WASHINGTON: As Pakistan prepares to highlight the current situation in India-held Kashmir at the UN General Assembly and India plans to counter it by raising the Baloch issue, the United States has made it clear that it will not back either side.
“What we have said — nothing is changed about our view that we want to see India and Pakistan work this out bilaterally,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby when asked to define the US policy on Kashmir.
The US was one of the co-sponsors of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 47 that calls for “a free and impartial plebiscite” in Jammu and Kashmir on the question of its accession to India or Pakistan. But since then, it has slightly changed its position and for the past several decades calls for bilateral talks between the two countries for resolving this dispute. Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia and Britain were the other sponsors of the resolution that the UN Security Council adopted at its 286th meeting on April 21, 1948.
When asked how he viewed Pakistan’s efforts to raise the issue at international forums, Mr Kirby said: “That’s for them to speak to.”
A popular uprising in the Kashmir valley this summer has once again highlighted the issue as about 100 people have already been killed and almost 10,000 injured in clashes with Indian security forces.
The killings forced UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein to declare that an international probe into Kashmir killings was imperative now.
Amnesty International also asked India to let its representatives visit the valley to assess the situation but instead of allowing it to do so, Karnataka police based on a complaint filed by ABVP registered a sedition case against the rights group.
In Islamabad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters that Pakistan would ‘forcefully’ raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly in New York this week.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also said that he would raise the Kashmir issue in his address, urging the international community to live up to their promise of the right to self-determination to the people of Kashmir.
Mr Sharif, who arrives in New York on Sunday, has appointed 20 special envoys to travel across the globe for drawing attention to the situation in Kashmir.
Two senior envoys — Senator Mushahid Hussain and AJK President Masood Khan — are coming to Washington early next month to raise the issue with US leaders and at American think-tanks.
India plans to counter Pakistan’s efforts by raising the Baloch issue at the UN and other world forums, arguing that the Baloch are also seeking independence from Pakistan and deserve international support.
India is also backing efforts of some Baloch activists to hold a demonstration outside the UN headquarters during the prime minister’s speech.
Both Pakistan and India are trying to persuade the US to support their positions. The US, however, appears to have decided not to take sides.
Mr Kirby’s stance that the Kashmir dispute should be settled bilaterally between Pakistan and India is apparently a damper for Pakistan’s efforts to persuade other nations to condemn Indian atrocities in the Kashmir valley.
But his statement on Balochistan, at an earlier briefing, was equally, if not more, disappointing for India. He declared unequivocally that “the US government respects the unity and territorial integrity of Pakistan and we do not support independence for Balochistan”.
At Friday’s briefing, the State Department spokesman also ignored efforts to make him condemn the ongoing paramilitary operations in Karachi, but did convey US concern over the situation.
“We’re monitoring those events very closely,” said Mr Kirby when asked what the US assessment was of the Karachi situation.
“We’re aware that Pakistani security forces have arrested some MQM members allegedly involved in violent protests and that these operations have included the closure and demolition of offices deemed to have been illegally constructed,” he said. “But I’m going to refer you to the government of Pakistan for the latest information about these events.”
Asked if the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had shared its assessment of the situation in Karachi with the State Department, Mr Kirby said: “I’m not aware that there had been specific concerns relayed to us by members of the MQM.”
“But have you spoken to the Pakistani officials on this?” asked the reporter.
“We routinely communicate with our Pakistani counterparts about issues like this,” the US official replied.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said a sedition case was filed against Amnesty International by an Indian court. The error is regretted.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2016