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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Pakistan continues to seek outside mediation on Kashmir as rebuffs pile up

Only China, among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has responded harshly to the change in the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir

india Updated: Aug 13, 2019 22:32 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Yashwant Raj
Pakistan’s appeal to both the UN secretary general and the UNSC chair now stand rejected by both. (Photo @SMQureshiPTI)
Pakistan’s appeal to both the UN secretary general and the UNSC chair now stand rejected by both. (Photo @SMQureshiPTI)
         

Pakistan continues to seek third-party mediation and intervention on Kashmir despite repeated rebuffs, with Poland, the current president of UN Security Council, being the latest. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States appealed for American intervention in an op-ed and interview in a leading news publication, seeking to transactionally leverage its continued cooperation in the Afghanistan peace process.

These efforts have found no traction so far as demonstrated Monday when the Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz summarily rejected a direct appeal for a UNSC discussion of the Kashmir developments made to him by Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi in a phone call.

“The dispute between the countries could only be solved through dialogue, as also called for by the European Union,” the Polish foreign ministry said in a readout of their phone call. As a rotating UNSC chair for August, the minister added, “Poland would closely monitor developments in the region and maintain regular contact with the partners.”

Qureshi’s direct and personal appeal to his Polish counterpart followed outreach to the Poland permanent mission to the United Nations in New York last week in which Pakistani Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi met Polish Permanent Representative Joanna Wronecka and handed over a copy of a letter Qureshi had written to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

Pakistan’s appeal to both the UN secretary general and the UNSC chair now stand rejected by both. Guterres, in fact, raised the Simla Agreement of 1972 in his response, pointing to an undertaking from India and Pakistan as part of that pact to resolve all their disputes bilaterally.

But Pakistan plowed on. The Polish foreign ministry said that in the Monday phone call, which was initiated by Pakistan, Qureshi “presented Pakistan’s negative position on the decision adopted by India’s parliament on August 5 to change the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The chief of Pakistani diplomacy underlined the lack of legal legitimacy for the status change and the difficult situation of the local population. He expressed his hope that the situation in Kashmir would be the subject of discussion at the UNSC, which Poland chairs in August.”

Pakistan’s frustration at these continued rebuffs was voiced eloquently by Qureshi at a recent news conference in Pakistan. “Giving vent to emotions is easy and raising objections is much easier. However, it is difficult to understand the issue and move forward. They are not waiting for you with garlands in their hands. Any members out of the P-5 nations can be a hurdle... Do not live in the fools’ paradise.”

That was on Sunday, the day before he called Czaputowicz.

Only China, among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has responded harshly to the change in the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and because, among other reasons, it believes itself to be a stakeholder on account of areas of the state it grabbed after the 1962 war.

Russia, also a P-5 country, has in fact supported India on the status change, and said last weekend, “We proceed from fact that the changes associated with the change in the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its division into two union territories are carried out within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of India.”

The United States has also not responded to Pakistan’s repeated efforts to mediate the dispute, each of which was launched in the hope of building on President Donald Trump’s ad-libbed offer of mediation, which has since been taken off the table, during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s US visit. The United States says that while it stands ready to assist, India and Pakistan should resolve the dispute through “direct dialogue”.

In a thinly veiled transactional move, Pakistan is linking its Kashmir appeal to the United States to the Afghan peace process, which is currently of over-riding concern to the Trump administration.

Reminding the United States of Pakistan’s support for the peace process, the Pakistani envoy to the US, Asad Majeed Khan, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post Monday, “The time is now for the United States to make good on Trump’s offer of mediation — not for Pakistan’s sake or for India’s sake, but for the sake of the only people who have not been heard since India gagged them a week ago: the people of Kashmir themselves.”

Pakistan is playing a critical role in the Afghan peace process, by using its clout with the Taliban to agree to the talks, which was poised at a crucial juncture. Khan was invited to the White House last month to obtain Pakistan’s full cooperation, with buy-ins from its powerful military and the spy agency ISI, whose heads were present at the meeting with Trump.

Pakistan is now seeking to leverage its Afghanistan role to seek US mediation on Kashmir, as Ambassador Khan wrote in the op-ed and reiterated in an interview to the New York Times. Seeking to not sound transactional, the envoy said to NYT, the two processes are “not an either-or situation”, but the changes in Kashmir could force Pakistan to move its forces from the western border, where they are deployed to prevent the Taliban safe haven in Pakistan, to the eastern border, with India. “We have our hands full” on the western border, he is reported to have said in the interview, and added, “If the situation escalates on the eastern border, we will have to undertake redeployments.”

A response was awaited from the state department to this public appeal from the Pakistani ambassador for mediation.