Pakistani students in Oxford discuss situation in Kashmir

London: Oxbridge Alumni Kashmir Society (OAKS) organised its first event on Sunday 23rd February 2020 titled ‘The Kashmir Discussion: Past, Present and the Future’.

The event was held in Christ’s College of the University of Cambridge. The event was well attended by various Cambridge university students, alumni and lecturers as well as alumni from Oxford University.

The discussion was presided by the founder and the current president of OAKS, Saud Sultan. Saud graduated with an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies from the University of Cambridge, with his research focusing on the Kashmir issue. Saud hails from Azad Kashmir and is the son of the renowned politician and former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry, who has presented the Kashmir issue on various international forums for decades. Following in his father’s footsteps, Saud set up OAKS to promote the Kashmir issue, highlight the sufferings of the Kashmiris and build a community of Oxbridge graduates and others who can support the issue and make a positive contribution to the Kashmir cause.

The event begun by Saud briefly explaining the history of the Kashmir conflict, starting from its inception in 1947 to the more recent incidents, such as abrogation of Article 370 by India. The floor was then open for questions and comments by the audience to have an engaging and productive discussion. It was discussed that the Kashmir issue should be seen as a humanitarian issue first and everything else was secondary, given the sufferings the conflict has caused to Kashmiris for decades now. As the event was held on 23rd February, Kashmir Women’s Resistance Day, it was dedicated to the victims of Kunan-Poshpora incident.

It was agreed as a way forward that OAKS will continue to highlight the sufferings of the Kashmiris in the future. Given India is attempting to finish the culture of Kashmiris, OAKS will attempt to do events to promote the Kashmiri culture in the United Kingdom (UK). Lastly, OAKS will also try to invite observers from the United Nations or UK government in its future events so they can be made aware of the sufferings the issue has caused to Kashmiris.

OAKS organised its second event at the University of Oxford in Lady Margaret Hall on 12th March 2020. The guest speaker for the event was Victoria Schofield, who is a renowned British author, historian, and authority on the Kashmir conflict. The event was also supported by the Oxford Pakistan Society. Students from diverse backgrounds attended the event.

Victoria explained to all the students the history of the Kashmir issue, starting from 1846 when the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was formed to the present time when Article 370 was abrogated. She said India has done pretty bad in winning the hearts and minds of Kashmiris and the recent BJP government, a Hindu fundamentalist, has a very hostile agenda towards Kashmir issue. She said the revocation of Article 370 is not the resolution of the Kashmir issue. 

She explained to students how the Indian-held Kashmir has lost its autonomy with the abrogation of article 370, unlike Azad Kashmir which has autonomy.

Saud said that given the trust deficit between India and Pakistan, it is imperative that there should be an international mediation that can facilitate dialogue between the two countries who have a history of the protracted rivalry.

However, the major obstacle to this is India’s stance that the issue is a bilateral issue and there should be no international mediation. Saud expressed his concern by saying that this stance of India has halted any progress towards the resolution of the issue. He said if India can agree to have international mediation, World Bank, for the Indus Waters Treaty then why cannot it have for the Kashmir issue?

A question was asked from Victoria from an Oxford University student that what should be the way forward to the Kashmir issue. Victoria said she completely agrees to Saud’s opinion there should be international mediation between the two neighbouring countries. She said an armed conflict would not resolve the issue and will lead to more martyrs, hence only dialogue can resolve the issue.

OAKS aims to continue its struggle for Kashmiris and make the world aware of the plight of Kashmiris by highlighting the Kashmir cause on various international platforms like Oxford, Cambridge, London and beyond. At a time when Kashmiris are in a lockdown for more than 6 months now and are under-represented internationally, OAKS provide a hope to them so their voices can be heard by the world.