GENEVA/ISLAMABAD: The international diplomacy on the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) gets into high gear this week, with both the United Nations and Pakistan piling up pressure on India, as the biggest curfew the world has ever seen in recent years — enforced by India in the occupied Muslim-majority territory — enters its second month affecting eight million people.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi landed in Geneva on Monday to join the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, which was opened by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet with a blistering critique of the Indian-imposed restrictions. Qureshi’s arrival marks acceleration of efforts by Pakistan and the pro-Kashmir activists to push for a multilateral intervention in Kashmir, the chances of which have increased since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ill-fated and controversial decision to revoke the autonomy of Indian-Occupied Kashmir.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, used strong words to describe the situation in the occupied Kashmiri territories. “In relation to Kashmir, my Office continues to receive reports on the human rights situation on both sides of the Line of Control,” Bachelet said. She added, “I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned Pakistan, but reserved her harshest criticism for India, “While I continue to urge the Governments of India and Pakistan to ensure that human rights are respected and protected, I have appealed particularly to India to ease the current lock downs or curfews, to ensure people’s access to basic services, and that all due process and rights are respected for those who have been detained.” Without directly mentioning the controversial Indian constitutional clause, Article 370, Bachelet issued a veiled criticism of India’s recent unilateral moves in the Indian-occupied Kashmir taken without consulting Kashmiris. “It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future,” Bachelet said.
There was a yet another diplomatic setback for India when the UN Office of the High Commissioner added the situation in Assam, in the list of urgent international crises. This is the first time the internal Indian situation has attracted a direct UN intervention. The UN High Commissioner also spoke on the situation in the Indian state of Assam. “The recent National Register of Citizens verification process in the northeast Indian state of Assam has caused great uncertainty and anxiety, with some 1.9 million people excluded from the final list published on 31 August,” Bachelet said, adding, “I appeal to the Government [of India] to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood will add to the pressure on India when he speaks at a seminar at Palais des Nations, the UN Building in Geneva, on Tuesday (today). The blunt title of the seminar shows the current aggressive trajectory of Kashmir diplomacy. The seminar is titled, ‘Kashmir Under Siege.’
The Pakistan’s foreign minister will likely take another dig at India when he heads to Geneva Center for Security Policy on Sept. 11 to discuss Pakistan’s foreign policy and the regional environment. In both speaking engagements, Qureshi is expected to try to convince diplomats, human rights activists and international security researchers that India is responsible for the dangerous escalation in Kashmir and South Asia, that India failed to resolve Kashmir conflict in 70 years, frustrated all bilateral peace overtures, and will be responsible for any conventional or nuclear armed conflict in the region that might erupt if the conflict is left unresolved. Pakistani diplomacy is focused now on demonstrating how a mediated, multilateral settlement is the only way forward in Kashmir, ending with a UN-supervised referendum.
This year, the UN in New York and Geneva will witness a strong Kashmiri presence. In addition to FM Qureshi, another top Pakistani official, prime minister’s special envoy and former foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua, is in Geneva since a couple of weeks to lobby her wide network of friends in the international diplomatic circles and bureaucracy. She had served in Geneva as a permanent representative at the UN.
Moreover, a high-level Kashmir delegation is at the 42nd Session of UNHRC to lobby the UN system, states and INGOs on the deteriorating situation in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir. The delegation is coordinating with the Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora to organize a major peaceful protest in front of the UN building in Geneva next week, and hold a series of briefings for the diplomats and INGOs. The delegation has representatives from both the sides of Kashmir: Azad Kashmir and the Indian-occupied territories. Altaf Hussain Wani, from Srinagar, heads the delegation.
The UN high Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelett concerns over the deteriorating situation in the IHK came as a rude shock to the Indian government on Monday. Before her address, India had sent in a strong delegation to lobby with the council, and this also included Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria and others from the Ministry of External Affairs. According to India’s news channcel NDTV, India had “received a sharp nudge from the chief of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, as severe restrictions imposed on Kashmir entered their sixth week”.
Welcoming the UN rights chief’s objective analysis of the worst human rights situation in the IHK, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the UN Human Rights Council to immediately set up an independent investigation commission to probe human rights violations as recommended by the UNHCHR’s two reports on Kashmir.
He also welcomed the growing concerns and demands by the international community, global leaders, and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres asking India to lift its six-week siege of the IHK. In a series of tweets, Imran said the international community must not remain indifferent to the massive human rights abuses by the occupation Indian forces under a cover of brutal siege. The prime minister on his twitter account further said that it was time to act now.
“I especially welcome the statement by the UNHCHR in Geneva today. I call upon the UN Human Rights Council to immediately set up an indep (independent) investigation commission to probe human rights abuses in IOJ&K as recommended by the UNHCHR’’s two reports on Kashmir. The time to act is now,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office of Pakistan said the UN High Commissioner’s concerns and calls were consistent with the position taken by the UN system vis-à-vis the human rights situation in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) including the continuing restrictions and crackdown on fundamental rights and freedom of Kashmiri people.
Responding to a media question about the remarks made at the 42nd session of Human Rights Council in Geneva by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights about the deteriorating situation in the IHK, the spokesperson, in a statement, noted certain important points with appreciation. He said the UN High Commissioner had expressed his deep concerns about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and detention of local political leaders and activists. He appealed particularly to India to ease the current lock downs or curfews to ensure people’s access to basic remedies and that all due process and rights were respected for those who have been detained.
“It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making process that has an impact on their future,” the press release quoted the UN High Commissioner as saying.