After 48 years, UN Security Council will talk Kashmir

It was in 1971 that the UNSC last discussed Kashmir after India and Pakistan fought a war which later led to the creation of Bangladesh.

There is a deeper context to the latest Indo-Pak border flare-up on August 15. The mortar shelling and small weapons exchange in the forested Krishna Ghati sector along the Line of Control in Poonch is reported to have claimed several lives of combatants, possibly on both sides of the border. While Pakistan military’s publicity wing ISPR named three Pakistani soldiers killed in the cross border shelling, it said five Indian soldiers were killed only to be categorically denied by the Indian Army.

The context lies in the fact that on August 16, 2019, Friday, afternoon (New York time), the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC) will discuss the Kashmir issue for the first time in 48 years. The depiction of a warlike scenario in a flashpoint zone garners more global attention, which translates into more brownie points for the Pakistani effort to wrest the Kashmir issue out of its bilateral framework and put it on the international platform.

In a way, New Delhi’s sudden announcement on August 5 abrogating Article 370 and by corollary 35A, that gave special category status and treatment to Jammu and Kashmir and its citizens, may have got its first significant diplomatic blow. That it would be discussed behind ‘closed doors’ and Pakistan being kept out may be small consolation diplomatically speaking.

It was in 1971 that the UNSC last discussed Kashmir after India and Pakistan fought a war which later led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Since then Indian diplomatic efforts have successfully warded off the tabling of the Kashmir issue at the UNSC platform, not due to lack of effort on Pakistan’s part which has been persistent but more often than not due to Russia’s veto power.

On Friday, the issue will be discussed by the five permanent members—China, France, Russia, UK, and the US—and ten non-permanent members which includes Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Indonesia, Kuwait, Peru, Poland and South Africa. At the moment, Poland is the UNSC president by rotation and will decide the formalities including the exact time of the discussion.

The tabling of the discussion at the UNSC has come about due to China’s intervention which overlooked Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar’s efforts to explain New Delhi’s stand on Kashmir on the Article 370 issue and the granting of Union Territory status to Ladakh. Although pre-scheduled, Jaishankar’s three day China visit that ended on August 12—can be interpreted as an Indian effort to preempt the expected Chinese effort.

Jaishankar, known to be an expert on China from the Indian point of view, enjoys much familiarity with Chinese priorities and interests as he served as the Indian ambassador to China for five years from 2009 to 2013.

China wrote a letter to the UNSC seeking consultations under the agenda item ‘India Pakistan Question’.

Interestingly, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had flown to Beijing on August 9, a day before Jaishankar landed in China, apparently to request China’s help to table the Kashmir issue at the UNSC.

But whether the Kashmir issue will be discussed under the agenda item ‘India Pakistan Question’ remains to be seen. If the matter is allowed to be discussed under the ‘India Pakistan Question’ item, it will negate the bilateral nature of the issue which is what Indian stands by, in accordance with the Simla agreement of 1972. The Simla Agreement set the course for the demarcation of the Line of Control in Kashmir besides complete agreement to resolve disputes peacefully and bilaterally.



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