Kashmir Solidarity Day was observed on 5 February. It was important to do so precisely to show solidarity with the Kashmiri people on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India, and Kashmiri people living in the UK, the Middle East and elsewhere. This time, since the Indian administered Kashmir was annexed by India, it gave special meaning to observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day. The situation is terrible from a political, social and indeed human rights perspective; it was bad before India’s action last autumn, and it has become worse after. Pakistan keeps showing solidarity with the Kashmiri brothers and sisters, and it has again stated that the land should be united.

Sadly, the Israeli-Palestinian situation has become worse, too, after USA and Israel recently announced a misguided plan for the future of Israel and Palestine, which include annexation of Palestinian land. When Russia some years ago annexed Crimea, which was earlier part of Ukraine, the international community opposed strongly and agreed on sanctions. As for Kashmir and now Palestine, the actions are lesser; however in the latter case, many countries, including Western countries, have strongly objected to the new plans.

It is indeed sad that these two protracted conflict situations are not being addressed by the international community; instead of seeing improvements, there is worsening of both situations. There is need for sustainable, lasting peace and prosperity, where the people’s wishes for self-determinations are supported. Sustainable and lasting solutions will then be found, I believe that, but it seems it will still take time. I don’t know how the situations can be solved, but in the short term, the human rights and daily life situations must be improved. The people of Kashmir and Palestine can only find solutions with international cooperation and support. We must no longer let the people have to say: Where can I turn for peace?

Dear reader, allow me then to turn to broader, historical issues about peace and development because that can enlighten us on the current issues and also make us see many structural shortcomings in the way the world is going in our time. Some things have become better in the post-colonial and post-WWII era, but other things have not become better at all. One such issue is the attention we give to disarmament and peace debates and movements, in Pakistan and worldwide; it is placed lower on the agenda than in many years. It is necessary to discuss fundamental political and ethical issues to find solutions to the Kashmir and Palestine situations.

When I was a young university student, and we were searching for our own political values, we were all talking about peace and development issues, disarmament, better gender equality, better North-South relation, and also a beginning debate about environmental issues. We were questioning class differences and searching for ways of greater equality within and between countries. We were discussing the role of the United Nations and bilateral development aid. We believed in solidarity with poor and oppressed people everywhere, who also included the rights of indigenous people, sometimes termed the Fourth World people, in industrialized countries as well as developing countries. Developing countries were with a synonym called the Third World; the Soviet Union and the East Block would sometimes be referred to as the Second World; and Europe was the Old World, but that was not a much used term then. The New World was a common term, mainly for USA, but could also include the whole of the Americas. Let me also recall that the United Nations, through the UN Conference on Trade and Development, worked with Third World and ‘likeminded countries’ in the West to establish a New International Economic Order (NIEO) and, through UNESCO, a New International Information and Communication Order (NIIO)). Little came of both, and maybe it was too idealistic to expect results in a world ruled by the West, although it would have been both right and fair. But the West was and is living within the old world model and wouldn’t like to give up perks and privileges, and the upper hand in trade and finance, and setting overall agendas for talks and truths.

We talked about new and different development paths in the Third World, more so than in the West, but we realised there wouldn’t be a fair and peaceful world unless the West changed, including consuming less of the world’s resources – at the expense of the Third World. As researchers, we discussed ‘basic needs strategies’, how people in poor countries could live bearable lives when still being poor, and, we hoped that, perhaps, their leaders would take them to ‘take off’ in development.

Part of what we talked about was creating a foundation for development and political participation; it was theory, but with some concrete ideas for actions, too, always on the side of poor people. We realized that provision of basic education, including functional literacy, skills and vocational training, and teacher training, was essential. Secondary and higher education was not discussed as much because the costs were seen as high and the direct benefits for the majority of the people, at least in the short run, were seen as limited and questionable. When discussing democratic decision-making, we were open for other ways than the Western model for doing this.

Were we just dreaming idealists, maybe just liberal, Western intellectuals? No. We truly believed in what we were working on. What we did not understand, though, was that the capitalist West was against much of what we talked about and hoped for. Still, to solve the world’s problems in our time, including the Kashmir and Palestine situations, we must talk about fairness and dignity of all people. We must have the foundations and ethics right. That is a challenge to all, including people in the West, where there is less democracy now than when I was young, or at least less concern about how we can find ways for better participation and better lives for all, not only ourselves. Some young people are doing this, maybe better than when I was young; just look at Greta Thunberg and many others.

Imagine what a world we can have if we get our basic thinking, ideals and visions right. We must want all people to live in equality, justice and harmony, in communities where we all have real concern for each others’ material, spiritual and other needs. There must be dignity for all – and certainly no humiliation such as in Kashmir and Palestine – and in many other situations of violence and injustice inbuilt in the structural world system.

We can draw lessons from the West’s development model, China’s model, the Soviet Union’s ideals, and the traditional values of people in developing countries and medium-income countries. We can also learn from values of people in the West who still remember how a simpler and more ordinary life can be, with less possessions and more concern for others, yet with shortcomings in plurality and diversity.

The foundations for inclusive and fair development are the moral and ethical values, as decided by the people, with the politicians and civil servants finding ways of implementation. If we can get our foundations right, then there would be no Kashmir and Palestine tragedies any more, and the many other structural injustices in the world would also be seen as unacceptable – as apartheid eventually was.