WASHINGTON-Speakers at a conference on Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday called on the Obama administration to facilitate the resolution of the decades-old dispute between India and Pakistan, saying it is high time that the Kashmiri people were allowed to exercise their right to self-determination. At the two-day 10th International Peace Conference, 'Kashmir Issue: Regional and International Dimension', they also urged President Barack Obama not only to appoint a special envoy but also to impress upon India and Pakistan to settle this issue that continues to be a nuclear flash-point between the two countries. The conference, which was organised by Kashmir American Council and Humanitarian Lawyers Association, was inaugurated in the Cannon Hall of the Capitol Hill in the presence of Congressmen Jim Moran, Don Burton, John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Joseph Pitts and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. There were 25 presentations made on Thursday, the first day of the conference, by academicians, authors, scholars, journalists, political leaders, diplomats and human rights activists from both the side of Jammu and Kashmir, India, Pakistan, Britain, US, Canada and other parts of the world. Amongst those were: Raja Zulqarnain, President AJK, Pakistan's Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani, Dr. Karen Parker, Ms. Victoria Schofield, Ms. Harinder Baweja, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Ambassador Howard Schaffer, Tapan Bose, Senator Mushahid Hussain, Gautam Navlakha, Pandit Jatinder Bakhshi, Dr. Idrisa Pandit, Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, MNA-PPP and Dr. Nasim Ashraf. In his welcome address, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director Kashmiri American Council and Kashmir Centre said that the aim of the conference was to encourage a peaceful resolution to the disputed territory in which the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir were paramount. The objective, he said, was to try and promote a solution in spirit of reconciliation, not confrontation, equality not discrimination, and hope not despair. Ambassador Haqqani said that Kashmir holds the key to unlocking South Asian potential for peace and progress. He said the conflict was resolvable and cannot be 'wished away or swept away'. He reaffirmed Pakistan's desire to normalise relations with its neighbour after resolution of outstanding issues but argued that the international community too owes a role in making composite dialogue between Pakistan and India 'meaningful and result-oriented'. 'For us Kashmir is not about territory, but about the of destiny of 12 million people and indeed, more than one billion people of South Asia, who have become embroiled in the conflict as a result of this dispute'. He said a resolution to the dispute must respect aspirations of the Kashmiris and ,added, 'only then will this region realise its full economic and political potential' and provide literacy, healthcare and advanced infrastructure to the teeming millions left out of the development process'. AJK President Zulqarnain Khan called for urgent efforts to resolve the Kashmir conflict, saying it imperils regional security. Kashmir, he said, remains one of the oldest unresolved issues on the global agenda and needs attention of the international community, particularly the United States, for result-oriented progress. He said the Kashmiris must get relief as they have undergone untold sufferings in the occupied territory in the last six decades and their sentiments must be taken into consideration in progress towards resolution of the conflict. He favoured participation of all concerned parties to the dispute in efforts to find a durable settlement of the dispute. Senator Mushahid Husain Sayed and Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, a former ambassador to the United States, argued that stability in South Asia is inextricably linked with a just settlement of Jammu and Kashmir dispute. 'The United States has today equal influence both in New Delhi and Islamabad', Mushahid, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. He recounted a number of occasions in recent decades when Washington intervened to bring down tensions between India and Pakistan including the 1999 Kargil conflict, 2002 military standoff, and last year's Mumbai attacks. Mushahid said the people of Occupied Kashmir have not accepted Indian legitimacy despite six decades of repression and asked New Delhi to come out of its denial mode on the issue. He also asked Indian leaders to give up reneging on their pledges to make progress on the issue and praised members of the Indian civil society for bringing to the fore the ground realities and the extent of human rights violations in Kashmir. 'The election of Barack Obama is a positive change, hopefully it will be evident in US relations with Muslim world ---- in the Muslim world there are two issues which are paramount and need attention - Palestine and Kashmir -both have legitimacy in the UN', he stated. In her presentation, Dr Maleeha Lodhi pointed out that Pakistan's ability to take decisive action against militancy and focus fully on its Western frontier requires at the very least calm and normalised relations with India. 'And the ability to effectively contain the forces of militancy needs a context of tangible progress on Kashmir'. In addition, she said, an unresolved dispute jeopardizes prospects for regional stability because the longer the issue festers, the greater the risk of a strengthening of the forces of radicalisation. On Washington's role toward settlement of the dispute, she noted that President Obama's statements during the election campaign and soon after that 'the road to Afghanistan's stabilisation runs through a Kashmir resolution were not just an acknowledgment of reality but showed his deep understanding of the interconnectedness of security issues in the region and the stakes for the international community'. However, she stated, the strategy Obama announced for Afghanistan and Pakistan and his appointment of a special representative for the region, appeared to be at odds with his earlier admission. 'This makes his strategy partial and incomplete. Peace in South Asia is not just critical to international stability but essential to Washington's core strategic objectives in the region of defeating terrorism and stabilising Afghanistan. But excluding the India-Pakistan equation from the formal mandate of Richard Holbrooke will not make regional security issues disappear. Policies have to respond to realities and not the other way around', she added.