Guterres on IHK

Updated February 19, 2020

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, after his arrival in the country on Sunday, made some bold and principled comments regarding the situation in India-held Kashmir.

However, the UN chief’s words have elicited an expectedly rigid, arrogant reaction from the powers that be in Delhi, indicating that perhaps the dispensation that rules India is not interested in a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir question, and is intent on raising the geopolitical temperature in South Asia. Mr Guterres called upon India to ensure that the people of IHK are given their fundamental rights.

Unfortunately, since August of last year, occupied Kashmir has been turned into an open-air prison, not unlike Gaza, where a crippling communications blockade has made the lives of locals miserable.

The UN head added that he has “offered my good offices in relation to the situation” while noting that the relevant Security Council resolutions must be implemented. However, Mr Guterres was quick to add that good offices only work when accepted by both sides. Sure enough, the Indian external affairs ministry replied to the UN secretary general’s offer by saying that “there is no role or scope for third party mediation” where the Kashmir issue is concerned — essentially reading from its old script.

It is frankly appalling that Delhi has snubbed a respected multilateral office such as that of the UN secretary general. It shows that under the veneer of democracy and respect for international law, the Indian ruling clique plays by its own rules and throws international conventions to the wind.

It is an internationally recognised fact that Kashmir is a disputed issue, and no amount of legal and constitutional subterfuge by India can change that. It is also quite shocking that Indian officialdom has the gall to lecture the UN’s head on what is a bilateral issue, and what is not. Pakistan has long welcomed efforts by the international community to help resolve the thorny Kashmir issue, while India has consistently shot down such efforts by invoking the principle of bilateralism. If bilateralism had worked in this case, Pakistan and India would not have fought numerous wars over Kashmir, and the issue would have been long settled.

Antonio Guterres deserves kudos for having the courage to raise the Kashmir issue despite India’s bullying and intransigence. Unfortunately, many other world players prefer to keep silent or at most offer mute criticism of Delhi’s brutal treatment of Kashmiris. And anybody who dares to speak up for the besieged people of Kashmir is harangued by Delhi for ‘meddling’ in its ‘internal affairs.’ For example, Turkish President Recep Erdogan also raised the issue on his recent trip to Pakistan. In response, India lodged a protest with the Turkish ambassador in Delhi. However, despite India’s bullying, people of conscience must continue to raise the issue of Kashmir the world over, and press Delhi to end its campaign of brutality in IHK.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020