Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
EVERY year in September, a UN Gala is arranged in the UN’s headquarters in New York. The world leaders gather to share their respective opinions. This year Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan delivered his historical address to the UNGA on 27 September. The Mission Kashmir is the real credo of PM Khan to resuscitate the dead conscience of international community in terms of the pitiable human rights situation in Kashmir and usurpation of Kashmiris’ right to freedom by the Modi Government, which has caused inevitable risks of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. The Modi’s Government move of revoking Articles 370 and 35-A (on 5 August) serves an ample challenge for the UN to protect human rights in Kashmir, exclusively the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. Undeniably, the current crisis situation in Kashmir is an acid test of the UN’s credibility and international rule of law as well.
Although while holding its meeting on August 16 , the Security Council told India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally, albeit it didn’t call a formal meeting or issue a statement. Justifiably, some analysts dubbed the response lukewarm. Understandably yet not surprisingly, this dismaying result or inaction is completely in line with Security Council’s power politics play in the Council, because of growing cleavages among the big powers that sit on it. Still, just dusting off the diplomatic cobwebs was by international standards a big deal. While apparently, “they (Security Council members) are also concerned about the human rights situation there [in Kashmir], and also it’s the general view of members that parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there, since the tension is already very tense and very dangerous,” China’s UN Ambassador, Zhang Jun, said after concluding the meeting. The unprecedented communications blackout imposed on India-occupied Kashmir could signal a departure in the way in which democratic states clamp down on information in contentious areas, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, has said. According to a fact-finding report by a team of five women who visited the region recently, the Indian security forces/authorities have arrested an estimated “13,000 boys” in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5. The UN’s recently published report has exposed the violent governmental rule that India has had imposed on Kashmir. This draconian Indian model of governance warrants the use of excessive force with impunity. And yet failing to arouse the international conscience for a suitable intervention, other than lip service that was duly provided, the report vindicated Kashmiri claim of living in a valley of death and intimidation. Realistically speaking, the Kashmir issue has had made a large question mark over the capacity of UNSC to realise the post Second World War project of collective security, maintenance of peace and containment of conflict.
And yet most pertinently, Article 59 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that if any part of the population in Occupied Territories is inadequately supplied, then the Occupying Power is to agree to relief schemes on behalf of the population and facilitate them in any way it can. All Contracting Parties are to permit free passage of these consignments and guarantee their protection. Similarly, rule 56 of the ICRC’s Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law provides that parties must ensure the freedom of movement of authorised humanitarian relief personnel essential to the exercise of their functions unless limited by military necessity. These limitations are to be temporary in specific areas, not general. Whereas any armed actors inside the besieged area are also obliged to collect and care for the sick and wounded and not divert or frustrate aid delivery to civilians.
“What is going to happen when curfew is lifted will be a bloodbath,” said PM Imran Khan in his address to the UNGA. “They will be out in the streets. And what will the [Indian] soldiers do? They will shoot them … Kashmiris will be further radicalised.” Kashmiris are highly justified in their call for a Commission of Inquiry – an international independent inquiry – is in keeping with past demands by JKCCS and APDP, in light of the unwillingness of Government of India to allow for functioning of any processes of justice and fair and proper investigations, yet unfortunately, UN has not so far taken any action in this regard. If one compares the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip and the Kashmir Vale under the Modi‘s imposed curfew, we find that in many ways, the Indian Government has left behind the Israeli siege.
It is perhaps time that (a) we must be re-examining the link between self- determination and establishment of a state of one’s own, and (b) intrinsically conceptualising self-determination as a constitutive tenant of democracy. By all means, the government of India has to be pressed into realising that while it claims to be the world’s largest democracy, the policies of injustices and its heinous HR violations in the State of Jammu and Kashmir have to be remedied. Ironically, the international community’s attitude toward the Kashmir plebiscite has been to deliberately ignore it and unjustifiably maintain the status quo. But, this past notion, needs to be replaced with growing imperatives and dynamics in Kashmir. “If India does not come to the table, what I am afraid of is resistance in Kashmir by the Kashmiris who will be much more frustrated. It will lead to much more complications,” President Arif Alvi told the Hürriyet Daily News on Sept 21.
US Presidential contender Bernie Sanders writes in the Houston Chronicle: “I believe the US President must speak clearly in support of international humanitarian law and in support of a UN-backed peaceful resolution between India and Pakistan that respects the will of the Kashmiri people. Unfortunately, Trump has chosen to abandon the United States’ global leadership role. He is remaining silent on Kashmir crisis while planning to hold a public rally with India’s Prime Minister’’.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.