UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General António Guterres on Thursday called on all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir, which is recognised as a disputed territory by the United Nations and the Security Council.

Earlier on Thursday, the United States also noted that India’s decision to annex Kashmir could increase instability in the region.

“The secretary general calls on all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir,” said a statement issued by his office.

Noting that the secretary general was following the situation with concern, the statement clarified that the UN position on Kashmir was tied to its own charter and applicable Security Council resolutions. He also appealed to both India and Pakistan to show “maximum restraint” while looking for means to resolve this 70-year-old dispute.

The secretary general recalled that the 1972 agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, also known as the Shimla Agreement, “calls for the final status of Jammu and Kashmir to be settled by peaceful means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”

Referring to reports of restrictions on the Indian side of Kashmir, Mr Guterres warned that this “could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region”.

In Washington, a spokesperson for the US State Department underlined the Trump administration’s growing concern about the consequences of India’s unilateral decision, announced earlier this week.

“We note the broader implications of these developments, including the potential for increased instability in the region,” the US official told journalists. “We continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern.”

The statement follows a warning from Pakistan that changing Kashmir’s status could have disastrous repercussions.

Calling for “calm and restraint by all parties”, the US official said that Washington was “closely following” India’s legislation that changed Kashmir’s status and was also monitoring the reaction it had triggered.

“We continue to be concerned by reports of detentions and the continued restrictions on the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures, and inclusive dialogue with those affected,” the official said.

Urging all parties to “maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control,” the US official emphasised the need for “taking firm and resolute steps to combat cross-border terrorism”.

In New York, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, met a top aide of the Secretary-General and asked for the world body’s chief to play his due role in the crisis set off by India’s revocation of occupied Kashmir’s special status.

During her meeting with Chef de Cabinet Maria Louisa Ribeiro Viotti, the Pakistani envoy asked for the UN chief to demand that India comply with UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit any alteration in the status of the disputed state.

At a UN news briefing, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the world body was making contacts with the parties at “various levels’ but did not specify the level of those engagements.

“Look, there is no reluctance on the part of the Secretary General. We are very well aware and following the situation with a lot of concern. Contacts are being had at various levels, and we urge all of the parties involved to exercise maximum restraint,” he said.

Mr Dujarric said the secretary general had received a letter from the Pakistani Foreign Minister on the situation in Kashmir.

“It will be circulated as a document of the Security Council, as requested, and we’re obviously studying very closely the content of the letter,” the UN official added.

On Wednesday a senior US official, Assistant Secretary Alice Wells, denied claims that India had shared with the United States its plan about scrapping the autonomous status of India occupied Kashmir (IOK).

“Contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US government before moving to revoke IOK’s special constitutional status,” she said in a tweet posted on the State Department’s official site.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2019

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