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'No military solution to the Kashmir imbroglio'

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
July 28, 2009 09:54 IST
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United States Congressman Joseph Pitts, a seven-term Republican representing Pennsylvania, has declared that there can be no military solution to the Kashmir imbroglio, and called on President Barack Obama to keep his campaign pledge to help resolve this dispute between India and Pakistan.

Pitts, speaking at the 10th International Kashmir Peace Conference organised by the Kashmiri American Council and the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers on Capitol Hill, said, "There is no good military solution," to the Kashmir problem. "It must be peaceful."

He lauded the speakers at the conference for "their valuable insights" saying that "they are bringing the wisdom and understanding from many perspectives that is very much needed in Congress and in Washington."

Pitts said, "I have had the privilege of meeting with Kashmiri leaders, not only in Kashmir, but here in the United States when they have come here, and I always look forward to this because this is the way we in Congress learn."

The conference -- besides several hundred from the United States -- included participants from Pakistan, Britain, Canada, Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir, including its president Raja Zulqarnain, and India like author and investigative journalist Harinder Baweja, editor, news, and Tapen Bose, filmmaker and human rights activist, Ved Bhasin, editor-in-chief, Kashmir Times, Jammu,  and also Indian American scholar/activists like Professor Angana Chatterjee.

US Congressman vows to 'fight for Kashmir'

Pakistani embassy officials, including Islamabad's ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani were also present and spoke, but India embassy officials, although invited, as they have traditionally over the years, boycotted the conference, since they consider the KAC a separatist organisation. Kashmiri Pandits in the US like Dr Vijay Sazawal, who have sometimes attended these conferences and spoken at them, were also absent, although they too had been invited.

Pitts said that "I have encouraged the two governments of Pakistan and India to engage in many different ways and I was very please when they started the cricket matches, when they opened up the bus routes, and I have encouraged them to encourage that kind of exchange and business opportunities because when you are dealing with someone in business, you are much less apt to misunderstand or misinterpret their motives."

"So, in a world today, which no one is truly isolated from the effects of conflicts in other regions, it is imperative that we increase our dialogue and learn to work together to find solutions to these concerns and the problems," Pitts said.

Pitts expressed the hope that "the leaders of all parties involved in the Kashmir dispute will be emboldened to become friends, develop levels of trust and begin to cooperate -- to take additional steps forward to provide the continued courageous leadership to resolve this conflict that I've seen exhibited in previous leaders."

The lawmaker said that "it is my hope that our administration, our leadership will get engaged -- take action to promote peace and stability in Kashmir."

Pitts recalled that "during his campaign, President Obama suggested that the US should help resolve the Kashmir crisis. I heard one suggestion that they have a special envoy for Kashmir. And, we need to develop that kind of expertise in our own government -- in our own State Department. I wholeheartedly agree and hope this administration will engage productively on this critical issue."

"After 62 years and three wars, it is time that all parties come together and work towards a resolution of this ongoing conflict," he said.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC