A global peace icon has called upon India to allow the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play a role in de-escalating tension over the Kashmir issue. Jose Ramos-Horta, who won the 1996 Nobel peace prize for his role in resolving the violence in East Timor, said that reducing Indo-Pak military tension in South Asia would be difficult in the absence of impartial military observers even as he urged both India and Pakistan to address the “aspirations” of the Kashmiri people.
“The conflict over Kashmir is an absurdity or relic of the past. However, we at the high level panel for U.N. peacekeeping studied this and other conflicts in Sinai and Cyprus, and felt impartial military observers probably form the only mechanism that can separate the two forces of India and Pakistan. If there is nothing in between [India and Pakistan], then there can be escalation,” said Mr. Ramos-Horta who is visiting India to participate in the child slavery abolition programme of an NGO.
India in 2014 had asked UNMOGIP to wind up its work in Kashmir and earlier this year the MEA spokesperson had reiterated that the UNMOGIP did not have the mandate to monitor situation in Kashmir.
Mr. Ramos-Horta said there was no substitute to dialogue to de-escalate tension over Kashmir and urged India and Pakistan to address the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. “There is no substitute to direct dialogue between India and Pakistan and both sides should try to de-escalate the situation in Kashmir. And as major regional powers, they should address the aspirations of the people in Kashmir,” he said.
Mr. Ramos-Horta, however, explained that addressing the “aspiration of the people” does not mean support to separatism. “In this contemporary age where borders are often irrelevant due to globalisation and continuous movement of people, there can be other options to deal with the Kashmir issue. For example you can address the priority issues at the beginning and then go into finding out what went wrong all these years that has created this tension on the ground,” he said, indicating at a resolution package for Kashmir.
He cautioned about the possibility of terrorism and extremism if old crises like Kashmir and the Rohingya issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh were not resolved. However, he says world peace has not benefited from Nobel peace prize laureates like Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama and himself as states should do the needful to address the rise of fundamentalism and terrorism all over the world.
However, the biggest danger to peace, he said, was from demagogues who were harvesting people’s lack of understanding of serious global issues.
“Rapid flow of information is creating opinion without understanding which is in turn exploited by the figures like Nigel Farage of U.K. to mislead people. This sort of quick opinion-making will not help build peace. In fact, Mr. Farage is worse than a second hand car salesman,” he said, emphasising the danger that demagogues pose to world peace.