The UN Security Council discussed disputed Kashmir at Pakistan’s request on Wednesday for the third time since India’s Hindu nationalist government decided to end the Muslim-majority region’s semi-autonomy a year ago.
The United Nations’s most powerful body did not take any action or issue a statement after the virtual meeting held behind closed doors.
Nonetheless, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said afterwards holding the meeting signified “that Jammu and Kashmir is an international dispute firmly on the agenda of the Security Council and has nullified, yet another time, the Indian self-serving claim that it is an ‘internal matter’.”
China is seriously concerned about the current situation in Kashmir and the relevant military actions.
On August 5, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped Indian-administered Kashmir’s statehood, scrapped its separate constitution and removed inherited protections on land and jobs.
But the government said the change was necessary to develop the disputed region and integrate it with the rest of India, but it infuriated many Kashmiris as well as neighbouring Pakistan.
Qureshi said in remarks circulated by Pakistan’s UN mission the international community “should exercise its moral, legal and political authority to call out India to reverse the tide of impunity and stop genocide of the Kashmiri people.”
He urged India to reverse its unilateral actions, stop human rights and ceasefire violations, remove restrictions on communications, movement and peaceful assembly and immediately release Kashmir’s leaders.
The Pakistani minister expressed gratitude to the 15 UNSC members, especially China, for their support in organising the meeting in the face of India’s “desperate attempts to prevent this discussion”. When it went ahead, Qureshi said India tried “to minimise the importance and significance of the meeting”.
“China is seriously concerned about the current situation in Kashmir and the relevant military actions. We oppose unilateral actions that will complicate the situation,” China’s mission to the UN in New York said in a statement.
India’s new UN Ambassador TS Tirumurti tweeted after the meeting: “Another attempt by Pakistan fails!”
“In today’s meeting of UN Security Council which was closed, informal, not recorded and without any outcome, almost all countries underlined that J&K (Jammu and Kashmir) was bilateral issue & did not deserve time and attention of Council,” he wrote.
Modi’s move last year was accompanied by a total communication blackout and mass detentions. Some rights groups have been critical of the government’s handling of Kashmir, particularly continuing internet curbs.
“This has been compounded by a censored media, continuing detention of political leaders, arbitrary restrictions due to the pandemic with little to no redressal,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Wednesday.
Kashmir became an issue at the end of British colonial rule in 1947 when the Indian subcontinent was divided into predominantly Hindu India and mainly Muslim Pakistan and its future was left unresolved.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir, which had been a Muslim-majority kingdom governed by a Hindu ruler.
The first war ended in 1948 with a UN-brokered ceasefire that left Kashmir divided, with the promise of a UN-sponsored referendum on its “final disposition” that has never been held.
The UN sent military observers to supervise the ceasefire in January 1949 and, following renewed hostilities in 1971, the UN mission has remained in the area to observe and report to the secretary-general – not to the Security Council as other peacekeeping missions do.
The UNSC held its first closed consultations on Kashmir since 1971 following India’s surprise action in August 2019 to change the Himalayan region’s status.
Speaking on the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir’s special status, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan demanded Kashmiris’ right to self-determination be implemented.
Another attempt by Pakistan fails!
He reiterated the Pakistani government’s support for the long-standing dispute to be settled via a UN-mandated plebiscite.
“Today, [Indian Prime Minister] Narendra Modi is exposed in the world,” said Khan. “And the biggest thing to come from that is that the world is now looking at Kashmir.”
On Wednesday, heavy troops were deployed and curbs on public movement were put in place as Indian authorities kept a tight lid on potential protests in Kashmir. More than half a million Indian troops are already deployed in the region to quell armed rebellion that erupted in 1989.
Local politicians were not permitted outside their homes, likely to prevent them from calling street demonstrations or even from holding meetings, in the strictest lockdown seen in months.
“One year later the authorities are still too afraid to allow us to meet, much less carry out any normal political activity,” former Chief Minister of Indian-administered Kashmir Omar Abdullah said on Twitter. “This fear speaks volumes about the true situation on the ground in Kashmir.”
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. Pakistan denies the charge and says it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the rebels.