years ago to decide whether it prefers sovereignty over India’s dominance. The persistent resistance of Kashmiris is demonstrated by the fact that 20 of its 22 districts suffered some form of political unrest in the past year. That’s an expense that India cannot afford, obviously cannot manage, and needs to shed as quickly as possible.

The example of how to do that has just been shown. The peaceful referendum held September 18, 2104 in Scotland was a great inspiration to Kashmiris. After expressing horror at the prospect of Britain’s breakup, it is ironic that even Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj corrected herself by saying “It is up to the people of Scotland to decide.” Really? No mention of Kashmir, of course. Good for the goose but not for the gander.

Were India to allow a referendum in Kashmir, it would prove to the world that it too is a great democratic country, and not the persistent and militaristic oppressor that it has become.

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai can be reached at 202-607-6435 OR gnfai2003@yahoo.com