Jammu, India, Asharq Al-Awsat – Fresh calls for the reunification of Kashmir were made, on Friday, at a conference on the future of the disputed territory.
Six Pakistani lawmakers from Kashmir attended the Intra-Jammu and Kashmir dialogue, held, over two days, in the winter capital, Jammu. The conference was organized by a number of leaders from the Indian side, in collaboration with the University of Jammu.
Arif Shah, member of the Jammu and Kashmir All Party Alliance, in Pakistan-held Kashmir, expressed his desire to see Kashmir reunited and returned to its previous status as a princely state, which exited before the partition of India in 1947.
“The only solution for the conflict in Kashmir is to reunify the province. This will appeal to those, on either side of Jammu and Kashmir, who want peace at all cost”, he said.
Another politician, Choudhary Munir Hussain, of the People’s Party, also from the Pakistani side, indicated a united Kashmir would improve the lives of its people and relations between the two neighboring countries, adding that a return to an independent state “would end all conflicts” in the region.
Bhim Singh, who coordinated the conference said history was being made at the conference as politicians from India and Pakistan were meeting together. “Governments should respect the feelings and desires of the people of Kashmir from either side”, he said.
Commenting on recent peace overtures between India and Pakistan, Prof. Khalid, member of the National Party in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, welcomed the thaw in relations and hoped it would pave the way for a peaceful solution to the dispute. He warned, “India and Pakistan should give the people of Kashmir the right to determine their future.”
Yasin Malik, head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, one of the first militant groups, who had received military training in Pakistan and crossed the border into India to wage a guerilla war in 1988, and now a politician, added his voice to the chorus of people advocating an independent Kashmir.
Further discussions on the future of the restive region will take place in New Delhi, during a similar conference scheduled for September 21-22, 2005.