Norwegian parliament concludes debate on Kashmir: India, Pakistan urged to resolve issue
Oslo – The Norwegian Parliament has conducted an important debate for the second time in a year addressing the Kashmir conflict. An earlier debate was held in 2010 and again in September 2012 when the Norwegian parliament raised the issue of existence of unidentified mass graves in occupied Kashmir. The interpolation entitled “Kashmir on the backdrop of withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014” was submitted for a debate by the Chairman of the Norwegian parliamentary Kashmir Committee and Christian Democrat (KrF) Party leader Mr. Knut Arild Hareide.
The debate which lasted for nearly one hour, had the intervention of all major political parties, parliamentarians and representatives. During the debate, the Norwegian Foreign Minister Mr. Espen Barth Eide stated that it is very important to closely monitor and contribute to a united world community seeks to assist both countries in this tense situation. He outlined that the conflict between India and Pakistan has deep historical roots: “There are many challenges associated with Kashmir. I do not think that a solution will be found in a kind of breakthrough, where everything suddenly negotiated done. I rather believe in a long-term process in which parties take step by step and build trust. Here’s what we – as part of the international community – still have to show patience, so that the parties get the time they need for themselves to arrive at sustainable solutions. Our role is thus to hold both parties accountable. We must stress that rights and duties are reciprocal sizes.”
While mentioning the recent elections for a new parliament in Pakistan Mr. Barth declared that it clearly shows a change of attitudes. The election campaign was neither India nor Kashmir, in any case. He believes that it also suggests that a shift in the mood became clear when the election outcome occurs. Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif wants closer relations with India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has responded by inviting the newly elected Pakistani prime minister to visit. This, he believes is a very positive step.
About the India and Pakistan’s willingness to resolve the issues by dialogue he said “it is good to know that there is broad consensus that this is a major issue. It has strong regional dimensions. It affects those who live in Kashmir. It affects India and Pakistan, and it touches the region. It is of course quite right that now that the region is moving, it is a reasonable time to ask questions about what kind of impact it will have on the long-standing Kashmir conflict, not least when it comes to the risk that groups that have been fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan can choose to go to Kashmir.” “It is very important that South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Asia are joined in many of the new opportunities that pop up here. If they do, there is hope. If they do not, this type of unresolved conflicts pull down where teamwork really should pull each other up. Therefore it is so important to work with both parties, Pakistan and India, to inspire a more constructive development in Kashmir”. Moreover, on recent incidents of clashes along the cease fire line he stated that “first thing one should do with a conflict to make sure that you stop shooting at each other and neither let it be frozen in absolute terms until they have found more constructive solutions”
Additionally, Chairman Norwegian parliamentary Kashmir Committee and Christian Democrat (KrF) Party leader Mr. Knut Arild Hareide while warning both the countries for ignoring the Kashmir conflict, he emphasized that “what more than anything else can destroy a better relationship between India and Pakistan is the conflict around Kashmir. This is a regressive wound in the relationship between governments and a continuing tragedy for the Kashmiri people. In the region there is a fear of a renewed wave of violence and terrorism after 2014” About the escalation of border clashes between the two countries he quoted the analysis of the global intelligence company Stratfor. The quote read “the periodically breaking out of firing between Indian and Pakistani side of the control line through Kashmir, is nothing new. The latest skirmish may yet be an indication of the increasing problems the two countries will face in the future when the US-led war in Afghanistan and the Pakistan struggle with regaining control over militant groups in its territory end”
Stressing on the need to improve the negotiating atmosphere he said “it is important that both these (neighbouring) countries help build mutual trust and reduce fear and hatred. Pakistan must contribute, including militant activists not getting prepared to attack on Pakistani soil against India, which has happened this year. Of course, this has affected the situation negatively. India must contribute the same, and refrain from actions that could trigger unrest. India is cautious about capital punishment, but the execution of Afzal Guru in February had elected the same reactions in Kashmir. Norway is against the death penalty and urges all countries to refrain from it. This is a principle which of course must apply in this region”
Mr. Svein Roald Hansen who highlighted the historical and humanitarian aspect of the conflict said “There has been a conflict area with three wars, a strong military presence and repeated tensions and confrontations between India and Pakistan. It is a conflict that undermines fundamental human rights of the 10 million people who live there”
Mr. Tom Ståhl while mentioning the UN resolution on Kashmir said “it’s nice to see that there is consensus in the audience here – is that the foreign minister intensifies this pressure through the UN system as well, and make sure we get this issue high on the agenda, and that the stricter the two countries involved, so that they actually live up to the obligations they have towards each other, and to the inhabitants of this region”
The Head of the Foreign Relations Committee, Ine M. Eriksen Søreide, linking the Kashmir conflict with the Afghanistan said “There is a conflict with long historical roots, which is not only about the past over 60 years. It is also seen that when relations with Kabul is bad, Pakistan wants to improve relations with India. When the Afghan-Pakistani relations are good, the relationship with India crashes”. She further said “there is a cycle of tension and conflict, and among those who then suffer the most are civilians in Kashmir. You are trapped in an uncertainty in an ongoing major conflict between militant groups and Indian soldiers, who also sometimes use brutal repression against the civilian protests. There are reports constantly about abuses and violations of human rights”.
Later talking to media Chairman Norwegian parliamentary Kashmir Committee and Christian Democrat (KrF) Party leader Mr Knut said that Kashmir issue can be resolved through the International mediation. He pointed out that in this regard USA and Europe have to do more to pressurise especially India and also to Pakistan to find a peaceful solution to this long standing dispute.
Mr Odd Jostein Sæter Senior Advisor on Foreign Policy in Norwegian Parliament to Christian Democratic Party said that this debate has raised the awareness to link Kashmir issue with the conflict in Afghanistan.
Asad Mufty (Urdu columnist), Sardar Ali Shahnawaz Khan (Executive Director of the Kashmiri Scandinavian Council) and Abdul Latif Bhat (Editor Kashmir Watch) were respectively the participants from Pakistan, Azad Kashmir and Indian occupied Kashmir who observed this debate.