Sardar Masood Khan, President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), has said Kashmir is now at the heart of the military confrontation that has pushed India and Pakistan – two nuclear-armed countries – to the brink of war.
In an interview with US-based Foreign Policy magazine, Masood Khan stated that now the world is interested in Kashmir because they think deteriorating situation in Kashmir is a threat to regional security, and they are looking at the situation through the prism of nuclear escalation and security paradigm.
Criticizing Narendra Modi for his tacit approval to the deadly riots in Gujrat state of India, President Masood Khan said that Modi has not been charged or convicted for these accused crimes. He expressed his apprehensions that a similar kind of atmosphere is being created in Kashmir in the wake of Pulwama attack.
“My fear is that in the aftermath of the current tension, when the world looks the other way, the Indian government might start a massacre in Jammu and Kashmir, and that must be averted at all costs”, he said.
About the possibility of ‘jihadis’ to turn toward Kashmir, Khan said Pakistan has been fighting terrorists for the past 17 or 18 years and Pakistan has succeeded in breaking the backbone of many terrorist outfits. He said that whole state of Pakistan is fighting terrorism and we would not wish for these terrorist outfits to relocate to Jammu and Kashmir. In the past decade or so, the freedom movement in Kashmir has assumed a predominantly indigenous political character, said President AJK.
This, he emphasized, is the real face of the freedom movement in Kashmir and according to high-ranking Indian security officials, the number of militants in Kashmir is very small. The statistics India issued last December said there are about 240 so-called militants there, pitted against 700,000 Indian troops.
“Nobody wants that the movement should assume a militant character”, said President Khan.
Replying to a question about the fallout from a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, AJK President said the world has not seen a nuclear holocaust since World War II. Citizens and decision-makers all around the world do not understand the gravity of the threat and we need to raise consciousness about the unintended consequences of a conflagration between Pakistan and India, he said.
Calling upon international community, the President said the United Nations must try to avert a war between India and Pakistan and the world must realize that the core issue between the two countries is the non-resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
“The global community should activate multilateral diplomacy for the implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions on the dispute (of Kashmir) or find new ways to explore common ground for a win-win solution,” Khan said.
He said that people of Jammu and Kashmir are concerned; they want their aspirations to be respected and to be given a choice in determining their own political future.
Discussing various options and formulas, floated time to time for settlement of Kashmir conflict, the President said that the UN resolutions are already there, and they have described the methodologies for assessing the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The other scenarios – joint administration, soft borders, and so on – have to be fleshed out. So, while on the one hand we have our solid solution for the resolution of the dispute, the buck doesn’t stop there, he said.
“We have many options. Some people say we should experiment with some out-of-the-box solutions. My answer to that is; that inside the box are the Kashmiris. Without their participation, any solution would not work. The crux of the matter must be respecting the right of self-determination,” Khan argued.
To another question either India or Pakistan holds the moral high ground on Kashmir, Masood Khan said that both the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan hold the moral high ground on Kashmir.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir, he went on to say have been making sacrifices to win their right to self-determination. India believes in coercion or state terrorism to subjugate the Kashmiri people and it has tried coercion, brute force, investing in economic development projects; but despite all this, it has not been able to win the hearts and minds of the Kashmiris said President Azad Kashmir.
“We say that it is a political issue. This must be resolved through political and diplomatic means. War or militaristic means would not help us to solve this issue. That’s why we have the moral high ground”, President Azad said.
About the call for a boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions against India, President Khan said, it is not easy task, but at least conversations should start about it. “It has been done in other instances—why not for the people of Jammu and Kashmir? Our argument is that the Western countries have been custodians and promoters of human rights. It is their responsibility to look at Kashmir through the prism of human rights, self-determination, and international humanitarian law and not through the prism of realpolitik or their economic interests tied with India”, he said.
He said that Kashmiris are being run down every day. So that’s why the international community must mount pressure against India. Moral pressure, political, diplomatic, and they must use their economic tools to amplify this kind of pressure.
When asked should the Americans get involved and do they have any credibility to help solve issues between India and Pakistan, AJK President said American can play a very important role in diffusing the situation and we welcome an American initiative because the region doesn’t need a war. President Donald Trump, after his was election had mentioned that he would play the role of a mediator on Kashmir but he did not follow up, he said.
Masood said he believes that if the Americans and North Koreans can talk face to face, and if America is ready to talk to the Taliban, why America can’t also make a good faith effort to diffuse the tensions between India and Pakistan.
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