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Ashok Easwaran in Chicago
The time is now right for India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue with the help of a third party, believes the first Kashmiri to be appointed to the House of Lords.
Lord Nazir Ahmed told the Indo-Asian News Service in Chicago, "In India, you have the Hindu fundamentalists and the Bharatiya Janata Party hard-liners, and in Pakistan you have an army general as the CEO. If these governments cannot deliver [peace], no one else can."
He also said, "Without mediation, I cannot see peace between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. The bilateral agreements signed in Simla and Lahore have all failed."
He said it was important to involve the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organisation of Kashmiri separatist groups, in the talks to bring peace in Kashmir.
He and his Kashmiri colleagues, he said, were trying to get former United States president Jimmy Carter to offer mediation. "He has a fantastic reputation of being a peacemaker," Ahmed said.
"There are two Kashmiris in the British Parliament, five mayors are Kashmiris, the mayor of Bradford is a Kashmiri. There are 120 councillors who are Kashmiri. They have very close ties with 'Azad' Kashmir [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir]."
Ahmed claimed that President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan had reduced the number of soldiers in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but India had not reciprocated with a similar reduction on its side of the Line of Control.
"On the contrary, India is increasing its military budget. Actions speak louder than words."
Ahmed said he had addressed rallies in 30 towns and cities in Britain highlighting the "atrocities" committed by the Indian Army in Kashmir.
He said his campaign among the 500,000 Kashmiris in Britain was "to unite under one platform on the issue of abuse of human rights in Kashmir".
The large Kashmiri constituency in Britain, he said, had led Prime Minister Tony Blair to make a statement at Bradford that he would like a resolution to the Kashmir issue.
Ahmed, who goes under the title of Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, has been an activist on Kashmir for several years, and has been a member of delegations on the subject to Brussels and Washington led by Lord Eric Avebury, chairman, British Parliamentary Human Rights Group.
He initiated a 'Kashmir peace bus: from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar', which began its journey from the House of Lords.
"This was the first time that we had a campaigning bus under the Victoria Tower in Parliament. The bus was met by a few hundred people in every British town it visited," he said. He has pledged similar peace bus launchings in other cities in Europe.
"This is not an anti-India bus. We want to show that we [Kashmiris] want peace and peace with justice."
Indo-Asian News Service
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