Kashmir at the UN again By Zamir Akram

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In one of the finest speeches ever delivered at the United Nations (UN), Prime Minister Imran Khan emphatically resurrected the Kashmir dispute at the world assembly after 70 long years. The arguments he used were based on cold hard undeniable facts. He laid bare the myth of secularism and democracy under Modi’s India. He unambiguously highlighted the impending genocide in India-occupied Kashmir (IOK) and warned about the spectre of nuclear holocaust if this dispute leads to war between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.

While the Prime Minister’s forceful words are unlikely to persuade a recalcitrant India ruled by a fascist regime to resolve the dispute through dialogue, the fact remains that Kashmir is now once again front and centre on the UN’s agenda. And India cannot afford to ignore it.

Ironically, it was India that brought the Kashmir dispute for a resolution to the UN in 1948, one of the first issues to be considered by the world body after its creation. The Indian objective was to put Pakistan in the dock for its alleged “aggression” in Kashmir and seek the international community’s endorsement for the fraudulent “instrument of accession” it claimed to have obtained from the Maharaja of Kashmir — a document that India has never been able to produce for scrutiny. But then, as now with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech, Pakistan’s case was so forcefully and convincingly argued by the then Foreign Minister, Sir Zafarullah Khan, that the tables were turned on India.
The Security Council, after extensive debates, called for a plebiscite enabling the Kashmiri people to exercise their right of self-determination so as to decide their own future. This right was reaffirmed by the UN in 11 subsequent resolutions.

While India initially accepted the UN’s decision, it quickly realised that a fair and impartial referendum conducted by the UN, would not be in India’s favour. Thereafter, India used one pretext after another not to implement UN resolutions and finally rejected them altogether.

Under the garb of “autonomy” granted by article 370 of its constitution, India used Kashmiri collaborators to impose its illegal occupation of IOK, resorting to several fraudulent elections as a smokescreen. When even these machinations failed, Delhi repeatedly imposed on IOK the central rule.

In 1990, following yet another manipulated election, the Kashmiri youth rose in rebellion which still continues despite the reign to terror and repression unleashed upon them. Under the Hindu fascist Modi government, such repression has descended to even lower depths of cruelty and deprivation. But this has only increased the level and intensity of the Kashmiri freedom struggle. Now with the complete lockdown in IOK for more than 60 days, imprisonment of more than 5,000 people, mainly the young, use of extra-judicial executions and rape as instruments of policy, the alienation of the Kashmiris is complete and irreversible, even among the pro-Indian Kashmiri factions. These desperate Indian measures are indeed an admission of defeat and complete loss of control.

In this environment, the international community and the UN, in particular, need to recognise the impending dangers of genocide and ethnic cleansing together with the danger of another Pakistan-India conflict — this time under the shadow of nuclear weapons.

For these reasons, the Kashmir issue once again reverberates in the UN. Despite the efforts of India’s powerful friends, the Security Council debated the issue after nearly 30 years. The UN Human Rights Council considered a cross-regional statement on Kashmir on behalf of 53 countries. The UN Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have on several occasions called for a resolution of the dispute and respect for human rights. Such involvement by the international body is very likely to continue and increase in the future.

Just as at the beginning of the dispute when India had hidden behind the vetoes of its Soviet allay to prevent implementation of the UN resolutions, it is today relying on its American strategic partner to prevent UN involvement in a solution. But even so, the US administration now recognises that Indian atrocities cannot be ignored. It has asked Modi to respect Kashmiri human rights, engage with Pakistan to resolve the issue and offered American mediation. Countries like China, Turkey, Malaysia and organisations such as the OIC, the EU and the British Labour Party are also calling for a solution. Moreover, international human rights organisations and the world media have widely highlighted Indian atrocities against the Kashmiris and the real face of India has been truly exposed.

Despite Indian claims, the international community recognises Kashmir as a disputed territory and not as an integral part of India. Also, the UN resolutions on Kashmir remain valid even today and only another UN resolution can make them void. Similarly, Pakistan-India agreements, like in Simla and Lahore, do not make these resolutions redundant because both these documents commit the two sides to respect their international obligations and decisions of the UN.

Far more important today are the new ground realities. Kashmiris reaction to Indian brutalities and repression can no longer be masked as terrorism. Having failed to intimidate the Kashmiris despite massive use of force, India has no other option left now except a negotiated solution. In an environment of nuclear deterrence, India cannot either compel Pakistan to withdraw its support for the Kashmiri cause.

The Kashmir dispute, therefore, is once again a live issue on the UN’s agenda. The Prime Minister’s address has not only reminded the international organisations of its responsibility but also of dangers if it fails to implement its own decisions. While this would not force India to implement the UN resolutions in the foreseeable future, the fact remains that it cannot afford to mislead the international community any longer. Eventually, the ground realities of the Kashmir uprising and the growing international demands for a solution will persuade India to seek a way out and agree to resolve this dispute. If not, the bleeding wound of Kashmir will continue to fester and infect the entire Indian body-Politik.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2019.