Kashmiris urge Obama to fulfill Kashmir resolution pledge

January 2, 2010

WASHINGTON (APP) -- The people of Indian-ruled Kashmir want President Barack Obama to make a determined diplomatic drive toward resolution of the lingering conflict, which has seen an estimated 100,000 lives lost to violence, according to a major U.S. newspaper on Wednesday. “The Obama administration and India can’t hide behind Mumbai (attacks of 2008).

The U.S. has to engage with both India and Pakistan,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, said. “If this opportunity is missed, all the ingredients are there for the cycle of violence to start again,” Farooq said, according to a report in The Washington Post. The Srinagar-datelined report noted that “many Kashmiris celebrated when President Obama took office nearly a year ago, because he seemed to favor a more robust approach to bring stability to Kashmir, where human rights groups estimate that as many as 100,000 people have died in violence.” At one point, the Obama administration contemplated appointing former president Bill Clinton as a special envoy to the region, the report recalled. But now residents say they are disappointed, complaining that the Obama Administration has not engaged on Kashmir other than to say recently that the region’s fate is in the hands of India and Pakistan alone. Pervez Imroz, a Kashmiri lawyer and head of a coalition of civil society groups said the people feel let down on the issue of human rights.
For its part, the Obama Administration, which relies heavily on Pakistan’s cooperation in the anti-terror fight and wants to develop close relations with India, has recently said it encourages both South Asian nuclear neighbors to resume bilateral dialogue to address outstanding disputes inclduing Kashmir. According to analysts Obama is working behind the scenes, treading a careful diplomatic path. The Obama administration is supporting the Indian government’s talks, or what it calls “quiet diplomacy,” with Kashmiri groups to discuss options such as greater autonomy and demilitarization of the region. The talks are seen in India’s capital and in Kashmir as a key development, the report by Emily Wax said. “Washington fears that any overt American interference in Kashmir could backfire and set back warming relations between India and the U.S.,” said Howard B. Schaffer, a retired Foreign Service official. But the report observed that Washington’s apparent low-key approach to Kashmir belies the region’s importance to the U.S. campaign against terrorism. Even more important for U.S. interests, though, is calming the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan over the region so that the Pakistani military can turn more of its attention to helping root out al-Qaeda-linked militants along the Afghan border.
Easing Pakistan-India tensions will help Islamabad focus more effectively on the fight against militants. New Delhi halted the peace process following November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which it blamed on Pakistan-based militants. Human rights groups accuse India’s government of killing civilians in its crackdown on militants operating in Kashmir. “We want Washington to speak out against these tragedies,” Imroz, the lawyer, said. “There has only been silence.” In recent years, violence between militants and the Indian army has largely decreased. A new generation of Kashmiris has said it is committed to a nonviolent freedom movement. But Kashmiris still grow angry at perceived wrongs. Protesters filled the streets this month after India’s top investigating agency ruled that two young village women thought to have been raped and killed in the summer had drowned in a mountain stream. The people wanting peace worry that without a political solution to Kashmir soon, the region’s youths will grow restless and turn once again to militancy.
Photo: President Barack Obama speaks at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009. (AP photo)
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