India’s quiet bid to shore up support for Kashmir move in UN
Pakistan turned to the UNHRC after its efforts, backed by China, to arrange a formal meeting of the UN Security Council on the Kashmir issue were thwarted by countries such as France and the US.Updated: Sep 08, 2019 06:54 IST
India has been conducting a quiet but sustained diplomatic campaign to shore up support for the changes in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and UN General Assembly, where Pakistan plans to corner it on the issue.
Over the past two weeks, senior officials of the external affairs ministry have again briefed envoys and diplomats from key missions in New Delhi, especially members of the UNHRC, on the rationale behind the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 and Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the issue.
The diplomats were told that the effective revocation of Kashmir’s special status and splitting the state into two Union Territories were an internal matter and Pakistan had no locus standi for raising it at international forums, people familiar with the developments said.
The Indian side also sought the understanding and support of all countries, especially members of the UNHRC, where Pakistan intends to raise alleged human rights violations and the revocation of Kashmir’s special status at the session in Geneva during September 9-27, the people, including diplomats of four countries, said.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is scheduled to address the session on September 10, and India has despatched Ajay Bisaria, the envoy to Islamabad who was expelled last month, to Geneva to help in preparations to counter the Pakistani move.
However, India has no plans to send a minister to counter Qureshi at the UNHRC and the country’s delegation will be headed by a senior official of the external affairs ministry. “We don’t want to give importance to Pakistan’s efforts but there will be a response,” said an official who didn’t want to be named.
Pakistan turned to the UNHRC after its efforts, backed by China, to arrange a formal meeting of the UN Security Council on the Kashmir issue were thwarted by countries such as France and the US. The Security Council only held informal consultations on the matter on August 16, and Pakistan is now expected to try and introduce a resolution on Kashmir at the UNHRC, the people said.
India’s diplomatic outreach in recent days has focussed on ensuring that such a resolution doesn’t get the requisite support, especially from countries such as the UK that traditionally speak out on human rights issues, the people said.
Besides the briefings for diplomats in New Delhi, the raising of Kashmir at the UNHRC is believed to have figured in discussions when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister S Jaishankar recently visited countries such as Bahrain, Bangladesh, Hungary and Nepal. All these countries are members of the UNHRC.
The people said the Kashmir issue is also expected to figure prominently in Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at the UN General Assembly later this month. Khan has repeatedly raked up the issue and contended it could trigger a war between India and Pakistan.
Most countries haven’t criticised the changes made in Jammu and Kashmir, describing it as an internal matter of India, but diplomats of three Western countries, who declined to be identified so that they could speak freely on the matter, said the security lockdown, communications blackout and detentions were a matter of concern.
“We have raised this issue in our interactions with Indian officials and called for the easing of the restrictions on phones and internet and the release of detained political leaders,” said a diplomat from a Western nation.
A diplomat of another Western nation said: “We have often criticised China for its actions in Xinjiang. If we are perceived as being silent on the situation in Kashmir, people could question our stance.”
Commodore (retired) C Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies, said India will have to prepare for the equivalent of a concerted Pakistani “offensive” on Kashmir at different UN bodies.
“While political support regarding Kashmir being an internal issue is valuable and an endorsement of India’s credibility in the global arena, it must be acknowledged there is considerable dismay about the clampdown, detention of political leaders and the communication strictures in place,” he said.
“This discordant sentiment will, to my mind, surface in different ways at the September UN deliberations.”