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India and Pakistan have earned a ‘sad and bad distinction.’ Perhaps in the world, only these two nations since their birth as independent countries are endlessly engaged in war of attrition. The two important South Asian players, now nuclear powers have continuously been exchanging mortar shells and fighting battles along the line Jammu and Kashmir. The line drawn by the United Nations Security to stop the waring countries from fighting and creating peaceful atmosphere for allowing people of the state to decide their future has become cause of tension in region. Moreover, threat to international peace.

The battles are confined just to the temporary borders but have spread over all importnats internations and regional forums.The diplomatic battles over the Kashmir Dispute have become regular feature at the international turfs in New York, Geneva, and other global play fields.Like knights in the medieval times,  the permeant representatives of the two countries continuously enrich their armory of words, phrases, and clichés for outwitting each other in the ‘word- duels’ at the annual meets of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Human Right Commission and at other international forums.

In both, the countries the media instead of questioning the failure of the two countries in sorting out their differences and resolving long standing disputeshave been singing paeans for the diplomats for outsmarting each other at the international turfs. Intoxicated with misplaced patriotism the media in two countries have not been question the policies of perpetuation of disputes that have been arms supplies countries richer and masses of the sub-continent poorer.   In fact, it has been the well calibrated celebrations on the battle of words aimed at outwitting each other at the international forums that have prolonged the disputes. Furthermore made the cloud of wars always loom large on the skies of the sub-continent and threat of a nuclear war hang like Damocles sword on 1.6 billion people in South Asia.

For past seven decades clashingof top Indo-Pak leadership over Kashmir at the UN General Assembly has been an annual ritual. Similarly, the Permanent Representatives of the two countries not only have been articulatingthe statedpolicies of their countries on various forums and floors of the United Nationsbut at times when it comes to the Kashmir Dispute,they evenexchangeacrimonious phrases. So has been holding trueabout meeting at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Instead of working for putting mechanism in place for reining in powers that contribute immensely to human rights violations in Jammu the representative at international forums prefer enter into a blame game.   Nonetheless, for the past few years, the verbal duels on human rights situation in Kashmir has not remained confined only to India and Pakistan diplomats.But, it has been more between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the MEA Government of India.

On Friday, 9 March 2018,Raj Kumar Chander Indian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN offices in Geneva made to headlines in the newspapers and almost for twenty four hours appeared on tickers of hundreds of television channels in India.  The big deal was that he had protested against the statement made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein at 37th session of the Human Rights Council. In his 8197 word keynote address and oral update,about the human right situation across the world he had also mentioned about Kashmir. New Delhi took UN Human Rights Commissioner’s mentioning Kashmir as an umbrage and an extraordinary exception. In his statement, India’s Permanent Representative denouncing the statement remarked that “the update does not reflect the situation in India adequately. There is also a reference to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. There is none to cross-border terrorism. Terrorism is the most fundamental violation of human rights,and we overlook its egregiousness at our peril.” Besides, he also described the statement as “selective and tendentious on human rights issues only serve to undermine the credibility of this approach.”

There was nothing new and big about Kashmir in the keynote address that should have sparked a  serious recation from New Delhi. The address starting with mentionioning of fortitude, suffering, and compassion of Nelson Mandela encapsulates the contrasts to this class of politics: the narrow politicians, authoritarian in nature, prone to intolerance. Besides, itgave an overview of human rights situation in the world. True, the statement does say a lot about dismal situation in India.  Where ‘discrimination and violence is directed at minorities, including Dalits and other scheduled castes, and religious minorities such as Muslims.’ Nonetheless, it says nothing about human rights situation in Kashmir, it did not mention about the unbridled powers that armed forces are enjoying under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the enforced diaspearences and the half-widows, the extrajudical killings, blinding with pellets,  the mass graves and the rape victims crying for justice for years. But, it only reiterated what the the Commission had said earlier. That is refusal of unconditional access to both the sides of the LOC.

In 2016, for the worst ever human rights violations, Kashmir had made to the international press.  Hundreds of children fired upon with pellets with shotguns had lost their vision. Over fifteen thousand wounded with bullets and in baton charges.  Ninety children and youth shot dead.The New York Times had called the spree of blinding of children as ‘epidemic of dead eyes in Kashmir.’ Then the scenario of grave human rights violations had pricked conscience of human rights activists across the world and also sent shockwaves to the United Human Right Commission. In July 2016, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights had asked India and Pakistan to invite UN teams on both the sides of the line of control. Two months later on 13 September 2016 at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, realizing the gravity of the human rights situation in the state besides reiterating the demand for allowing the UN Human Rights teams to visit both parts of the statehe had also demanded sending ofan independent, impartial and international mission to Jammu and Kashmir.Frankly, he had informed the member countries that the commission ‘had received reports, and continue to do so, claiming the Indian authorities had used excessively force against the civilian population under its administration. And furthermore it also had received conflicting narratives from the two sides as to the cause for the confrontations and the reported large numbers of people killed and wounded.’

ZeidRa’ad had also informed the Human Rights Council that he had   received   a letter from the Government of Pakistan formally inviting an OHCHR team to the Pakistani side of the line of control, but in tandem with a mission to the Indian side.’ The Ministry of External Affairs had sharply reacted to the opening statement of the Commissioner for human rights and rejected permitting a human rights team to visit Jammu and Kashmir State. The demand for allowing to UNHRC team to visit the state was repeated in 2017 also.

Indiais democracy with highest voters. It is not a blindspot. In view of the UN resolution and Karachi Agreement between the two countries, the UN Military Observors Group continue to be stationed on both the sides in Jammu and Kashmir. In the fifties New Delhi for finding ways and means for implemenation of UN resolution on Kashmir and creating an alternative for resolution of problem allowed one after another representatives from United Nations to visit Jammu and Kashmir. It has been allowing various embassies to visit Srinagar and meet people- of course enabling them to update their countries about situation as obtaing in the state. Ifa team of the OHCHR is allowed to visit the state, it will enhance India’s image internationally.Furhermore, it will be a way forward for resolving the Kashmir dispute and bringing a lasting peace in the region.

Z.G.Mohammad is Srinagar, Kashmir based author and columnist.

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