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by Jose Ramos Horta
1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from East Timor

The closing years of the millennium have been rocked by waves of turbulent and often tragic news from Asia. All informed citizens of the world must now be aware of the economic crises from Seoul to Jakarta; the ongoing human rights violations in Tibet, Burma and East Timor; and the continuing eco-emergencies in the region's forests, river valleys and coastal areas.

Although the social and cultural backdrops of these sad events vary wildly, all have one obvious common denominator: the people most affected have little or no influence over the policies that created these crises. The absence of comprehensive democratic rights and sometimes even the most basic right of self-determination has allowed countless local problems to spiral out of all proportion and rational control.

The latest and perhaps the most ominous crisis in the region is the outbreak of nuclear rivalry between Pakistan and India. We can only pray that the unexpected Indo-Pakistani outburst will finally shock the world into a truly global disarmament process that reaches deep into the arsenals of ALL nuclear powers. In the meantime, however, we must also recognize that a far more devastating outcome is equally possible and the probability of such a catastrophe largely depends on the fate of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have already fought two bitter, murderous wars over this beautiful land and the border between their respectively controlled sectors remains perhaps the most dangerous flashpoint in the world.

Meanwhile, the people of Jammu & Kashmir are caught in the middle of this lethal tug-of-war. They have now been waiting 50 years for a chance to express their own resolve in a plebiscite mandated by the United Nations shortly after the Indian/Pakistani partition (August 13, 1948). Although the Nehru and Jinnah governments of the time both publicly supported the Kashmiri people's democratic right to peacefully choose either independence or accession to India or Pakistan, that choice still has not been offered. It is thus time, before this conflict ignites an even greater tragedy, for all parties to take pause and finally endorse will of the Kashmiri people, the United Nations, and the founding fathers of these two great nations.

I therefore urge everyone wishing to bring peace, democracy and social justice to this troubled region to join in supporting a free, fair and binding plebiscite for all the people of Kashmir, that the world may finally know and abide by their long deferred aspirations.

Jose Ramos Horta
Sydney, Australia
July 14, 1998


Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India:

Address to the Indian Parliament on 12 February, 1951: "We have given our pledge to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and subsequently to the United Nation; we stood by it and we stand by it today. Let the people of Kashmir decide."

Report to All Indian Congress Committee on 6th July, 1951: "Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is bearing fruit, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men."

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, first Prime Minister of Pakistan:
Welcoming the Indian Independence Act in 1947: "constitutionally and legally the Indian states will be independent sovereign states on termination of paramountcy and they will be free to decide for themselves to adopt any course they like. It is open to them to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly or the Pakistan Constituent Assembly or remain independent.."

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