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Emma Nicholson Report and Kashmir Issue

Zafar Khan

Has the report contributed towards conflict resolution in South Asia?

Baroness Nicholson’s report on Kashmir, ‘Present situation and future prospects’ having gone through various stages in the European Parliament was finally adopted as an official EU document in May 2007. Now that the report is done and dusted, let us look at what were the real objectives of this report from the outset. Has the report made any tangible contribution in enabling the concerned parties along the road towards a resolution of the conflict? Was the intention of Nicholson report to help resolve the long standing issue of Kashmir in accordance with, the wishes of over 13 million forcibly divided people of Kashmir? A simple answer to the above questions would be an emphatic no!

The Nicholson report has done nothing to move the issue along the path to resolution, simply because her approach has reinforced entrenched respective dominant dimensions- namely those of India and Pakistan- in the conflict. Clearly therefore, the baroness has squandered on an invaluable opportunity to advance a constructive framework for both India and Pakistan towards seeking a durable and equitable solution of the Kashmir conflict, taking along with them the People of the entire state of Jammu Kashmir that both countries control in different forms and means.

By and large Kashmiris consider Nicholson report as pro India, and this goes for Pakistan and Pakistanis too. The anti Pakistan complexion of Nicholson report is also conceded by some Kashmiris, who curiously and quite incredibly believe that the Nicholson report is pro Kashmiri peoples’ rights. They consider its passage-which is a matter of a normal procedure - through the European Parliament, as a defeat for Pakistan. This might well be the case, but neither is the report a great success for Kashmir cause- it simply is not- nor was it meant to be, so far as is discernable from the pro Indian tone and tenor of the report.

In fact the report right from its inception to completion was an endeavour by Lady Nicholson to justify and uphold the Indian position and dimension over Kashmir dispute. Her inordinate amount of pre occupation with everything Pakistan, even throwing in the issue of the Chief Justice- just how that was relevant to Kashmir is any body’s guess. Clearly this line of approach was to confuse the EU and further muddy the waters in to reinforcing the Indo- Pakistan dimensions of the Kashmir issue; by arguing, more in spirit than in so many words that India is ‘progressive and enlightened’, ‘Pakistan is regressive and oppressive’, and while the Indian state is ‘pro people’ in Kashmir, Pakistani presence there is ‘anti people’. This beats any body’s logic how a ‘pro people state’ like India can kill well in excess of eighty thousand people whom it considers its citizens, as is the case of Indian state oppression in Kashmir since at least 1988! As a pro Indian European politician baroness Nicholson is within her right to support and project the Indian point of view. However it has to be stated- unambiguously - not at the expense of denying the rights and aspirations of Kashmiris to exercise their inherent and inalienable right of self determination.

The report that is on the shelf now is in fact quite different from the one which the baroness put on the table in the autumn of 2006. In my initial response to her draft report in December 2006, I suggested that the Baroness should not feel belittled in going back to the drawing board on a report which purported to be on Kashmir, but in reality was a document that heaped all the ills of Kashmir on Pakistan and exonerated India; as if more than half a million regular Indian troops in Kashmir, tens of thousands of para military forces such as the BSF, CRPF, Rashtirya Rifles and numerous others deployed in the territory were on a picnic!. Since the late 1980s at least, these Indian occupation forces have unleashed an unprecedented level of state oppression not witnessed any where else in the world in contemporary times to put down a popular struggle for self determination.

Unfortunately Nicholson report fails to acknowledge the Indian oppression, and equally the genuine sentiments of the masses to assert their right to self determination. Instead quite adamantly, the baroness appears to hold Pakistan responsible for what she considers ‘terrorism’ - hence de-legitimising the liberation struggle of the people. To all intents and purposes Nicholson report appears to be an effort by the baroness to project India’s growing economic and military power by portraying a soft and cuddly image of a benign India fit for a permanent seat at the UNSC to which India aspires.

Of course India is democratic with many of her institutions that are more socially embedded in comparison with Pakistan. But does this qualify the Indian state to deny the Kashmiris their democratic and political rights, and for the baroness to go along with the Indian dimension over the issue, despite the fact that dozens of UN Resolutions and international agreements stand testimony to the unresolved status of Kashmir as an issue concerning the future political and constitutional status of the entire Jammu and Kashmir.

The baroness has quite conveniently ignored how a democratic Britain responded to resolving the conflict in part of Ireland which it administers. In comparison with Britain, India has rendered the Kashmiris invisible simply by denying even the existence of the Kashmir issue! Apart from being responsible for deaths of over eighty thousand Kashmiris the Indian state machinery in Kashmir is responsible for disappearances of young men, false encounters and rapes as a strategy of the occupation forces. This is the tragedy which baroness Nicholson quite conveniently has failed to address in her report. One wonders therefore, what is it that she wanted to put across to the enlarged European Parliament about Kashmir through this exercise? Or was the real objective of the report to open India to the enlarged European Union rather than seek its counsel for resolution of the conflict in the sub continent?

While baroness Nicholson might well have valid points on many social issues of importance regarding Pakistani society, she should have produced a report on India and Pakistan. It is not my job or intention to defend Pakistani government, but she does not appear warmly disposed towards Pakistan to say the least. It is reasonable to accept that in comparison with India, Pakistan quite clearly has less progressive and socio-politically embedded institutions and other organs of the state.

Pakistan has a great deal to answer in relation to its Kashmir policy-especially the governance of AJK and attitude towards Gilgit Baltistan. Clearly Pakistan has to come clean if she does not want to be compared with the Indian state in Kashmir by making her policy over Kashmir people centric and enabling full democratic franchise in AJK and Gilgit Baltistan. The claim of Gilgit’s accession to Pakistan by her ambassador stationed in Brussels by writing to baroness Nicholson when the report was being debated on the floor of the EU Parliament is an example of how inconsistent and unfocused Pakistan’s policy is over Kashmir.

Nevertheless If the intention of the report was to promote ‘rising Indian’ in the 21st century then she should have produced a report on India and Pakistan, perhaps entitled ‘democratic India and undemocratic Pakistan’ or ‘enlightened India and obscurantist Pakistan’ or something similar to the effect! As things stand the report, despite having conceded tremendous amount of ground as a result of over 400 amendments at the committee stage alone, is an attempt to portray India as the ‘good guy’ at the expense of freedom of Kashmiris. Even in the final diluted form the report questions the nature of Kashmir and Kashmiris.

In the final analysis, as friend of India, the baroness should have laboured with making positive suggestions for finding a solution of the most intractable issue that has bedevilled Indo- Pakistan relations ever since their independence from Great Britain in August 1947. An unresolved Kashmir issue is a millstone around India’s neck.

Baroness Nicholas had an opportunity to advance peace and progress by encouraging all parties in the conflict to find a way of working together in search of a just and democratic solution of the conflict. Instead she focused on issues that were unrelated to the conflict.

Emma Nicholson’s report will gather dust on the shelves without making any contribution to conflict resolution over Kashmir issue unless she addresses the Kashmir issue in its true context.

If she genuinely wishes to contribute to the peace in the sub continent, people like her in places of influence, must ensure that the entire state of Jammu Kashmir that has become a forced hell for its people, not only returns to being a paradise that it once was, but is actively turned in to a bridge of peace and prosperity for a billion and half inhabitants of South Asia. A true friend of the sub continent would work towards such a goal rather than score cheap political points- for that is what happened around this report during the past eight months.

(Zafar Khan is an academic and speaks for the JKLF on Diplomatic Affairs.)

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