Wednesday, February 18, 2009

All, but Kashmir

Ahead of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in September this year, the 116-member body touched up on a lot of issues and achieved quite a bit. Around 90 member countries sent delegations to attend the two-day meeting in the Malaysian administrative centre, Putrajaya. The group backed Iran in its present standoff against the UN over its nuclear ambitions and flayed Israel for occupation of Palestinian lands. In a declaration issued at the end of the meet, the ministers said, "all nations should have 'basic and inalienable rights' to develop research, production and use atomic energy for peaceful purposes..." with reference to Tehran.


The 45-year-old movement also added Dominica as well as Antigua and Barbuda as its members, taking the strength of the organisation to 116. However, while the global forum took up almost every issue of import, one of the most burning of all, Kashmir, certainly took a backseat. "While Mr Badawi (Malaysian Foreign Minister) made explicit reference to struggles against foreign occupations in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, he disturbingly ignored the freedom movement in Kashmir...," Pakistan's leading daily The Nation said. This reminds one of President Pervez Musharraf's statements in the 13th NAM summit at Kuala Lumpur where he said: "If Palestine dispute is a matter of principle, so is Kashmir dispute a matter of principle". The Kashmir issue has been time and again compared to the Palestinian conflict in Pakistan where leaders time and again have said that "problems which create an environment of injustice and humiliation need to be addressed by the world community". The Havana Declaration of 1979 states that NAM has to ensure the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries in their struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, racism and all forms of foreign aggression...


The Palestinian issue featured prominently at the NAM talks this time, where ministers expressed concerns over the "prolonged and brutal Israel military occupation" and human rights. The paper said that the matter should have come up for discussion as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh publicly approved of the gross human rights violations in Kashmir at the recently-concluded Srinagar roundtable conference. Pakistan had said earlier this month that it wanted NAM to support its on-going dialogue process with India to resolve bilateral issues, including Kashmir. "We want the NAM countries to support the peace process and to see it as a result-oriented and meaningful (dialogue)," Pakistan's Additional Foreign Secretary, Fariq Osman Hyder, told a Malaysian news agency.


"Kashmir should have figured in Mr Badawi's speech after the NAM committee on political affairs highlighted the need to differentiate between terrorism and liberation struggles. Perhaps the Foreign Office should examine whether it did enough spadework," The Nation further said. Kashmir -- the focal point of internecine war between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan -- has dragged on for more than 50 years with no plausible solution in sight.

(Written for HT on May 31, 2006)

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