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August 8, 2020

Kashmiris’ self-determination demand justified: Asseri


August 8, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Eminent Saudi diplomat and former ambassador for Lebanon and Pakistan Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri has maintained that the real issue in Kashmir is about the Kashmiri people and their aspiration to live their lives in accordance with their Islamic beliefs and cultural traditions, which are rooted in Kashmiri history.

“These rights are enshrined in the provisions of the UN Charter pertaining to universal fundamental rights. Therefore, the Kashmiri demand for self-determination is not only morally right, but also legally justified under the international law.

“The international community has done nothing in the last three-quarters of a century to help the Kashmiri people secure their just right to self-determination, which was guaranteed in UN Security Council resolutions passed back in the 1940s and 50s.”

Dr. Awadh Asseri who has done doctorate in economics from Beirut Arab University and authored a book titled “Combating Terrorism: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the War on Terror,” served as Saudi envoy in Pakistan for eight years, penned an extensive write-up that appeared in leading Saudi media, catering various aspects of Kashmir issue.

He has reminded that Kashmir dispute has once again emerged as a regional flashpoint, renewing tensions between Pakistan and India pushing South Asia into yet another round of risky instability.

The driver this time was India’s controversial move to radically change the political status of the disputed territory and enforce lockdown on Aug. 5, 2019, ironically, well ahead of the global lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. One year on, it is worth stating what the real issue in Kashmir is, how the Saudis look at it, and what needs to happen there.

Dr. Asseri has recalled that Kashmir is not only one of the oldest disputes of the Muslim world, it is also part of a pattern we observe throughout the Middle East and other Muslim regions of Asia, Africa and other parts of the world, where Muslim communities are suffering the unbearable costs of conflict and being denied their basic freedoms.

From the people of Palestine to the Rohingya community in Myanmar and the suffering in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, the list goes on. But the question is why only the Muslim people suffer, sometimes due to conflict among themselves because of manipulation by outside forces that deliberately perpetuate these conflicts or by brutal state authorities known for repressing their own populations?

Even the Muslim people living in the West are often subjected to Islamophobia. The eminent Saudi envoy who is a diplomatic thinker in his own right has said, “We have to see the Kashmir dispute as part of this broader global picture and then work together as one Ummah to safeguard the rights and freedoms of our suffering Muslim brothers and sisters across the world, including in Kashmir. How does Saudi Arabia look at the Kashmir dispute? First of all, the Kingdom and Pakistan enjoy a unique relationship. Without bothering with any political or economic interests, both nations have always supported each other through thick and thin.

Today as well, the Saudi people stand in complete solidarity with the Muslim people of Kashmir and the aspirations of Pakistan in this regard.”

Secondly, being the center of the Islamic world, we in Saudi Arabia feel especially obliged to show solidarity for Muslim brothers and sisters whenever and wherever they are in pain. There is not a single instance where Saudi Arabia has not come to the rescue of our Muslim brothers when they fight among themselves or are facing any other difficulty. We brought about peace in Lebanon, brought together the Afghan Mujahideen, and have worked for peace and reconciliation across the length and breadth of the Islamic world, he added. Dr. Ali Awadh said at the international level, whether on our own or through the good work of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Saudi leadership has espoused Islamic causes and projected peace to oppose any use of violence or terrorism in the name of our great faith.

The OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir has worked proactively to champion the Kashmiri right to self-determination at the UN and all international forums.

Under the dynamic leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is even more prepared and willing to shoulder its global responsibility, especially when it comes to the plight of Muslim people.

“What should happen in Kashmir? In my opinion, all conflicts have both real and opportunity costs for the countries involved, but especially for the population directly suffering as a result of a perpetual conflict. Kashmir is no different, although, in this particular case, as I stated at the outset, by far the most important thing is the human cost of the conflict for innocent Kashmiris, which has undoubtedly worsened since the Aug. 5 lockdown of last year. Even before that, the conflict had claimed tens of thousands of Kashmiri lives, besides numerous instances of missing persons, mass graves, the gang rape of Kashmiri women in a reign of terror denoted by an unprecedented military presence, the application of barbaric laws, and other instruments of repression and torture.” Therefore, first and foremost, it is the responsibility of the UN to implement its resolutions on Kashmir that call for the holding of a free and fair plebiscite to determine the political aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Until then, any attempt to change the demographic reality of the disputed territory will be illegal. Secondly, even though relations between Pakistan and India have deteriorated in recent years, I still think it is in the pragmatic interests of both nations to resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally under the Simla Agreement, he said.

Dr. Ali Awadh concluded by saying that “Peace in Kashmir will be achieved when India, along with Pakistan, takes initiatives that go a long way toward contributing to the overall development and prosperity of South Asia. Peace is the first casualty when any attempt to demolish the political status of a disputed territory is made. Let us hope that sanity will soon prevail. As and when the UN is ready to meet its pledge in Kashmir and the two nations, especially India, are willing to resolve this lingering issue, Saudi Arabia will be the first country to offer the diplomatic support required to achieve lasting peace in South Asia.”