Back to UN Kashmir enjoys the centrality

‘Calm’ ostensibly seems to have returned to boisterously resonating streets of Srinagar and other towns. Unlike many in Kashmir who articulate vehemently that  ‘calm has been coerced through curfews’ many in New Delhi relate return of ‘silence to the streets’ to the visit of the All Parties Delegations to the State. I am not here to debate and discuss this “calm” but to look at the effects of the three months ‘unrest’ in the state that an Arab journalist Tariq A. Al-Meena in an article in the Arab News called as “real” in a bigger frame and in the context of its international dimensions:

One, Kashmir is back in the United Nations Security Council, two, there is a renewed debate on the birth of this dispute, three, parallels drawn between Palestine problem and Kashmir dispute, fourth, Kashmir assuming centrality to the United States policy in South-Asia and fifth, Kashmir dispute gaining entry into Sino-US relations.

Kashmir dispute as has been repeatedly said by many historians came into being in 1947 from the moment India and Pakistan as independent dominions succeeded the old British Indian Empire.It assumed international dimensions on January 1, 1948, when this issue was first referred to the Security Council of the United Nations. Many Indian writers not only with the right wing Hindu Chauvinists background but even those   looking at   Jawaharlal Nehru   as founder of modern India call it as his greatest mistake. M.J. Akbar one of official biographers of Nehru called it as a ‘blunder’.  Though the debate had been relegated to archives the recent unrest in the state and killing of 109 children and youth renewed this debate. Stating that India was in ‘immature state’ in 1948, former Indian diplomat and foreign minister, Natwar Singh said in a newspaper interview that ‘going to the UN Security Council was an act of misjudgment.’ India right in 1948 had called Kashmir as dispute, which was endorsed by taking it this international forum chapter VII- where under international disputes are settled.( Indian Express September 28, 2010).

Historian Alastair Lamb believes that Kashmir dispute was well established before this date and it had become ‘cancer in the international relations of international relations of South- Asia.’ I need not to repeat here marathon debates in the UN Security Council and the resolution adopted thereof- majority of Kashmir remember them as textbook lessons. But what is important about the debate that was kick started by Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday (28 Sept 2010) is that it took place after seventeen years, to be more precise it echoed after thirty nine years with intensity.

In 1993, Pakistan introduced a resolution on Kashmir but it withdrew the same at the intervention of Iran with the assurance that it would mediate between New Delhi and Islamabad for hammering out solution of the dispute. After this withdrawal that India described as Pakistan diplomatic debacle Islamabad besides engaging with New Delhi on tract two on Kashmir piloted many other solutions outside the Security Council resolution. Though many  commentators in Pakistan look at the government in Islamabad as “spineless” but it was the Kashmir situation that perhaps forced it to raise the issue at this international forum. Highlighting the situation as obtained in the state for past over hundred days, Pakistan Foreign Minister besides calling for an international intervention asked for “peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions and taking into account the aspiration of the people of the state. He told the 129 member Assembly that for ‘durable peace and stability in the South Asian region resolution of Kashmir dispute had become imperative. Pakistan demanding holding of plebiscite in the state ruffled many feathers in New Delhi. Indian Foreign Minister snubbed the idea by stating that the elections held in the state during past sixty years were plebiscite. His remarks generated a lot of debate in academic circles and political circuits of Kashmir and may refer to the 24th June 1957 resolution of the Security Council that very explicitly mentioned that the elections in the state could not be construed as a disposition of the right to self-determination in the state. I leave this debate to academia.

The question arises that if it was one-time -appearance of Pakistan in the Security Council or it would endeavor to rebuild Kashmir case in this international forum but it has generated a debate in experts conversant with UN mandate in situations like the one that has been obtaining in the state that if a resolution in the UN Security Council could be introduced by an OIC member country seeking implementation of the UN resolution on Kashmir. Some have quoted article 103 of the UN Charter that ‘suggests that the UN resolution on Kashmir will take precedence over all other international agreement on the same issue. The experts also hold the view that the resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter were legally binding on the parties. They also hold the view that “Article 25 also reiterates their obligatory nature. The Security Council, under the UN charter has the power to enforce its decision and resolutions militarily or by any other means necessary, the powers that it has used during the Korean War in 1950 and in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991.”

  Looking at the debate of Kashmir being taken to UN once again in right perspective it does not seem something to happen given   Pakistan’s isolation at the international level and India’s ascendancy to the club of big powers.

 It is yet again a big question  if OIC – would venture into deciding for introduction of a resolution in the UN on Kashmir through a member state as was done by the United States in 1949 by co-sponsoring resolution on Kashmir. Pakistan also does not seem inclined for taking Kashmir to UN once again but is looking for the resolution through negations and has been persistently demanding the resumption of composite dialogue.

Kashmir dispute is not as important to Muslim world as Palestine is a fact. The Arab News   in its valued editorial on Kashmir hinting towards this a few days back said, “Regardless of what some people think, Kashmir is not Palestine. It is not a country that has been stolen, its people forced into exile, their lands seized and colonized. It is more comparable with Northern Ireland or the Basque country where a significant percentage of the population does not feel to be part of the state they find themselves in”. But the debate that this editorial had generated in this paper was suggestive that people in the Muslim world where now feeling more concerned about Kashmir than it was in the past.

The debate that has been generated internationaly in the wake of recent unrest in the state does not only tacitly but approvingly suggest that Kashmir problem is gaining centrality in the international relations more particularly in South Asia. True, the story that India’s berth as permanent member in the Security Council was tethered to the resolution of Kashmir has been placed at rest by the State Department. But, it is becoming more than clear from the commentaries on Bob Woodward’s latest book “Obama War” that provides ‘clearest thinking of the President Obama that the  top US policy makers are  mulling on defusing the Kashmir situation as part of an exit strategy for US from the AfPak theater.”
  
Notwithstanding many international Kashmir historians putting their fingers crossed about Kashmir dominating the visit of the Obama to India yet there are some experts in New York and Washington that look at the visit as ground breaking so far as the resolution of Kashmir.

 “He may lay the ground work behind closed doors, and possibly conduct some shuttle diplomacy”, wrote a friend in response to my previous article on the subject. And yet another friend wrote, as you know India is becoming such an important player for the United States, not just as a counterweight against China but also as the stable power in the region when Pakistan appears to be so unstable I think he will only do this in the context of preserving the Indo-US relationship.’

The skepticism about Obama directly talking Kashmir resolution to New Delhi apart from the fact remains that Kashmir is slowly gaining centrality in the international debates as a problem that needs to be settled for global peace.

(Mail at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)