A View from Pakistan: Rethinking the Kashmir policy?

The ongoing violence in the Indian Controlled Valley of Kashmir raises a fundamental question: why Pakistan is not approaching the UN General Assembly and Security Council to take notice of serious human rights violations by the Indian security forces and reaching the final settlement of an issue which is lying with the United Nations since 1948?

According to the UN Charter, any member of the UN can approach the General Assembly or Security Council and request to admit a case involving a dispute with another state. In fact, it was India which approached the United Nations when war broke out between India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir in 1948 and accepted the option of plebiscite which it reneged later on.

Violence in the Valley of Kashmir, which is controlled by India, is a major destabilising factor in South Asia. Since 1990, Indian controlled Kashmir is in turmoil and more than 100,000 people have been killed in the last 28 years in periodic clashes between Muslim demonstrators and the Indian security forces including those killed and injured in siege and search operations and the use of inhuman pallet guns.

According to the details of the Charter of the UN any matter which may be considered as a threat to international peace and security can be brought before the attention of Security Council which consists of five permanent and ten non-permanent members. For instance, according to article 34 of the Charter of the UN, ‘the Security Council may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.’ Whereas, article 35 of the UN Charter clearly states that ‘any Member of the United Nations may bring any dispute, or any situation of the nature referred to in Article 34, to the attention of the Security Council or the General Assembly.’ Therefore, it is not only the option of approaching Security Council which any member of the UN may exercise in case of its conflict with another state or a serious threat impacting on international peace and security but can also approach the General Assembly. The UN Charter in its article 33 suggests that, ‘the parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiations, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their disputes by such means.’

Notwithstanding the option of approaching UN Security Council, special sessions and special emergency sessions of UN General Assembly can also be held to examine threat to peace, breach of peace and act of aggression on the request of seven members of Security Council or majority of the members of the UN. Since the inception of the United Nations till today scores of special sessions and special emergency sessions of the UN General Assembly have been held to discuss various unresolved issues ranging from South West Africa (Namibia) Lebanon, Tunisia, Arab occupied territories including illegal Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Afghanistan and so forth. But not a single special session or the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly has been held on Jammu & Kashmir whereas; from all standards it is an international dispute still pending before the UN.

Why the UN, particularly its organs like Security Council and General Assembly have not taken up the issue of Jammu & Kashmir which is no doubt an international flash point because of two wars fought between India and Pakistan (1948 and 1965) and the war on Kargil? Is there any obstacle for Pakistan to approach the UN to take up the dangerous situation in the Indian controlled Valley of Kashmir? Why the UN Security Council, which in 1948 under India’s request to invoke article 35 of the Charter of the UN acted and passed resolutions calling for a ceasefire, withdrawal of forces and the holding of an internationally supervised plebiscite to let the people of Jammu and Kashmir decide about their future, i.e. if they want to join India or Pakistan but since the last several decades is silent on that issue?

One can examine three factors to contemplate why the UN option has not been exercised to resolve the Kashmir conflict and why Pakistan has not approached that International Organisation. First, it is argued, mostly from the Indian side that the Simla Pact signed between India and Pakistan on July 2, 1972 bound the two countries to resolve all outstanding disputes including Jammu & Kashmir through bilateral means and refrain from unilaterally altering the line of control resulting from the ceasefire line of December 17, 1971. Therefore, whenever, Pakistan tries to raise the Kashmir issue in any international forum, India reminds Pakistan of the Simla Pact which urges the two countries to resolve their contentious issues bilaterally.

For Pakistan that clause of Simla Pact is like a devil and a deep blue sea situation. It has its limitations while raising the Kashmir dispute internationally but when it urges India to discuss the issue of Jammu & Kashmir through bilateral talks like the stalled comprehensive dialogue, India scuttle such efforts. Second, Pakistan’s inability to effectively raise the Kashmir issue in international forums, instead of sending delegations visiting different western capitals of the world under the auspices of Kashmir committee, is also responsible for the marginalisation of Kashmir conflict. Kashmir committee or for that matter other similar initiatives to promote the cause of the people of Jammu & Kashmir experiencing brutalities of Indian military operations are fine but active networking, mobilising public opinion and influencing policy makers of the permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council will be more effective than holding protest marches, demonstrations and conferences in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan don’t need any mobilisation for the cause of Kashmiris because they are already actively supporting them. Apart from the members of Security Council, other countries and organisations with substantial influence and clout in global and regional affairs must also be approached with professional expertise in order to influence public opinion and the policy-making circles.

Third, apart from the Simla Pact, India also quote a clause of UN Security Council resolution adopted on April 21, 1948 in which it asked the Government of Pakistan to seek the withdrawal of all its nationals from Jammu and Kashmir and allowed India to retain minimum force till the time plebiscite is held under the supervision of plebiscite administrator. But, India detracted from the clause of Security Council resolution which called for the holding of plebiscite. Certainly, if India agrees to the holding of plebiscite under a neutral international supervision, Pakistan will not have an issue in withdrawing its forces from its controlled parts of Jammu & Kashmir.

It is high time, Pakistan rethinks its Kashmir policy and approach the UN Security Council and General Assembly to take note of deteriorating situation particularly in the Indian administered Kashmir.

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