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'Jinnah hankered to return to his beloved Bombay'

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
July 28, 2009 11:05 IST
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Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani has said that the founder of Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah had hoped that India-Pakistan relations would be like the cordial US-Canada relations, and also had hankered nostalgically to return one day to his beloved Mumbai.

Haqqani, speaking at the 10th International Kashmir Peace Conference on Capitol Hill, organised by the Kashmiri American Council and the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, remarked at the outset, "It is appropriate that this conference is being organised in the halls of Congress, which are a force for many parts a place that resonates with the concept of freedom, democracy and fundamental human rights."

He bemoaned that "it's a great tragedy that Kashmir, instead of being the link between two neighbours with shared history, has ended up becoming the focal point of conflict between them."

Haqqani recalled that soon after independence, when the founder of Pakistan Jinnah had been asked what kind of a relationship he envisaged between the new country of Pakistan and India, "He said he would look toward a relationship a bit more like that between the United States and Canada."

"And, had the tragedy of Kashmir not intervened, perhaps that is where we would have been today," the envoy mused.

However, he argued that "it is not too late," and once again spoke of how Jinnah "had even thought of retiring to his beloved Bombay after he had served the people of Pakistan as their leader."

"So, what he had in mind, was totally different from what has happened in the last 62 years. And, the fact that many people in India at the time of independence of Pakistan had a very dire and negative view about the new state did not help. But, more than anything else, what poisoned the well was the dispute over Kashmir," Haqqani felt.

Haqqani declared that Pakistan strongly believes that "given sincerity, goodwill, wisdom and respect for each other's points of view, the Kashmir dispute is eminently solvable. From our perspective, the best solution would be to ask the Kashmiris themselves because they should be the masters of their destiny."

He pointed out that this in fact was "the foundation of the United Nations Security Council resolution, which to this day remains the template for the international community to address this dispute."

"Unfortunately," he said, "over time, as often happens with conflicts that are not resolved in time, many vested interests have been created in both Pakistan and India, as well as in Jammu and Kashmir that would rather prefer the continuation of conflict instead of the promotion of cooperation."

Haqqani spoke of how "moves toward normalisation have either been thwarted or sabotaged," and said the latest manifestation of this were "the deplorable attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. These were the actions of people who did not want Pakistan and India to continue to move along the path of reconciliation."

"We, in Pakistan, are clear of what we want," he declared. "We want to rid South Asia of this dispute so that the region can start reaping the benefits of the winds of economic integration and political understanding that has swept through Europe and closer home in Southeast Asia."

Haqqani argued that "for us, Kashmir is not about territory, but about the destiny of 12 million people and indeed, the more than 1 billion people of South Asia who have become embroiled in conflict as a result of this dispute."

He lamented that the social and economic indicators in South Asia "are among the lowest in the world and one important reason for this fact is still the need for both Pakistan and India to devote large amounts of finite resources to defence largely on account of the Kashmir dispute."

Thus, Haqqani asserted that "getting this out of the way of free resources for us to invest in our people and make sure that we bring literacy, health care and advanced infrastructure to the people of South Asia."

He said that "agents of conflict have been able to derail the Pakistan-India dialogue process through terrorist acts," and vowed that the new democratic civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari "will bring people responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 to justice. But, more than that, we will make sure that Pakistan's commitment against the use of its territory by anyone – anyone -- against anyone else for terrorist purposes is no longer an issue."

"It's Pakistan's earnest desire to rid the region of terrorism and all those issues that fuel the terrorist and extremist philosophy," he added.

However, Haqqani argued that "at the same time, it is important, that if there is to be an end to terrorism 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 neighbours."

Saying, he was most encouraged to see that this conference "has attracted as many people as it has," he said that "it is important for people in Washington, DC to stop talking in terms of it as an irresolvable problem, therefore we will not pay attention to it, but to understand that by paying attention to a difficult problem, can find solutions that will be acceptable to all concerned."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC