Pakistan and India clash over Kashmir at UN

4 November 2008
The Dawn
Masood Haider

United Nations: Pakistan and India clashed in the UN General Assembly’s open debate on Monday over the disputed Kashmir territory after an Indian delegate called it a part of India. “Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognised disputed territory according to several UN resolutions. The Security Council’s demand for free and fair plebiscite under the UN auspices still remains to be implemented,” Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said rejecting Indian claims. Citing the current violence in Indian-occupied Kashmir, Mr Haroon said the occupation forces had brutally killed innocent protesters. The Kashmiri political leadership has been put behind bars to silence their call for freedom. Such actions, he said, created tension and aggravated the situation on the ground. Mr Haroon exercised his right of reply to a statement by Indian delegate Rajeev Shukla claiming Kashmir to be a part of India, and insisting that an earlier speech by the Pakistani ambassador amounted to “unwarranted” interference in the Indian internal affairs and that it was also “factually incorrect”. Mr Shukla said “The people of Jammu and Kashmir exercised their right to self-determination at the time of India’s independence and have since then repeatedly participated in free, fair and open elections at all levels. In contrast, Pakistan pretends to be concerned over human rights, yet denied even a semblance of such rights to the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.” In a hard-hitting response, Mr Haroon said the Indian claims about Kashmiris’ exercise of the right to self-determination through elections had been rejected not only by the UN Security Council but also by the people of Kashmir. “The current response to announcing elections is in front of the whole world. The Kashmiri leadership has once again rejected the so-called elections, they have been put behind bars, and widespread protests in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir are going on”. As regards human rights violations, Mr Haroon said Pakistan had only echoed what had been said and reported both by the international and Indian human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and media about Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. “Pakistan remains committed to the ongoing dialogue between the two countries and considers it an important vehicle for promotion of cooperative and good neighbourly relations as well as peace and security in the region. It is, however, important that the process of engagement produce results in addressing the outstanding issues. It should move from a stage of conflict management to conflict resolution,” he added. While participating in the committee’s debate on “Right of peoples to self-determination”, Mr Haroon said the exercise of that right had empowered suppressed and disenfranchised peoples to strive to achieve equality before the law and to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems. Today, he said, the existence of that right continued to engender hope among millions of the poor and vulnerable, whose fundamental rights to chart their own destiny had been the suppressed or denied. In strengthening the right to self-determination, he said the following principles must be constantly reaffirmed first, the forcible occupation of a people’s territory whose right of self-determination had been mandated by the United Nations should be recognised as a clear violation of international law; second, the right to self-determination must be exercised freely and unfettered by overt and covert coercion or influence; third, the right was immutable and could not be extinguished by the passage of time; and fourth, the legitimacy of a people’s struggle for self-determination could not be compromised by tarnishing it with accusation of terrorism levelled by occupying powers. Turning to the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir, he said that six decades had passed since the Kashmiri people were promised they would be able to exercise their right to self-determination by the United Nations Security Council. However, the inability to remove troops from that area had delayed self-determination and, now, the complete removal of troops ordained by the Security Council resolution could not be ignored. An improvement in the human rights situation in the Indian- occupied Kashmir, he said, would facilitate and enhance the dialogue process between India and Pakistan. He called upon all parties to seize the opportunity provided by the ongoing dialogue to find a negotiated settlement on the Jammu and Kashmir issue.