ISLAMABAD: Taking notice of over 200-day long curfew in India-held Kashmir, United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres on Sunday called upon India to ensure that the people of the occupied valley enjoyed the same fundamental rights and freedom of movement as being enjoyed by the people of Azad Kashmir.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, he called for resolution of the Kashmir dispute by honouring resolutions of the UN Security Council. The UN chief offered his role as a mediator and said his good offices could be used for this purpose.
Talking about the relations between Pakistan and India, he stressed the need for de-escalation, both militarily and verbally.
The press conference took place after a meeting between Mr Guterres and Mr Qureshi.
“We have taken position about the need for Security Council’s resolutions to be implemented for effective de-escalation.
Guterres asks India to respect fundamental rights of people living in held valley
“Another important aspect, which needs full respect of human rights and continental freedom in Jammu & Kashmir, is that people should have free movement as it has in Pakistan’s side. I hope this will also be achieved on the other side [India]. I have offered my good offices in relation to the situation and our position is that the Security Council’s resolutions be implemented,” he added.
Mr Guterres said good offices only work when accepted by both sides. “Diplomacy and dialogue remain the only tools that guarantee peace and stability with solutions in accordance with the Charter of United Nations and resolutions of the Security Council,” he said, adding that he had repeatedly “reiterated my offer to exercise my good offices should both sides ask”.
Talking about occupied Kashmir and tensions along the Line of Control, the UN chief said he was “deeply concerned” and had “repeatedly stressed the importance of exercising maximum restraint”.
He lauded Pakistan’s contributions to the UN peacekeeping efforts as well as inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor. Calling the Kartarpur initiative a “symbol of interfaith harmony, a unique experiment in cross-border ties”, Mr Guterres said the opening of the corridor showed “Pakistan’s commitment to peace”. He expressed his desire to visit the Kartarpur corridor.
He also noted Pakistan’s efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process, repatriation of refugees and to combat the growing threat of global warming by starting initiatives like the billion-tree tsunami campaign.
The UN secretary general is on a four-day visit to Pakistan to attend an international conference titled “40 Years of Hosting Afghan Refugees in Pakistan”.
Mr Guterres said: “One of the main purposes of my visit is to spotlight the real Pakistan with all its possibilities and potential.”
The two-day conference in Islamabad, starting on Feb 17, would be a recognition of Pakistan’s “tremendous generosity” in hosting millions of refugees from Afghanistan over four decades, UN secretary general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric had said at a regular briefing at the UN Headquarters in New York on Friday.
The conference being organised by the government of Pakistan and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Various senior US officials will also attend the conference.
During his visit, Mr Guterres is expected to meet Prime Minister Khan and other high-level government officials, his spokesman said. The UN secretary general will meet President Arif Alvi on Monday. On Tuesday, he will visit Lahore where he will meet students and attend an event on Pakistan’s polio vaccination campaign. He will also visit the Sikh holy site of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
Speaking at the joint press conference, Foreign Minister Qureshi said his sitting with Mr Guterres was “the most interesting and rewarding meeting that I have had with him, so far”.
Mr Qureshi highlighted Pakistan’s concern over India’s actions in occupied Kashmir and last year’s decision to strip the region of its special status, terming it a “unilateral approach”. He drew the UN chief’s attention to the ongoing lockdown and communications blackout in occupied Kashmir and said that “all shades of Kashmiri opinions, barring the BJP mindset, have rejected those actions”.
He said the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control had increased since the events of Aug 5, 2019, when India abrogated occupied Kashmir’s special status.
Mr Guterres and Mr Qureshi stressed that for successful repatriation of the Afghan refugees it was important to have a roadmap and a “pull effect”. They urged the international community to assist in creating a safe and secure environment for the refugees to return.
The UN chief’s spokesman had said Mr Guterres would not be visiting the disputed Kashmir region during this trip.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020