Roundtable Discussion with 3-member Austrian delegation March 26, 2019
“There is no chance to end the Kashmir conflict military. Not now, not in twenty years not in fifty years. A political solution is hence necessary for the resolution of this issue”. This was stated by Dr. Werner Fassalabend, former Austrian Defense Minister and currently President of Austrian Institute for European & Security Policy (AIES) during a Roundtable Discussion at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad today. He was heading a three member Austrian delegation of scholars which included Brig. Gen. Dr. Walter Feichtinger, Director, Institute for Peace Support & Conflict Management (IPSCM) and Mr. Peter Haider, President Universal Peace Foundation (UPF), Austrian Chapter, Vienna. The agenda for the session was based on how the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir Dispute is an international obligation. Participants included ambassadors, journalists and policy makers.
Dr. Fassalabend went on to say that the opening of the Kartarpur corridor was a good move and Pakistan should try and normalize relationship with India even though at the moment the political tensions are very high. He lauded the Pakistan government for reacting in an excellent and skillful way in the face of recent Indian aggression.
The main points raised during the discussion were that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue – it is an international flashpoint. Hence, the issue cannot be solved unless the United Nations along with the International community makes sure that its resolutions are implemented. So far, the international community which claims that they are impartial has not raised its voice for the Kashmiri struggle. Kashmiris should be allowed to travel without restrictions. The youth of Kashmir should be provided opportunities to pursue their careers. People to people exchanges should be facilitated by the governments of Pakistan and India. Peace is the ultimate end game of humanity. All participants agreed that the people of Kashmir deserve a peaceful solution. The root cause of the issue needs to be addressed. In Kashmir, rape is being used as an instrument of war. It should be kept in mind that the gender dimension is important both politically and socially. The atrocities in Kashmir has reached a breaking point. Kashmir is not a piece of real estate to fight over. It is time that India should accept the formation of an independent international commission. Moreover, there should be no double standards: if India wishes to be part of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) then it must not selectively accept or reject UN reports and resolutions.
Earlier, in his welcome remarks, Director General ISSI, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry highlighted how the world is changing, and all those principles formulated after the Second World War are under stress. A new cold war is germinating and narrow nationalism is on the rise and mutually exclusive agendas are being pursued in different parts of the world. The United States has started a new Asian Pivot strategy which is largely perceived as its policy to counter China. India has been emboldened by this move and as a result, is taking a heavy handed approach with all its neighbors particularly Pakistan. While Prime Minister Modi has unleashed enormous use of force in Kashmir, at the same time he has underestimated the resolve of the Kashmiri people to resist this pressure. Modi’s attempts to change the demography of Kashmir and his grand scale policy of Hindutva have deeply concerned all minorities in India. Pakistan does not believe in a zero sum game and believes that it should have good relations with all countries. In that light, Pakistan believes that a political solution to Kashmir would require India and Pakistan, as well as the people of Kashmir to engage in dialogue.