Wednesday April 24, 2024

From rhetoric to conflict resolution

By Shireen M Mazari
June 28, 2018

The inadequate response on the part of the state and government (both the previous PML-N government and the caretaker) on Kashmir in the wake of the first-ever report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released on June 14, 2018 is astounding and reflects a serious lapse in responsible foreign policy.

All that Pakistan did was meekly welcome the report even as India was vehemently criticising it. The report is a credible account of the human rights situation that prevails on both sides of Kashmir and is a first step, since the UNSC resolutions, recognising its responsibility to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with the said resolutions.

Had the PTI been in government, the report would have formed the basis for proactive diplomacy in global capitals and international forums from the UN to the OIC, beginning with an immediate invitation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) to send in his team for assessing the situation on the ground in AJK. We should have done it when the report was being drafted, instead of indulging in the usual ‘we will if India will’ approach, as it would have shown our good intentions. There are times in diplomacy when it is more advantageous to adopt a ‘we will do it because we think it’s right regardless of what India does’ approach.

Anyhow, beyond the invitation to the UNHCHR and taking advantage of the OHCHR’s report, Pakistan should have moved proactively on the following:

One: Drawn attention on all international forums, including INGOs dealing with human rights as well as legal forums, to the human rights violations by India in IOK as identified in the report, which are in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and customary international humanitarian law.

Two: With the report refreshing the memory of the international community on Kashmir, Pakistan should have reaffirmed at all forums the continuing legitimacy of the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination. It seems our hidebound decision-makers are not aware that even after 9/11, the principle of self-determination has been recognised as distinct from terrorism – the Almaty Declaration of June 4, 2002 reaffirmed its commitment to the right of self-determination for people remaining under foreign occupation (II:15).

This declaration was adopted by the heads of state/government of member states of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). Both Pakistan and India are parties to this declaration. Not only does the declaration reaffirm the principle of self-determination, it emphasises that this principle must be exercised “in accordance with the UN Charter and international law”. The non-fulfillment of this will pose a threat “to regional and international peace”.

For Pakistan, what could have been a clearer reaffirmation of its position on the Kashmir dispute?

Pakistan should also reiterate the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir and state their linkage to similar UNSC resolutions on East Timor (UNSC Resolution 384 of December 1975 and UNSC Resolution 389 of 1976), which were enforced in 1999, leading to East Timor’s independence from Indonesia through an UN-conducted plebiscite.

It was not that Indonesia wanted this but it was pressured, especially by the US, into conceding to the plebiscite. While the struggle against Indonesian occupation was going on by the East Timorese, their leaders, Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Ximenes, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. It is crucial to remind the world of the parallels between Kashmir and East Timor at all diplomatic forums, including bilaterally by our diplomats in the countries they are serving in. Unfortunately, our state and successive governments have chosen to remain ignorant on this linkage.

In fact, the case of Kashmiris before the UN is even stronger because the occupying power itself took the dispute to the UN under Chapter VI: Pacific Settlement of Disputes. So both Pakistan and India agreed to have UN intervention and the plebiscite.

Three: In the wake of the report, Pakistan should have immediately demanded that the UNSC insist on the return of UNMOGIP and other independent observers into IOK.

Four: Most important, this was the time for the government to present a blueprint for conflict resolution premised upon the principle of self-determination and a plebiscite. At the end of the day, Pakistan cannot simply continue to pay lip service to UNSC resolutions and the principle of self-determination. Nor can it move away from the UNSC framework on which its legitimacy as a party to the dispute rests. It is unfortunate that the state and successive governments have failed to work on a proper blueprint for conflict resolution on the Kashmir dispute within the framework of these resolutions and the self-determination principle.

The Musharraf four points (which were never discussed or worked out in detail before being made public) were a non-starter because they failed to remain within this legal framework. Yet, there exist today a variety of conflict resolution models that have been successfully enforced in different parts of Europe where territorial disputes linked with the issue of self-determination prevailed. There is the Aland Island case, the Trieste case, the Andorra case and, the most viable for resolution of the Kashmir conflict, the Good Friday Agreement, which resolved the Northern Ireland conflict. This agreement was plugged actively by the US, which put pressure especially on the UK, in order to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict.

This model has a direct relevance to the case of Kashmir because it is premised on two interrelated principles. One, it recognises “the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland” (that is going with the Republic of Ireland). There is also a provision for a periodic holding (every seven years) of a referendum in case the people of Northern Ireland appear to change their minds. Two, that deweaponisation will follow the implementation of the settlement. Through this agreement, the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 was repealed.

The agreement is an international agreement between the British and Irish governments with two components: the legal agreement between the UK and the Republic of Ireland; and a lengthier agreement signed between eight political parties involved in the Northern Ireland conflict and the two governments (UK and Irish). While the agreement between the two governments is the actual legal agreement, it incorporates, in its schedules, the two governments’ agreement with the eight political parties.

It is the principles underlying this settlement that are extremely relevant to Kashmir and need to be the basis of any substantive solution relating to this dispute. In fact, out of all the conflict resolution models, this is the only one that is premised on the principle of the right of self-determination and not merely territorial control. The PTI is already in the process of preparing a detailed blueprint towards conflict resolution on Kashmir premised on the principles underlying the UNSC resolutions and the principle of self-determination.

It is unfathomable why the Pakistani state has failed to move on this unless the assumption has been to simply manage the conflict rather than resolve it. After all, in a tunnel-vision approach, once Kashmir is resolved, both the Pakistani and Indian states will have to revisit their investments in the hostility paradigm.

The PTI will have a concrete proposal for conflict resolution to present to our allies and on international forums, which will redefine the debate on Kashmir in different forums and will compel the international community to push for a solution.

The writer is a member of the PTI and the DG of her own think tank SSII. Email: