UNITED NATIONS: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again raised his voice in support of the Kashmiri people when he told the 75th UN General Assembly on Tuesday evening that there could be no peace in South Asia until this long-simmering dispute was resolved.

Mr Erdogan, in his video-link address to the august gathering, told the United Nations to “accurately and sincerely evaluate” its performance if it wanted to stay relevant in today’s world.

“The Kashmir conflict, which is key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue,” said the Turkish leader, reminding the UN that its resolutions on Kashmir have remained unimplemented for more than 70 years.

Mr Erdogan also condemned India’s Aug 5, 2019, decision to illegally merge the disputed territory with the union.

“Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir further complicated the problem,” he said.

Emphasising the need to find a peaceful solution to a dispute between South Asia’s two nuclear powers, he said: “We are in favour of solving this issue through dialogue, within the framework of the United Nations’ resolutions and especially in line with the expectations of the people of Kashmir.”

UN resolutions call for a plebiscite in Kashmir to enable the Kashmiri people to decide their own future but India continues to deny them this fundamental right.

“In order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbours, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, not through clashes,” Mr Erdogan said.

The residents of the occupied valley were “virtually under blockade with eight million people, unfortunately, unable to step outside of Kashmir,” he said while referring to an Indian government clampdown imposed last month.

The Turkish leader won widespread acclaim for raising an issue that seems to have been pushed to the backburner because of India’s growing economic strength.

Thousands of Kashmiris and Pakistanis flooded social media with messages thanking Mr Erdogan for taking up this issue.

OurVoiceErdogan became the top trending hashtag on Twitter, garnering nearly 300,000 tweets in a few hours.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2020