Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council/Kashmir center, Parliament of Worldâ€™s Religions, Melbourne, Australia
I feel gratified that the Parliament of Worldâ€™s Religions is seized of the important matters relating to the building of peace in the pursuit of justice. The opportunity to exchange views on this important subject is wonderful. The intellectual challenge is great and the stakes are equally huge. Men and women have yearned for peace and justice for ages. As the Old Testament taught, we should never sleep untroubled until justice flows down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
International peace has been recognized over the years as an essential condition for the enjoyment of human rights and justice for all. It is axiomatic that international peace defines the basic condition for the respect for civil and political rights and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. In an environment of turmoil and tribulations, the very concept of human rights becomes a mockery. The most promising way to prevent conflict is to eliminate its causes. The latter are well known. Violence and mayhem ensue because of mankindâ€™s desire for domination, wealth, territory and destruction of people and things that are disliked for religious, racial, ethnic, cultural or other reasons.
After an end to the ideological confrontation between East and West, the international community had reason to hope that hostilities in many parts of the world would also come to an end and the residual regional conflicts would be resolved peacefully through negotiations. However, contrary to our expectations, in many parts of the world, bloody conflicts are raging which have destroyed all the hopes for a humane and stable world order. The unresolved conflicts of Palestine and Kashmir are a challenge to international leadership and the human conscience.
Although the UN has written declarations that affirm the rights of vulnerable populations, there must be a greater worldwide effort on the part of governments, NGOs, businesses, and UN agencies to incorporate peace, justice and human dignity into internationalization and globalization. Peace, justice and human dignity cannot take a back seat as societies globalize their trade, supply chaining, and outsourcing. Freedom and justice must prevail above all political and economic aspects of international trade relations, and treaties even if it requires canceling trade agreements with countries that blatantly allow gross human rights violations to continue. It is the responsibility of everyone operating in the international arena to ensure that peace, justice and human dignity are protected. Global ethics must be fully integrated into the process of globalization.
As long as any one human being suffers the indignation of rape, slavery, torture or sexual exploitation, then peace, justice and human dignity remain absent from the human race as a whole.
The South Asian region furnishes an undeniable evidence of how respect for human rights cannot be achieved without first creating conditions for international peace. The people of Kashmir were pledged by no less authority than the UN Security Council to exercise their right to decide their future under conditions free from coercion and intimidation. The denial of this right is directly inter-related with the peace of the region.
I believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable if all parties concerned â€“ India, Pakistan and Kashmiris â€“ make some sacrifices. Each party will have to modify its position so that common ground is found. It will be impossible to find a solution of Kashmir conflict that respects all the sensitivities of Indian authorities, values all the sentiments of Pakistan, keeps intact the unity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and safeguards the rights and interests of the people of all the different zones of the state. Yet this does not mean that we cannot find an imaginative solution. It is possible provided all parties will modify their stated positions and show some flexibility.
I also believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable only if pragmatic and realistic strategy is established to help set a stage to put the Kashmir issue on the road to a just and durable settlement. Since, we are concerned with setting a stage for settlement rather than the shape the settlement will take, I believe it is both untimely and harmful to indulge in, or encourage, controversies about the most desirable solution. Any attempt to do so amounts to playing into the hands of those who would prefer to maintain a status quo that is unacceptable to the people of Kashmir and also a continuing threat to peace in South Asia. We deprecate raising of quasi-legal or pseudo-legal questions during the preparatory phase about the final settlement. It only serves to befog the issue and to convey the wrong impression that the dispute is too complex to be resolved and that India and Pakistan hold equally inflexible positions. Such an impression does great injury to the cause.
We anticipate that this forum will make valuable contribution not only to build peace in the pursuit of justice, but also to build stronger partnership between members of various religious groups and civil society for this important task.