Why Isn’t Kashmir on OIC Agenda?

CRPF men stand guard at a closed market during lockdown in Srinagar after the abrogation of Art 370 | KO File Photo: Abid Bhat

By Niloofar Qureshi

EVER since New Delhi abrogated Article 370 in August last year, Pakistan has been demanding that a special meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Foreign Ministers should be convened to discuss this development. However, even though more than year has gone by, this request hasn’t yet been fulfilled. It was assumed that OIC hadn’t accepted Islamabad’s request for convening an unscheduled meeting of OIC Foreign Ministers due to Covid19 pandemic and it was taken for granted that the Kashmir issue would surely be included in the next OIC Foreign Ministers meet.

However, in the statement issued by Riyadh on OIC Foreign Ministers meet commencing on Friday [November 27] in Niamey [Niger], there is no mention of Kashmir issue being on the agenda. This is surprising since Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had given indications that Riyadh had accepted Islamabad’s request after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s visit to Islamabad in December last year. Since this OIC meet is a two-day affair, citing paucity of time as the reason for excluding discussion on the Kashmir issue is not convincing. Moreover, even if this is the case, Riyadh could have easily extended the duration of the meeting to accommodate discussion on Kashmir.

A day after Article 370 was abrogated, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) issued a statement saying that the OIC Contact Group on Kashmir had in an emergency meeting “condemned India’s recent illegal and unilateral steps, aimed at undermining the demographics and the disputed nature of the Jammu and Kashmir in contravention of the relevant UN resolutions, which seriously imperil regional peace and security.” Thus, non-inclusion of this in the OIC Foreign Minister’s meet is clearly a big failure of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy arising out of incompetent handling of the situation.

Islamabad even faced embarrassment when it took the Article 370 abrogation issue to UNSC. Just three days after abrogation of Article 370, when asked to comment on Pakistan’s letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Article 370 abrogation, all that UNSC President Joanna Wronecka said was “No comments.”

At that time, even spokesperson of UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric said “The Secretary-General also recalls the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, also known as the Shimla Agreement, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” Since the UNSC spokesperson talked about the Shimla agreement and Kashmir being a bilateral issue, it was evident that there was no change in UNSC’s stand on this subject.

Next, Islamabad should never have accepted a compromise arrangement of the UNSC discussion on Kashmir being held as a ‘closed door’ meeting because it belittled the gravity of this serious issue. Moreover, since there was no provision of any resolutions being adopted during this meeting or any press statement on the deliberations being issued, Islamabad is guilty of knowingly allowing the Kashmir issue to be ridiculed in an international forum by accepting the UNSC’s casual approach.

This becomes even more serious because the Pakistani establishment was fully aware that the UNSC meet on Kashmir wouldn’t achieve anything, as is evident from the fact that even before the meet was held, Foreign Minister Qureshi warned the people of Pakistan not to “live in a fool paradise” because “They (UNSC members) are not waiting for you with garlands in their hands.”

The second setback Islamabad received was when it got involved in the power tussle within the OIC between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In its eagerness to show support for Ankara, Qureshi went on to issue a crude threat to Saudi Arabia by saying, “I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris.”

The third and most colossal blunder committed by Islamabad is granting provincial status to the ‘disputed territory’ of Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and even though it may not agree, but all stakeholders had warned Government of Pakistan against this move. In its 2014 resolution, Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) assembly had mentioned that “Making Gilgit-Baltistan a fifth province will weaken Pakistan’s national stand on Jammu and Kashmir at the international level.” Hurriyat (G) leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had said that ,”There are no constitutional as well as moral justification in making any decision over any part of this territory without the consent of its people and it is also clear violation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir.”

In his letter to the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik noted that “If Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over GB, India will then have a political and moral right to integrate Kashmir with it. With one stroke, Pakistan will be helping India to consolidate its writ on Kashmir”. And UJC chief and HM supremo Syed Salahuddin also warned that granting provincial status to GB “would impact the Kashmir dispute at the UN and give India a legal and moral pretext to lay claim on Kashmir.” He also clarified that “such an act on part of Pakistan will have serious ramifications on Kashmir issue as well as Kashmir centric UN resolutions (as) Pakistan’s move will give India justification in taking over parts of Kashmir”.

While addressing a Malaysian think tank session on regional peace and security in February this year, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had complained of how OIC members “have no voice and there is a total division amongst (us). We can’t even come together as a whole on the OIC summit meeting on Kashmir.” Islamabad may come out with various reasons like commercial interests of member states with India that is preventing OIC from isolating New Delhi on the ‘K’ issue. However, the actuality is that Islamabad’s weak and ambiguous stand on Kashmir is one of the main reasons of why this issue has not moved a single inch forward even after more than seven decades.

Hence, while Islamabad may try to downplay the GB merger issue but OIC members are not fools to take up an issue that has been technically and legally untenable by the actions of the sponsor member itself. Khan may claim that the decision of granting provincial status to GB was made “while keeping in mind the UN Security Council resolutions”, but if he is right, then going by the same logic apply, how does New Delhi’s decision of abrogating Article 370 violate UNSC resolutions and amount to “illegal annexation” of J&K?

It was precisely in this context the JKLF chairman had three years ago cautioned that “If Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over Gilgit and Baltistan India will then have a political and moral right to integrate Kashmir with it” and rightly noted that “With one stroke, Pakistan will be helping India to consolidate its writ on Kashmir”! Thus, why blame OIC when it’s actually successive governments in Islamabad which have compromised the ‘K’ issue!

Views expressed are author’s own and do not necessarily represent that of Kashmir Observer


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