From Washington, DC – 14 Nov, 2011
Your Excellencies: I am deeply honored and grateful for the Abdul Ghaffar Khan International Peace-Builder Award; named after the Frontier Gandhi, the Muslim Gandhi, Badshah Khan, a hero of the anti-colonial struggle from 1930. He saw nonviolence as “a weapon from the Prophet”, rooted in the Qur’an. I met him once–a giant in more than one sense–viewing with sharp eyes an inconsequential peace conference unfolding in New Delhi, in 1970. A model for us all, like Gandhi.[i]
We are addressing in this AMA-American Muslim Association Foundation Quarterly Policy Forum “Kashmir and the Regional Jigsaw Puzzle for Peace”, and I have added Afghanistan to the puzzle, and Central Asia for a “regional solution”. Deeply impressed with the preceding speakers on Kashmir, Ambassadors Howard B. Schaffer and Yusuf Buch, and by Dr. Ghulam-Nabi Fai’s book on the Kashmir Conflict, let me present some TRANSCEND–a mediation NGO–perspectives on the issues, based on a high number (in the hundreds) of one-on-one dialogues with all kinds of parties to the conflicts.[ii]
These mediation dialogues start with the same opening question:
* What does the Kashmir look like that you would like to see/live in?
* What does the Afghanistan look like that you would like to see/live in?
* What does the Central Asia look like that you would like to see/live in?
In other words, we anchor the dialogue in a future-constructive dream- vision, idealist, and then proceed to make it as concrete as possible. We work backwards, starting with goals as they come out of the mutual search typical of a dialogue, as opposed to debates-negotiations.
It is not our experience that the sum of the narratives of the parties’ grievances and sufferings constitutes a solution. It may lead to more mutual understanding, but also to apathy, hopelessness, and fear of revenge. If you want peace, start with their images, relate them to what really happens, search for something positive in the past, open for their worst fears for the future. Idealism and realism, dreams, nightmares, nostalgia, should all go together in a mature process.
Cutting down to the essence, here are three images of solutions:
For Kashmir: Today a three-sided dispute Kashmir(is)-India-Pakistan:
* Jammu and Ladakh become parts of the Indian Union, and Assad-Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan if the populations themselves so determine;
* The Valley becomes an Indo-Pak condominium with increasing autonomy possibly aiming at independence;
* These parts of Kashmir are then tied together in a confederation with open borders, under a political body with all parts represented, and SAARC-South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, with a Kashmir Area Free Trade Association–KAFTA. Identity cards and passports would all include the name “Kashmir” on the cover.
India-Pakistan constitutions amended to accommodate the doubleness of those parts, but no border is changed. However, passport cover texts are.
For Afghanistan: Today a favored invasion area for the West-Russia:
* A coalition government including what the West calls “Taliban”;
* A federation with local autonomy for the 25,000 village communities and the 6-8 nations; with capital in a small place, not Kabul;
* A confederation or community with the neighboring countries: Iran, the five Central Asian republics, Assad-Kashmir, Pakistan;
* Food-water-clothing-housing-health-education-nation-gender neutral;
* Peace-keeping by United Nations Security Council-Organization of Islamic Cooperation-OIC, also to prevent attacks on third parties, and internationally guaranteed neutrality; no bases-foreign troops.
For a country as reminiscent of Switzerland as Afghanistan, Swiss solutions, like federation and neutrality, should be appropriate. Swiss direct democracy is also compatible with the jirga tradition.
For Central Asia: Today fragmented by the West-Russia:
* A Conference on Security and Cooperation in Central Asia-CSCCA, modeled on the Helsinki Conference 1972-75, also a peace conference;
* Aiming at a Central Asian Community-CAC, a family of Afghanistan with Muslim neighboring countries, modeled on the European Community;
* Transcending the Durand line (from 1893) dividing the Pashtun nation by making the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan less important;
* Transcending the McMahon line (from 1914) between India and China by rejecting it, developing good relations with China, using SCO-Shanghai Cooperation Organization;
* Transcending the Mountbatten line (from 1947) between Pakistan and India by developing good relations with India (water!), using SAARC.
Located on an axis from Turkey and China both countries would be involved, as well the big neighbors Russia and India.
The Kashmir solution would be welcomed by the peoples involved, but it would be strongly resisted by military-diplomatic elites, in both countries, hoping for the other to collapse. The solution calls for people to people diplomacy and for strong like-minded leaders in both sides, (like Mandela-de Klerk, maybe also Singh-Musharraf?), ending the brutal Indian occupation with 700.000 troops on the ground.
The Saichin glacier could become a world memorial for peace.
TRANSCEND has a similar proposal for Kurdistan: a confederation of four autonomies with human rights in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. No border moved, but also with “Kurdistan” on all passports.
The solution for Afghanistan should respect the reality of the country: it is not a unitary state controlled from Kabul. The struggle against the US-led coalition is not only against secularization, but also against Kabul rule and above all against being invaded-occupied.
The solution for Central Asia should end the Western idea of controlling the world from Central Asia (MacKinder, 1904), undoing much of the harm inflicted on the area by English colonial policy and let countries that belong together, like a family, grow together; pooling people and resources. Like in Europe, they might be encased in an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Asia-Pacific, OSCAP, modeled on the OSCE that came out of the Helsinki conference.
And the US-led coalition? They are not Central Asian countries, should not impose “solutions” insensitive to the region, but withdraw militarily and help rebuild what they have destroyed. Alternative: to become fully irrelevant. There is no victory at the end of any tunnel.
Let me end with the Arab Spring that may also lead to a community and a family. Since 1971 TRANSCEND stands for a post-zionist Israel by and large with 1967 borders as a member of that family, bringing to an end the occupation of Palestine. Two French statesmen, Monnet-Schuman once proposed the same for former nazi Germany. It worked, the EC-European Community/EU-European Union came out of that. One day two Arab statesmen may do the same, I hope.
[i]. See the excellent article by Lester R. Kurtz, “Peace Profile: Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s Nonviolent jihad”, Peace Review, 23:245-251.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Nov 2011.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Kashmir-Afghanistan-Central Asia, is included. Thank you.
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