NEW YORK: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi has called for action on part of the UN, not just words, to deal with the grave crisis stemming from India’s ‘illegal’ annexation of occupied Kashmir.

In an interview with Consortium News, an independent American current affairs television channel, she also asked the UN to push for implementation of the Security Council resolutions that pledged the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri people to decide their future.

Ms Lodhi highlighted the gravity of the situation in the disputed state where people have been suffering under a repressive military lockdown for more than a month, and urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take steps to prevent a bigger crisis in South Asia.

“What has happened in occupied Jammu and Kashmir is certainly a flashpoint,” she said, while noting that the secretary-general and other UN officials have made statements in the wake of the ongoing crisis that called for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute through dialogue between India and Pakistan in accordance with Security Council resolutions and provisions of the UN Charter.

Maleeha Lodhi tells world body Pakistan needs action, not just words

“But we need action. We just don’t need words. We need action,” she said emphatically.

“There are already tensions which are at a peak between India and Pakistan and the situation can snowball into a much bigger crisis,” the Pakistani envoy warned.

“So, I think, the UN certainly has longstanding obligations, and it also has immediate obligations, including ending the human rights violations that are going on.”

Ambassador Lodhi said Prime Minister Imran Khan was “absolutely right” in repeatedly warning that the situation in Kashmir could turn into a bigger crisis. “This is a very fraught situation,” she said.

About the UN secretary-general’s role, the Pakistani envoy said his offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute has repeatedly been rejected by India.

“So, where are we right now? India refuses to talk to Pakistan, India refuses to accept mediation whether it is mediation offered by President (Donald) Trump or it is offered by the UN secretary-general, and India refuses to abide by it human rights commitments ... This is a litany of no, no, no to everything except to repression, oppression, violations and acting with impunity which its occupation forces are doing in Kashmir.”

Questioned about Pakistani military’s statement pledging to exercise all options, Ambassador Lodhi said: “I think that the intent of that statement was to say that we will stand by the people of Jammu and Kashmir, they are not alone, that we would continue to be their protector and that we would continue to speak out for them and whatever we can do and that all diplomatic and political options will be exercised by Pakistan which is exactly what we are doing.”

About the possibility of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, Ms Lodhi said that Islamabad does not wish to see any kind of conflict. Pakistan, she said, was a responsible nuclear weapon state.

“That is why we are urging the international community that it must step in before the bigger crisis. We do not wish to see a bigger crisis. There is a crisis that is going on now in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The crisis has affected the daily lives of men, women and children and before it gets out of hand, it’s important that the international community acts to prevent any bigger crisis.”

At the outset of the interview, Ambassador Lodhi explained the main features of the decades-old Kashmir dispute, and said: “The story of Kashmir is a story of monumental tragedy, of broken promises, human rights violations, military occupation and what we see today: a curfew that has lasted for over 35 days with all of Jammu and Kashmir being turned into an armed cage, with people not even allowed to come out of their homes.”

Asked whether India’s actions in occupied Kashmir could be compared to what Israel was doing in occupied Palestinian territories, she said that the India’s August 5 action seemed to be right out of the Israeli playbook and the way the Israelis have treated the people of Palestine.

“Both issues are about an occupied people and occupied territory. Both issues are among the oldest issues on the UN Security Council agenda. Both issues concern the lack of implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. And both issues are about the plight of the people who have been dispossessed, who have seen their liberty taken away from them in every possible way,” the Pakistani envoy said.

“So, I think when we talk about the people of occupied Kashmir, we must remember this is about people who are in deep distress, who are held prisoners in their own land, who are not free, whose children cannot go to school. One teenager lost his life today to pellet gun injuries. What you are looking at is a situation of deep distress.

“And I think the fact that human rights organisations like Amnesty, like Human Rights Watch, like the Committee for the Protection of Journalists are all speaking out, they are calling out India’s outrageous behaviour and its cruelty to the people of occupied Kashmir,” she added.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019