Despite the raging wars in Syria and Yemen as well as the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, the Kashmir issue reverberated in the halls of the United Nations throughout 2016 as a result of some active advocacy of the cause by Pakistan’s delegation to the UN.
The high point came at the top-level segment of the UN General Assembly in September when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif forcefully pleaded for the implementation of the Security Council resolutions calling for the exercise of the right of self-determination by Kashmiri people through a UN-supervised plebiscite. He also drew the international community’s attention to the sufferings of Kashmiri people under the prolonged Indian occupation.
The prime minister followed up by taking up the Kashmir issue with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as with other world leaders attending the 71st session of the 193-member assembly.
Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi picked up where the prime minister left off and continued to highlight the Kashmir dispute in the backdrop of escalating tensions, and Indian atrocities in India-occupied Kashmir (IOK) after the extra-judicial killing of Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani and innocent protesters demanding freedom from India.
Diplomats here acknowledged the hard work done by Pakistani diplomats in keeping them up-to-date on the situation in Kashmir and in highlighting the decades-old issue. Also, analysts expressed the view that India had failed to portray Kashmiri people’s freedom struggle as terrorism.
Meanwhile, ambassador Lodhi also briefed UN’s Secretary-General-Designate Antonio Guterres on the situation in Kashmir. He will take over as the world’s top diplomat on January 1, 2017.
In the course of her various statements in the General Assembly and different assembly committees, ambassador Lodhi stressed the importance of an independent inquiry into the assassination of Burhan Wani and atrocities against innocent protestors. The plight of the unarmed Kashmiri civilians, killed, blinded and maimed was brought into the sharp focus of the international community.
She stressed that the unresolved Kashmir dispute and the unimplemented Security Council resolutions in this regard made it the most persistent failure of the United Nations.
She also raised the subject several times during her meetings with the UN leadership.
On his part, the secretary-general expressed concern at the significant increase in tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the cease-fire violations along the Line of Control (LoC).
The General Assembly President Peter Thomson also expressed concern and said he would get an update from UNMOGIP on the situation on the ground regarding the LoC violations.
At the Pakistani delegation’s request, the Security Council President Fode Seck briefed the Security Council on the situation, the first such briefing in decades.
In addition, dossiers on Indian atrocities in IOC were also presented to the UN leadership.
Ambassador Lodhi also addressed over 15 letters to the Security Council, calling attention to the situation in IOC and Indian atrocities, and drawing attention to the importance of resolution of this dispute, in accordance with Security Council resolutions, for maintenance of regional and international peace and security.
The session also saw verbal clashes between representatives of India and Pakistan over the deteriorating situation in Kashmir.
The Indian position generally was that Kashmir was an integral part of the Indian Union and that India was a victim of terrorism from Pakistan, citing the Uri attack.
Responding to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s allegations, ambassador Lodhi said blaming Pakistan for the Uri attack was designed principally to deflect global attention from the brutalities being perpetrated by India’s occupation force.
She told the General Assembly that over a hundred innocent Kashmiris have been killed, hundreds blinded and thousands injured by Indian bullets and pellets, including infants, children, women and men. “This is the worst form of state terrorism, a war crime that India has continued to perpetrate in the situation of foreign occupation in Jammu and Kashmir for the past many decades.
“Jammu and Kashmir never was and can never be an integral part of India. It is a disputed territory, the final status of which has yet to be determined in accordance with several resolutions of the UN Security Council,” the Pakistani envoy said.
When an Indian delegate repeated New Delhi’s stand, Pakistani diplomat Tipu Usman took up the cudgels.
“Facts of the matter have not changed,” he said, adding Jammu and Kashmir remains an internationally recognised disputed territory. It is a travesty of justice and morality to stand here in the General Assembly and make claims that are against the principles of international law.
On other fronts, Pakistan made significant gains in promoting the right of self-determination, and its resolution on the subject was passed by consensus, with over 70 co-sponsors, strengthening the case on Kashmir.