My meeting with Richard Armitage: Kashmir in Focus
By Sardar Ali Shahnawaz Khan
“It is quite fair to say that the people of Kashmir must be the masters of their own destiny,” said Mr. Richard Armitage, while talking to me at Oslo, Norway on November 12, 2011.
Mr. Armitage is former Deputy Secretary of State of the United States and has served during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Mr. Armitage has always had a vision that Kashmir conflict needs to be resolved. He expressed this view during an interview with ‘News Hours’ on June 10, 2002 when he said, “Well, we’ve had 55 years of periodic flare-ups between India and Pakistan. I think that the highest order on the agenda is to have a regional de-escalation in terms of Al Qaeda and terrorist presence, and terrorism as a way to accomplish political objectives. And after that has happened both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, then I think the regional situation will be much better and be much more conducive to a logical discussion of the future of Kashmir.”
General Prevez Musharraf in his book, ‘In the Line of Fire’ on page 204 says, “I found Armitage to be a wonderful person.”
When I met with Mr. Armitage in Oslo, I found him a person of professional integrity and well informed about the situation of the region of South Asia.
I told him that the people of Kashmir were delighted to know that Obama administration would exert its influence on both India and Pakistan towards a just and durable settlement of the conflict concerning the Kashmir problem.
I also reminded him what candidate Obama said on October 30, 2008 that “The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan. We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.”
Mr. Armitage remembered it very well when I told him that the people of Kashmir were gratified when talking to media on February 22, 2006, President George Bush made it a point to clarify that the United States supports a solution acceptable not only to India and Pakistan but also to “citizens of Kashmir.”
When I sought his message for the people of the region of South Asia, he said that he firmly believes that the people of Kashmir should be given the right to self-recrimination.
Mr. Ali Shahnawaz Khan is the Executive Director, Kashmiri Scandinavian Council