UN Security Council reviews situation in occupied Kashmir

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a meeting on Wednesday on Jammu and Kashmir and reviewed the situation in the India-occupied valley.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, currently on a mission to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran, also reached New York on Wednesday afternoon and met UN leaders before proceeding to Washington.

His first meeting was with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, followed by a meeting with the President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

Although the UNSC meeting took place behind closed doors, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun spoke to journalists outside the chamber, confirming that the council had reviewed the situation in the occupied land.

“We had a meeting on Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. “The Security Council heard a briefing from the secretariat on the situation.”

The ambassador recalled that recently Mr Qureshi had written letters to the Security Council to pay attention to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The issue of India and Pakistan is always on the agenda of the Security Council,” said the Chinese ambassador while pointing out that “recently, we have also seen some tensions.”

Asked what China’s position on the situation in Kashmir was, he said: “Our position is very clear.” China recognises Kashmir as a territory disputed between India and Pakistan and openly supports Islamabad’s demand for a plebiscite to enable the Kashmiri people to decide their own future.

The ambassador did not explain if the council discussed a report by the UN Military Observer Group over the situation along the Line of Control, as expected, or it was a different brief. Several civilians and soldiers have been martyred due to Indian aggression along the LoC and Pakistan has already warned the council that such violations could further aggravate the situation.

On Aug 16, the UNSC also considered the volatile situation in Kashmir, addressing the issue in a meeting focused solely on the dispute. This was the first such meeting since 1965.

The August meeting was held on China’s request, which asked the world body to review the rising tensions between South Asia’s two nuclear powers over the dispute. The issue had remained dormant since December 1971, when the UNSC held its last meaningful meeting on the Kashmir issue.

Another meeting of UNSC’s five permanent members was called on China’s request in December 2019 when the council asked the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to submit a report on the situation in Kashmir. The council also agreed to hold a special meeting on Kashmir to consider the UNMOGIP report.

On Wednesday evening, Mr Qureshi left for Washington where he is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of his efforts to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States.

The foreign minister has already visited Iran and Saudi Arabia where he urged the leaders of the two countries to exercise restraint.

Mr Qureshi raised the Kashmir issue in his meetings with UN leaders in New York, reiterating Pakistan’s position tensions in Kashmir could lead to a larger conflict in the region. He also urged the United Nations to play its role in resolving this 72-year-old dispute.

New Delhi’s recent annexation of occupied Kashmir has further aggravated the situation, as India placed the valley under a punishing lockdown to curb an expected backlash against the annexation.

New York’s Kashmiri community has planned a major protest outside the UN building on Jan 26, which is India’s Republic Day, to draw attention to India’s illegal annexation and continued human rights violations in the occupied valley.

In a statement on August 8, the UN secretary-general voiced concern over the situation and said, “the position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the Charter of the United Nations and applicable Security Council resolutions.”

The UN chief said he was “concerned over reports of restrictions on the Indian-side of Kashmir, which could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region”, and called on “all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020