SRINAGAR, India (AFP) – Separatists in Indian Kashmir said Saturday that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence has bolstered their resolve to achieve the same status for the disputed Himalayan territory.
Kosovo last Sunday declared independence from Serbia, which vowed never to recognise the move.
Kosovo’s independence declaration has “strengthened our resolve to achieve freedom for Kashmir,” leading Kashmiri separatist Shabir Shah told AFP.
Several countries including the United States and Britain have recognised Kosovo as a new state, but India said it was studying the legal ramifications.
India is wary of recognising Kosovo as an independent state because of its potential implications for Kashmir, racked by a nearly two-decade revolt against New Delhi’s rule that has left more than 43,000 people dead.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars for control of the Muslim-majority region, each hold part of the territory but claim it in full.
“Kosovo’s independence is an indicator that struggles based on truth and justice never fail,” Shah said, adding the day is not “far when Kashmiris will be free.”
Shah, 54, who heads the pro-independence Democratic Freedom Party, is dubbed the “Nelson Mandela” of Kashmir after spending more than 20 years in Indian jails.
“The world community, the European Union in particular, should play a Kosovo-like role in getting the dispute resolved” in Kashmir, added Yasin Malik, chairman of pro-Independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front.
Both Malik and Shah want India and Pakistan to withdraw from Kashmir to pave the way for its independence.
So far, 23 of the 27 European Union member states back Kosovo’s independence, either formally recognising it or declaring their intention to do so.
Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 after NATO bombed Belgrade to end a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists, but it remained technically part of Serbia.