Is Pakistan going to remind the United Nations that the Kashmir dispute is its abandoned baby – crying loudly for an immediate attention? This question popped in my mind this week on reading two columns, one by India’s iconic editor of India Today, Shekhar Gupta, and the second by Arul Louis, an internationally known journalist and editor of ‘The New York Daily News’.
Gupta, brilliantly analysing the impact of the humiliating defeat of the BJP in Delhi Assembly elections, informs Modi about the importance of an opposition in a democracy. He reminds him how former PM Narasimha Rao requested Vajpayee to head the delegation to the United Nation to defend India’s position on human rights violations in Kashmir.
Pakistan, backed by some western powers, had introduced a resolution at the UN in Geneva over human rights violations in Kashmir.. How India ‘won its day’ and what made Pakistan withdraw the resolution is a sad story of Pakistan diplomacy. That also needs to be talked about in this column. However, the question that arises is if Gupta, by referring to Kashmir making it to Geneva in 1994, just wants to illustrate his point on the importance of reaching out to the opposition with a ‘little humility and generosity’ or if he wants to remind Modi that the stalemate over Kashmir could bring Kashmir back to the Security Council.
The observance of Kashmir Day on February 5 in Pakistan this year with special fervour and passion was indicative of India-Pakistan relations becoming more Kashmir specific than trade-oriented. “There is no solution to the Kashmir issue except a plebiscite”, Nawaz Sharif told the AJK Assembly. “I make it clear to the entire world that durable peace in South Asia is linked to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute”. There has been an obvious shift in his mellowed down approach to the Kashmir problem. Some important Pakistan columnists have been tacitly and directly suggesting the need for the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue and even of taking it to the Security Council again.
It seems the mood in Pakistan is to take Kashmir out of the bilateral shell in which it has remained almost entombed since 1971 and bring it back on the floor of the Security Council where it was born. Ostensibly, it seems any move to provide a seat to India on the big table in the UN can work as a catalyst for Pakistan agitating about Kashmir in the Security Council and asking some friendly countries to introduce a resolution for implementation of an ‘international agreement’ or ‘treaty’ on Kashmir signed by India and Pakistan for holding a plebiscite in the conflict-ridden area.
It is yet another debate if Pakistan at present has the required international support needed for passing such a resolution in the Security Council. We are perhaps conscious about not enjoying the same clout at the international level as we did in 1948 when India had complained in the Security Council. The US at that time was the prime mover of the resolutions that guaranteed the right to self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now with Washington having entered into a strategic partnership with New Delhi to contain the growing influence of China in the region and Pakistan retaining its importance for the country in the post-withdrawal phase in Afghanistan it seems a difficult proposition that Washington will go beyond nudging the two countries to resume dialogue for resolution of Kashmir. Nonetheless, Pakistan has ‘signalled’ its new diplomatic push on Kashmir by sending Dr Maleeha Lodhi, “a high-profile envoy to the United Nations”, writes Arul Louis in his recent column: “her prime focus will be creating a clear line on the Kashmir cause”.
In fact after Asif Zardari’s government had replaced Munir Akram in 2008 with Hussain Haroon and Masood Khan, Kashmir had almost been ipso facto deleted from their charter of duties.
Louis rightly points out: “Pakistan’s image problems are many: A sanctuary for terrorist organizations in a country riven by sectarian violence, and where religious fundamentalism is coming to dominate public life.” But, he makes us believe that Dr Lodhi with her ‘experience of having navigated the diplomatic and political circles of Washington during difficult period of the 9/11 as ambassador will be able to refurbish the image of her country.’
Lodhi’s ideas on Kashmir were known when she was Pakistan’s high commissioner in London during the Musharraf government. Also through her columns she continued to focus on Kashmir and advocate its resolution in accordance with people’s fundamental right to choose their destiny.
However, it remains to be seen if Pakistan decides to take Kashmir to UN as it tried in 1994, as Shekhar Gupta reminds Modi. New Delhi did celebrate this resolution’s failure but this was not put to vote. Benazir Bhutto withdrew it at the behest of Iran. India had played its cards very well and succeeded in convincing Iran to pressurise Pakistan to withdraw the resolution.
The US’ proactive role on Kashmir after President Bill Clinton’s reference to the bloody war that raged from Caucasus to Kashmir had made Iran try for a mediator’s role between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. Pakistan agreed to Iran’s suggestion and dropped the resolution. India thanked Iran for its role. “Iran pressure on Pakistan to withdraw the resolution was fuelled by its own desire to prevent the United States from acting as the world’s policeman and keeping it out of the region.”
It seems in 2015 Kashmir is going to remain in focus at the UN.