UN Report on Kashmir A diplomatic challenge!

Dr. D.K. Giri
A UN High Commission on Human Rights 49-page Kashmir Report has made New Delhi see red. Entitled “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir and General Human Rights concerns in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan”, it has rattled the Government which has outrightly rejected it, lodged a formal complaint to the UN and alleged the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of bias and partisanship. Expectedly, Parties across the political spectrum have rallied behind the Government against the Report.
In a hard-hitting reaction, New Delhi called the summary “fallacious, tendentious and motivated” and charged the Commission for its “selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudicial and seeks to build a false narrative and violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. In a personal attack on the UNHCHR Chief, New Delhi added, “individual prejudices are allowed to undermine the credibility of the UN institution”.
According to the Report between July 2016 and April 2018 security forces killed 145 civilians and “armed groups” killed 20 civilians. It specifically pointed out that “the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1990 and J&K Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) create structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability, jeopardise the right to remedy for victims of Human Rights violation”.
Besides, suggesting that, “any resolution on the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations”. In a separate statement the UNHCHR Chief called upon the 47-member Human Rights Council meeting last week in Geneva “to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent, international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”.
The Report added that “the impurity of human rights violations and lack of access to justice are the key human rights challenges in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Government should immediately remove the requirement of prior permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of violations in civilian courts.”
It also told off Pakistan for its “misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute peaceful activists and quash dissent”. Noting that despite Islamabad’s denials of support to terror groups “experts believe that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the line of control in Indian-administered Kashmir”.
Pertinently New Delhi objects to terrorist Burhan Wani being referred to as ‘leader’ and UN- designated terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and Hizbul Mujahideen called armed groups’. This undermines the UN-led consensus on zero tolerance to terrorism.
Asserting, “terrorism is the most egregious violation of human rights”, India avows the Report’s authors have “conveniently ignored the pattern of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and territories under its illegal control.” The semantic trickery is “deliberate, odious and outrageous” and has glaring in consistencies.
It talks of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) as Azad Kashmir when there are no such entities as Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan which are incorrect descriptions. Moreover, the Report violated the political sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. The entire parts of Jammu and Kashmir belong to India as its integral part, as per the Treaty of Accession and so called Azad Kashmir is illegal.
Recall, the 1949 UN convention on Kashmir preamble called upon Pakistan to withdraw its forces from POK thereby acknowledging its aggression. New Delhi underscored that Indian citizens in Kashmir are well-protected by an independent judiciary, Human Rights Commission, free and vibrant media and an active civil society. Thus, the Report is biased.
It did not mention Pakistan military’s proxy war in Kashmir and even as it calls for an inquiry into human rights violations it is silent on torture and genocide in Baluchistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa.  Shockingly, India has objected to the Report setting moral equivalence between security forces of a democratic country and UN-listed militant outfits sponsored by Pakistan and pointed out UNHCHR Chief Zeid Al Hussein’s doubtful credentials.
Is there a political vested-interest angle to the Report? Some observers aver perhaps it is engineered by a China-Pakistan Axis wherein its authors might have been ‘bribed’. The summary’s timing also raises suspicion as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is meeting in plenary and working group between 24-29 June. The Task Force bans all financial transactions with a country supporting terrorism.
In all probability, Pakistan would be ‘grey listed’ which China would find difficult to oppose. Possibly, the Report was published before this meeting to deflect Pakistan’s support of terrorism. Two, China would like to hide its own record in Xinjiang where artificial-intelligence based surveillance has totally breached the ethnic minorities privacy.
Questionably, is the Report a diplomatic failure of India’s foreign policy machinery to prevent its preparation and release? Did they not know it was underway? What was the need for such a first-time Report given there is a four-yearly Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights? Why did India not object to its preparation based on secondary sources and interpretations when no UN official visited Kashmir? It is another matter India does not allow UN officials as it is an internal matter.
Further, why is India on the defensive on Kashmir? Why is it not claiming and campaigning for POK’s accession to India, which Pakistan is occupying by force? Why is the Central and State Governments not spelling out its Kashmir policy? In fact, many including some militants expected that with BJP heading the Centre the Kashmir imbroglio would be solved.
Furthermore, despite Prime Minister Modi’s much-vaunted diplomacy the UN came out with a Report which for the first-time indicts the Indian Government. Not a few feel Modi’s informal summits marked by sight-seeing and romantic walks around lakes in China is alienating friends without earning partners.
Interestingly, RSS’s report on India’s foreign policy dubs China as the main enemy. Is Modi, caught in a self-contradiction? Is India paying a heavy cost for its balancing act, a new strategy in-lieu of non-alignment? Questions, which Modi-led New Delhi has to answer.
In sum, while the Government might search for answers, we need a more pro-active policy on Kashmir to stop bloodshed on both sides. New Delhi wants to solve it bilaterally with Pakistan but how can there be a bilateral solution without both agreeing to meet or talk? Pakistan-backed terrorists will have to lay down their arms before any talks can start.
Hugs and handshakes cannot go with military boots pounding on both sides. Pakistan has to be made to realise that terrorism is not a preferred way. India should do so, not by knee-jerk reactions but by a calculated strategic military approach. A lot of international diplomacy has to precede such a military message. The UN Report is a wake-up-call for our fledgling diplomacy and feeble military action. We must do a course correction.  INFA

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