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'Can Pakistan orchestrate shutdown in Kashmir? No!'

By Suman Guha Mozumder
September 22, 2010 07:59 IST
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Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that while Islamabad is committed to peace in South Asia, there cannot be 'real peace' until the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is resolved.

"It has always baffled me that the international community has long recognised that the Palestinian question is the core issue to peace in the Middle East, but (the international community) does not seem to understand that, similarly, until the status of Jammu and Kashmir is resolved, real peace in South Asia will remain elusive," Qureshi said while addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday evening.

"Today, the Kashmiri youth, children and women have once again highlighted the occupation and suppressive policies of occupation in India-held Kashmir. Surely the world can recognise that this resistance is internal and is real. It may be easy for some to dismiss the uprisings as outside agitation, but no one any longer can seriously believe this," he said.

The comments came ahead of an expected bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister S M Krishna, who arrived in New York on Tuesday morning on a weeklong visit to address the UN General Assembly plenary and to address the three-day Millennium Development Goals summit that began Monday as well as a host of other meetings.

Qureshi said, in his address, that the 'occupation of Jammu and Kashmir' cannot continue and that the rights of the Kashmiri people cannot continue to be denied.

"The international community must recognise that the people of Kashmir, in an entirely indigenous upsurge, are demanding their right to self-determination. The UN long ago recognised this. Now is the time for the international community to do something about it," he said.

The minister called upon the United States particularly, which 'is pressing so responsibly for peace in the Middle East', to also invest its political capital in trying to help seek an accommodation for Kashmir. 

"Such an accommodation would not only be just for the people of Kashmir, but would be critical to peace in the region.  It would also be critical to the containment of terrorism, which is fuelled and thrives on blatant examples of social and political injustice," he said.

Qureshi said that Islamabad is convinced that sustainable peace can only offer the best guarantee for ensuring a bright and prosperous future for the over one billion people inhabiting the region.

"Resuming the dialogue process with India, therefore, remains a major objective for us. My discussions with the Indian Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna in July were useful. We look forward to constructive and result-oriented interaction with India on all issues, especially the issue of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

The minister, who devoted large part of his address to the natural calamities in his country, said in response to a question after his address that Pakistan People Party has always advocated normalisations of relations with India and peaceful co-existence.

"Obviously, we have issues and that is why we have a composite dialogue, including Kashmir. But the school that I represent is of the view that Pakistan today stands to gain from the normalisation (of relations with India)," he said, adding that India is Pakistan's neighbour and will always remain a neighbour.

He said there are million of Pakistanis and Indians who are living below the poverty line.

"There are so many challenges where we an work together," he said.

So, an India relationship is an important relationship, but what we want is a resolution of our outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue.

When the two prime ministers recently met in Thimpu, Bhutan, they agreed that 'dialogue is the only way forward', he said.

"I had meetings with (Foreign Minister) S M Krishna and I am of the view that there are number of doable that can be done. We can do it and that will change the environment in South Asia."

He mentioned that East Asia had changed despite differences and difficulties among countries, but there is economic growth and prosperity there and therefore, he said, he sees a lot of opportunities in moving forward in building bridges and at the same time resolving outstanding bilateral issues, including Kashmir.

"The situation is difficult. At times it is easy for Indians to look to towards Pakistan and blame Islamabad for blaming that is going wring in India-occupied Kashmir. Today what we are seeing over there is popular expression of frustration. You could argue that Pakistan can fan disruption, can be behind some nefarious activities, but the question is can Pakistan orchestrate thousands of people to go for shutdown in all over Kashmir. Do we control children and women in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir so that they will come out and agitate? No we can't do that," he said.

"I think our Indian friends have to take a fresh look at the evolving situation in Kashmir. I think we can sit together, and there is a third party, the Kashmiri people, and we can all find a solution," Qureshi said.

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Suman Guha Mozumder in New York