At the first national Kashmiri Overseas Association Convention, participants attended from across the country to enjoy the rich Kashmiri Pandit culture. On behalf of IAKF, Rahul Pandit prepared the following presentation, "HISTORY OF IAKF AND VISION FOR THE FUTURE", delivered on July 3, 2006. This speech was accompanied by a powerpoint slide presentation and followed by a panel discussion.
On behalf of IAKF members and its board of directors, I would like to thank you for inviting me here today.
Throughout my talk, I’m going to show you photos from my trip to Srinagar last September, 2005, to give you a flavor of what we all are missing, and to remind you of what we are fighting for.
And with that, let’s discuss exactly what we as KPs are doing in the U.S. to fight for our rights and representation, and what each and every one of you can do. So let’s start from the beginning.
HISTORY OF IAKF
It became apparent early on in our struggle at the time of our exodus that worldwide efforts were needed to counteract the disinformation campaign of our adversaries, which included the Kashmiri separatist Muslims, Pakistanis, terrorists, and Indian leftists/communists. In the U.S., the Kashmir American Council (KAC), the unofficial representative of the separatists and terrorists, had been formed. They hired the lobbying firm of Black, Monafart, Stone, and Kelly for a fee of one million dollars a year.
Concerns were that KOA’s tax exempt status would be compromised if it engaged in political advocacy or lobbying, and so in April 1991, IAKF was created. At the same time, ICKF, and IEKF were created.
April 1991 – Indo American Kashmir Forum created
IAKF had an ad hoc leadership until its constitutional structure was established. But its first Convenor and General Sect. was the late KL Kaul.
- In April 1991, K.L. Kaul “A number of former Kashmiris and their American and Indian friends have decided to form Indo-American Kashmir Forum with a view to pursue a vigorous campaign to help the Kashmiri Refugees . . . to return back to the Valley to their ancestral homes, under safe and honorable conditions, free from the onslaughts and attacks of the secessionists and terrorists in the Valley.”
H.L. Fotedar was the first President. Meanwhile, Jeevan Zutshi (CA) and Subash Razdan (GA) were appointed by the president of NFIA to head the national effort of campaigning against Congressman Dan Burton’s bill against the Kashmiri Pandits.
In July 1991, Dr. Vijay Sazawal shared his thoughts from his unscheduled trip to Delhi
- Dr. Vijay Sazawal “The agenda for the community must focus on four key issues:
- KPs must work together as a team with a common agenda.
- The Indian government must recognize the concerns of the community and make it a party to any settlement of the Kashmir problem.
- KPs who decide to settle in India must be given fair compensation for their losses and provided resettlement assistance.
- KPs who wish to return to the valley must be able to do so with dignity and safety.”
SLIDE HARI PARBAT
Recognizing the impact of the U.S. government in world affairs, direct interaction with U.S. politicians has been the major focus of IAKF.
SYMPOSIA AND PUBLIC EVENTS:
IAKF has undertaken many presentations over the years on Capitol Hill, at universities, other public venues, and at meetings of other organizations. To list a few of the major ones:
· May 1992: Symposium in Washington D.C.
· Nov. 1992: International Symposium on Human Rights in Kashmir in Union City, CA
· 1993: Symposium in New York.
· 1996: Hearing on Kashmir on Capitol Hill
· 2001: IAKF co-sponsored an international symposium in Union City, California, titled, “Is the Kashmir Issue Closer to a Solution?”
· Spring 2002: two symposia in Houston.
- Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy, where a Panel Discussion was held entitled Beyond September 11 and Al Qaeda: The Kashmir Conflict, where participants included India’s terrorism expert Mr. B. Raman.
- University of Houston, speakers included Mr. Yossef Bodansky, the internationally recognized expert on Islamic terrorism.
· October 2002: seminar at the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of MN, featuring speakers such as Dr. Subhash Kak and Dr. B.K. Agnihotri, the NRI Ambassador at Large during BJP government in Washington DC
· September 14, 2004: a public seminar in California with several Congressmen as guest speakers
· July 2005: co-sponsored the FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism) exhibit on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., which I was personally involved with. This photo shows the multitude of Congressional staffers viewing the exhibit and pausing to see an edited version of Ashok Pandit’s documentary And the World Remained Silent.
· And all this of course only covers the major events over the past 15 years, which have included many meetings with human rights groups and presentations against our opponents, mainly the Kashmiri American Council led by Ghulam Nabi Fai, which is the U.S. front organization for the separatists, and who, according to all experts on Kashmir, receive covert funding by the Kashmiri terrorist organizations.
SLIDE KHIR BHAWANI
Over the years, IAKF members have met with media outlets, including print and radio, of many cities to promote the KP point of view, as listed here.
We’ve also been invited to numerous Roundtable discussions arranged by the Voice of America (VOA) Urdu programs, which are beamed to South Asia. This forum has provided an excellent opportunity to express the KP point of view directly to valley Muslims. Since the VOA is a broadcast of the U.S. government, it also indirectly reinforces the American position that KPs are a party to the final resolution of the Kashmir issue.
We edited and distributed a version of Ashok Pandit’s documentary And the World Remained Silent to various media and elected representatives after 9/11.
SLIDE PARI MAHAL
THE U.S. ADMINISTRATION:
IAKF is recognized as the voice of displaced KPs in the U.S. This is evident through official invitations by the U.S. State Department to meetings where representative Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmir experts are invited for informal updates on the ground situation in Kashmir.
Additionally, one-on-one meetings have been held with several State Department officials over the years.
Our Washington, D.C. board member and past president Vijay Sazawal is a member of the National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs (NACSAA), which is an informal expert group of Americans that regularly meets with the U.S. State Department on topics of concern related to South Asia. Operating like a small think tank, this organization has significant influence amongst administration officials dealing with South Asia.
What has all this led to?
For the first time ever, the U.S. State Department directly references the name of IAKF in its 2005 Human Rights Report. Let me reiterate—the world’s strongest government body has referenced our organization in its official report.
THE U.S. CONGRESS:
Our efforts to combat the campaigns of our adversaries gained a huge push from the early support of Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH). A few years later, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) became our strong spokesperson. Both of these individuals have been influenced by close ties to Kashmiri activists including several IAKF members.
IAKF members have over the years organized briefings and fundraisers not only for these two KP-friendly Representatives, but for many others,
as well as several senators, only a few of whose names appear here.
SLIDE SHALIMAR NISHAT
A number of important think-tanks that advise the U.S. Government and the U.S. Congress on the Kashmir issue invite IAKF to provide the KP perspective. IAKF has been invited by think tanks on a routine basis to critique oral presentations from visiting Indian and Pakistani scholars and/or military officers related to regional security in South Asia:
- Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where the President of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) spoke and IAKF was requested to offer a counterpoint
- Woodrow Wilson Center, that is concerned with money outflows from the U.S. to extremist organizations in the Indian subcontinent
- School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), which invited IAKF to present an analysis of the first freely completed J&K elections a few years ago.
In recent years, IAKF offered counter-points to presentations at each of the following institutions – Stimson Center (Mirwaiz Umar Farooq), SAIS (G N Fai), USIP (Yasin Malik), and the CSIS (Farooq Kathwari).
The United States Institute of (USIP), which is funded directly by the U.S. Congress and “guided” by the U.S. State Department, invited IAKF to review and assess two reports related to the economic issues behind the Kashmir conflict. The IAKF analysis was revolutionary and ahead of its time—several officials took IAKF in regard when its analysis was thereafter independently confirmed by the research of certain international NGOs.
Let me remind you that all these organizations I have mentioned are the most influential organizations in this country, in that they directly impact not only legislation but actual foreign and domestic policy. Furthermore, in a recent publication on major NGOs in Washington dealing with policy issues on South Asia, IAKF figured prominently on the list.
SLIDE DAL LAKE
IAKF has also maintained contact with Indian diplomats in Washington and the four regional Consulates in America located in New York, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco.
As all of you are aware, our Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has been interacting with all parties to the Kashmir conflict. To that extent, in December 2005 he scheduled a meeting with Valley-based KPs (ie, Hindu Welfare Society of Kashmir—HWSK) as well as IAKF President at the time Dr. Vijay Sazawal, who was visiting India then. Due to bad weather, the Valley KPs could not travel to Delhi, but the PM decided to meet anyway with Sazawal-ji to hear our perspective. It was a direct acknowledgment of IAKF’s role in U.S. diplomacy on behalf of Kashmiri Pandits.
SLIDE GULMARG GONDOLA
IAKF maintains an active liaison with its overseas affiliates – the Toronto based Indo-Canadian Kashmir Forum (ICKF), and the London and Geneva based Indo-European Kashmir Forum (IEKF).
In 2002, the United Nations NGO Office recognized IAKF as a viable and independent representative of Kashmiri Pandits facing discrimination in J&K. Our past president has independently attended the annual UNHRC meeting almost every year since 1993.
This is our community’s portal to KP activism in this country. Unlike any other Kashmiri Pandit website, it is designed to promote activism at the touch of a button. It is also a refined source of information for our Elected Officials and opinion makers, many of whom have already commented positively on the website since its inauguration in March.
If we can achieve all this with just a limited active membership base and limited funds, imagine what we could do with a million dollar lobbying effort. We as KPs need to empower ourselves to maintain and protect our political rights and our cultural roots. Let me ask:
· How many of you have been back to Srinagar since January 19, 1990?
· How many of you would have gone back or possibly never even left had it not been for militancy?
SLIDE BC ROAD
This is an exciting time in political advocacy. The U.S. is playing its strongest global force in decades. Our efforts WILL make an impact on the U.S. administration, which will have a positive impact on our community’s future.