Letter: Conflict in Kashmir

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Within a year of India and Pakistan detonating nuclear devices, the stakes of another war are raised in Kashmir. The renewed escalation of the long-standing conflict should ring alarm bells everywhere.

If a political settlement to the issue of Kashmiri self-determination is not sought, Kashmir will remain a flashpoint, making it the world's most dangerous conflict after Kosovo. Those who question the scope for outside intervention have got to review the stakes here.

A precedent has already been set in Kosovo and United Nations involvement, in the form of military observers, is already there in Kashmir. What we now need is the will and courage to settle the dispute once and for all.

The Labour government, with a human-rights-first foreign policy, has a moral and political obligation in Kashmir, which is the last element of the British colonial legacy. Bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan have got nowhere over the last four decades.

The West has made little effort to persuade the two parties to seek a settlement by involving the prime party, the Kashmiris, in the negotiations. Hence the dispute has festered, with the result that an uncontrollable nuclear arms race has been started.

Britain must take a lead in forcing the two countries to accept a UN- mandated plebiscite in Jammu-Kashmir to lower the stakes of a nuclear confrontation. The UN must also play its part in ensuring that the unfettered right of self-determination, which includes the right to independence, is secured for the long-suffering people of Jammu-Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control.

AZMAT A KHAN

Secretary General, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, UK

Bradford, West Yorkshire

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