Kashmir cannot be wished away, is key to region’s progress – Haqqani

WASHINGTON, Jul 24 (APP): Pakistan stressed Thursday Kashmir holds the key to unlocking South Asian potential for peace and progress with its envoy to the United States telling a major conference on the Capitol Hill that decades-old conflict is resolvable and cannot be rolled under the carpet. Ambassador Husain Haqqani reaffirmed Islamabad’s desire to normalize relations with its neighbors after resolution of outstanding issues but argued that the international community too owes a role in making composite dialogue between Pakistan and India “meaningful and result-oriented.”

“For us Kashmir is not about territory, but about the of destiny of 12 million people and indeed, more than one billion people of South Asia, who have become embroiled in the conflict as a result of this dispute.”

He said a resolution to the dispute must respect aspirations of the Kashmiris and added, “only then will this region realize its full economic and political potential” and provide literacy, healthcare and advanced infrastructure to the teeming millions left out of the development process.

“Both Pakistan and India must recognize that Kashmir is a problem and it cannot be wished away or swept away,” Haqqani said, addressing the 10th international Kashmir peace conference.

The event drew participation by a number of prominent U.S. and Pakistani lawmakers, diplomats, human rights activists, civil society leaders, scholars and experts from Pakistan, India, Kashmir and Europe. Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Raja Zulqarnain also spoke at the moot organized by Washington-based Kashmiri-American Council.

Haqqani said one of the critical reasons behind socio-economic deprivation of the South Asians and lack of regional economic integration is the unresolved Kashmir dispute. Pakistan-India relations hold great promise if they resolve their disputes, he stated.

“Pakistan’s elected leaders – President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani –  are committed to restoring the promise of good neighborly relations and the spirit of cooperation in South Asia after addressing outstanding issues that have bedeviled relationship for so many years.”

The diplomat pointed out “that the aspiration of people for self-determination have remarkably long lived and defied dilution overtime.”

He listed some imperatives to give the Kashmiris the confidence that the world cares about them.

“Human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir must stop.  They must be investigated and those responsible must be punished for the Kashmiris to have confidence and faith in their own future and the fact that the international community cares about their human rights.”

“The inordinate, heavy concentration of troops in Jammu and Kashmir needs to be reduced and above all the composite dialogue mechanism between India and Pakistan needs to be restarted.”

Due to the Kashmir dispute lingering on for a long period, he said, many vested interests have been created in both Pakistan and India and in Jammu and Kashmir that would rather prefer the continuation of the conflict.

Pakistan, he said, is a victim of terrorism but is firm in its resolve to wipe out the problem.

“Thousands of Pakistani civilians have become victims to terrorism. It’s Pakistan’s earnest desire to rid the region of terrorism and all those issues that fuel the terrorist and extremist philosophy” political and economic deprivation, denial of rights, lack of opportunities and above the lack of legal means to redress injustice.

“We will bring people responsible for Mumbai attacks to justice but more than that we will make sure that Pakistan’s commitment against the use of its territory by anyone against anyone for terrorist purposes is no longer an issue.”

Islamabad, he stated, wants “friendly, cooperative, and mutually beneficial relations with all our neighbors” and “we want to resolve all outstanding issues on the basis of mutual respect, understanding and the spirit of give and take.” He was hopeful that with “sincerity and wisdom”, Kashmir can be resolved.

Referring to the recent meeting between Pakistani and Indian Prime Ministers at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Shermel Sheikh, he said the two leaders held “cordial and constructive” talks.

“At this meeting, we told the Indian leadership that terrorism is a regional issue and requires a regional solution.  Mutual concerns must be addressed in a spirit of understanding and confidence. We remain committed to preventing future terrorist attacks in Pakistan and in the neighborhood.

At the same time, it is important that if there is to be anti-terrorism (success)in the region, all regional countries share intelligence and work together instead of engaging in the blame game.”

“The terrorists are as much a threat to Pakistan as they are to any of our neighbors. It is equally important to address all outstanding issues such as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and which holds the key regional peace, progress and stability.

The international community has a role to play in helping Pakistan and India settle their disputes and to make the composite dialogue process meaningful and result-oriented.  

I am sure that given its leadership, goodwill, mutual respect and international support we will be able to resolve the Kashmir issue to set South Asian on the path to peace, progress and prosperity.

“It is encouraging to see that the 10th Kashmir peace conference has attracted as many people as it has.

It is important for people in Washington to stop talking in terms of it (Kashmir) is a irresolvable problem, therefore do not pay  attention to it, but to understand that (only) by paying attention to a difficult problem can we find solution that will be acceptable to all concerned.”

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