The three most vital issues for the Muslim world, today, is the occupation of Afghanistan, Palestine and Kashmir. Millions of Muslims lost their near and dear ones, as a result of these events. It has now been over 60 years in the last two cases, and almost a decade as far as Afghanistan is concerned that the sufferings of the people of these nations have seen no respite. While the Muslim world has merely been a silent spectator with almost no role to play. Anyway, the Kashmir issue has some similarities with the Palestine issue. Like Palestine, it is a land that belongs to the Muslims; it has been occupied by a foreign force and usurped in the process; it has been divided and thousands of families have been separated; their homes have been taken over by the usurpers; their fertile lands have been destroyed or seized leaving them penniless; and violence has been committed against the rightful owners ever since the occupation. Despite the fact that both Palestine and Kashmir have suffered considerably, the latter, whose right to self-determination is so crucial to the Pakistanis and the Kashmiris themselves for political and economic reasons, has not received as much attention as Palestine or for that matter the attention it deserves. The Muslim world has shown somewhat of a lukewarm support. The international community comes to the forefront only when Pakistan and India resolve to fight it out. Once the tension dies down in the region, the interest of the international community too dies down, and the matter is shelved till the two competitors are ready once again to have a go at each other. Pakistan has had two wars with India on the issue. The United Nations has been involved since 1948, but to no avail. Even talks have failed on numerous occasions to resolve the issue, since India is adamant that the disputed area is part and parcel of its republic. The difference here between the Palestine issue and the Kashmir problem is that Israel admits that the West Bank and the Gaza belong to the Palestinians, while India totally rejects the idea that Kashmir belongs to anybody except it. In the final analysis, however, both are adamant not to free the territories to their rightful owners. And in the process both the Palestinians and the Kashmiris have suffered atrocities beyond imagination. The Paradise on Earth has become a hell on earth. More so, it is difficult to ascertain the actual number of causalities in Kashmir, since no journalists, tourists or humanitarian organisations have been allowed ever since the uprising that shook the Indian government early 1990. However, recently, some limited access has been granted to the journalists and humanitarian organisations to determine the state of affairs in the occupied valley. According to reports, the total number of Kashmiris killed by the Indian troops and fanatic Hindus since 1990 is somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000. Thousands of innocent people have been dubbed as terrorists and tortured inhumanely in jails. Many have vanished without a trace. Thousands of women have been tortured, raped and harassment, which has become the norm of the day. As a result, the economic conditions of the Muslims in the valley have deteriorated. Tourism and local crafts that were the pride of occupied Kashmir have been lost in oblivion. Trade suffers because of the prevailing situation. Major highways are blocked by the Hindus for days together to hurt the trading patterns of the Muslims of the area. Most nations consider the Middle East as the centre of a major boiling crisis, but it must be stressed that the Indo-Pak subcontinent is an equally volatile area with two nuclear powers locked in a wrestling match, which could create a disastrous situation for the world. Not that the two nations would resort to the use of nuclear weapons (hopefully not), but they have large armies ready to create hell on earth for the over billion people living in the two countries. Already the two nations are spending billions on weaponry, which keeps them from alleviating poverty that is prevalent, to a large extent, in both India and Pakistan. Pakistan has tried talks, wars and adventures (The Kargil Adventure of May 1999), but nothing has worked as the adversary is adamant not to resolve the issue. In actuality, India does not even consider it an issue to be dealt with. That really becomes a difficult situation to tackle. The attitudes have hardened so much on both sides, especially the Indian side, that softening them might require another couple of decades, if we manage to move in the right direction. And what direction would that be? Who would point us in that direction? I have no readymade answers. It certainly is tragic that over 60 years have gone by with no solution in hand of the Kashmir issue. However, under the circumstances the best course would be to try and bring the two countries closer together - which is possible only if the international community sincerely makes an effort - so that attitudes start to soften down between the two countries and an appropriate, peaceful and just solution can be obtained for the disputed territory the burning paradise on earth. Nevertheless, this is going to be a long and tedious course, but the advantages may be beneficial for both the sides, especially for the Kashmiris. The writer is a freelance columnist.