UN wakes up to Kashmir tragedy

Published: August 18, 2019
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In the absence of a formal pronouncement, it is not known what actually transpired in the 90-minute-long informal closed-door Consultative Session of the United Nations Security Council on Friday. It is also not known what position, separately or jointly, other permanent and non-permanent members took as they deliberated on the ‘Pakistan-India question’. But nothing could be more satisfying than the very fact that the UN took up the issue after a gap of half a century, sending a clear message that Kashmir is still an international dispute. According to the post-session statements of some envoys, the UN body realised the gravity of the situation and its regional and global implications. (Only hours later, the Indian Defence Minister provided testimony to these concerns when in a tweet he conveyed a veiled threat of nuclear war hinting at the possibility of giving up adherence to India’s ‘No First Use’ policy.)

The ebullient Pakistan’s envoy to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, sounded confident while telling the media that Indian stance of Kashmir being its ‘internal matter’ has been ‘nullified’ by the UNSC meeting. “The whole world is discussing the occupied state. This is an international dispute,” she said, adding, “This meeting has reaffirmed the validity of the UNSC resolutions on the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir.” Satisfied with a sense of achievement, she said, “They [Kashmiri people] are not alone, their voices have been heard, and their plight, their hardship, their pain, their suffering, occupation of their land and the consequences of that occupation has been heard in the UN Security Council today.”

If nothing else, the reaction of the India envoy to UN, Syed Akbaruddin, was enough to convey the dismay of India. He came closer to admitting that the world body reaffirmed the international status of Kashmir dispute and did not buy the idea of it being only an ‘internal matter’ of India. And Chinese envoy Zhang Jun, in his post-meeting comments, said that the Kashmir issue had become an internationally recognised dispute. Reminding that his country is a party to the dispute, he said, “The UNSC members are concerned about the human rights situation there and they want the parties concerned to refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there since the situation is already very tense and very dangerous.”

The UNSC proceedings on Friday are a great diplomatic win for Islamabad and Kashmiri people. Seen from Pakistan’s perspective, not much positive signals were coming from the international community following the India’s unilateral action to do away with the ‘special status’ of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. Regrettably, while UAE declared its open support for India; the reaction of the Organisation of Islamic Conference was quite muted; and Saudi Arabia came out with a guarded response which seemed to have been dictated by their economic interests and trade relations with India. The EU also preferred to stay silent. It was, however, China that expressed its displeasure over New Delhi’s move to alter the status of Ladakh region and place it under its direct control. Given its keen desire to bail itself out of the Afghan conundrum by the end of this year, the US must have decided not to opt for a position that could annoy Pakistan.

While it is not known what would be the future action plan of the United Nations, it would, however, be humanity on trial if the world body failed to bring an end to the sufferings of the Kashmiri people who had been subjected to horrifying persecution at the hands of ruthless Indian security forces for the last three decades. Kumi Naidoo, the Secretary-General of the Amnesty International, sounded so relevant when he, in a statement, said, “The people of Jammu and Kashmir should not be treated as pawns in a political crisis, and the international community must come together to call for their human rights to be respected.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2019.

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