Sunday, September 22

Forum about fate of Kashmir sparks debate, complaints from some


As the world anxiously watches the unfolding confrontation
between the United States and Iraq, several students gathered
Tuesday night at a forum on a region suffering from one of the
world’s most volatile, yet lesser-known conflicts ““
Kashmir.

The event featured Pakistan’s ambassador to the United
States, a Kashmiri activist and a travel writer with family ties to
the region. All spoke out against India’s control of
Kashmir.

The discussion, sponsored by the Pakistani Students Association
and the Council on Pakistani American Affairs was held in Moore 100
at 6:30 p.m. About 100 people showed up, organizers said.

The Kashmir region lies along the confluence of the borders of
India, Pakistan and China. Much of the area is under Indian
control.

India and Pakistan have fought multiple wars over control of
Kashmir since both countries became independent from Great Britain
in 1947. Though the United Nations in 1948 issued a resolution
calling for the people of Kashmir to vote to join India or
Pakistan, the vote has never been held.

In recent years, there have been numerous incidences of violence
between Kashmiri militants and Indian forces. Tensions between both
countries remain high, peaking most recently in last Spring’s
nuclear standoff.

The Indian government’s official position is that Kashmir
is an integral Indian territory. The Pakistani ambassador, Ashraf
Jehangir Qazi, said Kashmiri people should be allowed to
decide.

“Pakistan does not say Kashmir belongs to Pakistan,”
he said.

The two other speakers agreed that Kashmiris should have control
over the region’s future, but both said the best solution to
the conflict would be an independent state of Kashmir.

“Most Kashmiris want to be independent of India and
Pakistan ““ the basic issue in Kashmir is nationalism, not
religion,” said Edward Hasbrouck, author of “The
Practical Nomad.”

He said he looked forward to the day when his passport would be
stamped by an independent Kashmiri state.

The third speaker, Ghulam Nabi Fai, executive director of the
Kashmiri American Council, described Kashmiri groups opposing India
as essentially nonviolent, but said a settlement requires both
sides to stop fighting.

Though none of the speakers supported India’s position, a
question and answer period allowed for a measure of debate on the
controversy. Some students were bothered that only one point of
view was presented on stage.

“It was totally biased; there wasn’t anyone
representing the Indian side,” said Shalabh Gupta, a graduate
student in engineering.

During the session, multiple students objected to the
ambassador’s decision to leave before the audience had a
chance to ask questions.

Ehsan Zaffar, president of the Pakistani Student Association,
fourth-year cognitive science and political science student and
publisher of al-Talib, said representatives from Indian and Chinese
consulates declined invitations to speak.

Zaffar welcomed other students voicing their own opinions, he
said.

“The debate that we engendered, that was the key,”
Zaffar said.

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