United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Kashmir

By Tariq Rizwanuno

Kashmir has once again become a flash point attracting world attention. It is a disputed territory, left over by the British Colonial Power and pending since 1947; when Indo – Pak Sub Continent was divided into two parts, India and Pakistan. Since then Kashmir is considered as the oldest unresolved international conflict in the world today. Pakistan considers Kashmir as its core political dispute with India. The international community also supports it as witnessed by the several resolutions passed by the UNSC. India’s forcible occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 is the main cause of the dispute.

The fact is that all the principles on the basis of which the Indian Subcontinent was partitioned by the British in 1947 justify Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan: the State had majority Muslim population, and it not only enjoyed geographical proximity with Pakistan but also had essential economic linkages with the territories constituting Pakistan. Per contra, India signed’ a controversial document, the Instrument of Accession, on 26 October 1947 with the Maharaja.and extended all possible military help against the popular will of Kashmiris who wanted to join their Muslim brethren, opting for Pakistan. Today, India claims Kashmir as an integral part, in utter violation of UNSC resolutions. The people of Kashmir and Pakistan do not accept the Indian claim. There are doubts about the very existence of the Instrument of Accession. The United Nations also does not consider Indian claim as legally valid: it recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory. With the exception of India, the entire world community recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory.

It is pertinent to have a bird eye view of Kashmir in its historical perspective. The State has remained independent, except in the anarchical conditions of the late 18th and first half of the 19th century, or when incorporated in the vast empires set up by the Mauryas (3 rd century BC), the Mughals (16th to 18th century) and the British (mid-19th to mid-20th century). All these empires included not only present-day India and Pakistan but some other countries of the region as well. Until 1846, Kashmir was part of the Sikh empire. In that year, the British defeated the Sikhs and sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh of Jammu for Rs. 7.5 million under the Treaty of Amritsar. Gulab Singh, the Mahraja, signed a separate treaty with the British which gave him the status of an independent Princely State of Kashmir. He died in 1857 and was replaced by Rambir Singh (1857-1885). Two other Marajas, Partab Singh (1885-1925) and Hari Singh (1925-1949) ruled in succession. They ruled 80% Muslim Kashmiris in a tyrannical and repressive way.

Kashmiris rose against Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule in 1931/1932 but were ruthlessly crushed. Sheikh Abdullah formed Kashmir’s first political party-the All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference (renamed as National Conference in 1939). In 1934, the Maharaja gave way and allowed limited democracy in the form of a Legislative Assembly. However, unease with the Maharaja’s rule continued. According to the instruments of partition of India, the rulers of all princely states were given the choice to freely accede to either India or Pakistan, or to remain independent. They were, however, advised to accede to the contiguous dominion, taking into consideration the geographical and ethnic issues.

The people of Kashmir were demanding to join Pakistan, however, the Maharaja, fearing tribal warfare, eventually gave way to the Indian pressure and agreed to join India by, as India claims, ‘signing’ the controversial Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947. This was spelled out in a letter from the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten, to the Maharaja on 27 October 1947. In the letter, accepting the accession, Mountbatten made it clear that the State would only be incorporated into the Indian Union after a reference had been made to the people of Kashmir. Having accepted the principle of a plebiscite, India has since obstructed all attempts at holding a plebiscite.

In 1947, India and Pakistan went to war over Kashmir. During the war, it was India which first took the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations on 1 January 1948. The following year, on 1 January 1949, the UN helped enforce ceasefire between the two countries. The ceasefire line is called the Line of Control. It was an outcome of a mutual consent by India and Pakistan that the UN Security Council (UNSC) and UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) passed several resolutions in years following the 1947-48 war. The UNSC Resolution of 21 April 1948–one of the principal UN resolutions on Kashmir—stated that “both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”. Subsequent UNSC Resolutions reiterated the same stand. UNCIP Resolutions of 3 August 1948 and 5 January 1949 reinforced UNSC resolutions.

The fresh uprising started in the wake of Uffa Agreement. July 2015 was a busy month for India-Pakistan relations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Ufa, Russia, with the two agreeing that their respective national security advisors would meet to discuss ways to combat terrorism. But just a week or so after this diplomacy, the two countries once again exchanged gunfire across their disputed frontier in Kashmir. According to reports, a heavy exchange between the Indian and Pakistani troops took place along the line of control (LoC) in Jammu’s Poonch district. As usual, each side blamed the other for the incident. An unnamed Indian defense spokesman was reported as accusing Pakistani troops of opening fire on several posts along the Line of Control that divides Kashmir. He was quoted as saying that Indian forces responded with their own barrage to the “unprovoked firing” by Pakistani forces. In contrast, Pakistani officials had earlier said in a statement that Indian troops used heavy weapons on July 18, when Muslims were celebrating the Eid-ul-Fitr (marking the end of the holy month of Ramazan), to pound Nezapir in Kashmir. More clashes and casualties were reported on both sides followed by a single attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab on Monday left seven dead. India has blamed Pakistani terrorists for the attack, an accusation Pakistan has vehemently denied. The continued incidents of firing on LoC and harsh exchange of parleys in UN General Assembly have raised serious concerns about another possible war between the two nuclear rivals.

Above all, the innocent Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Territory have suffered brutalities due to deployment of over seven million troops. The urgency of peacefully settling the dispute was even more compelling today. The calling for termination of consultations, as a precondition for dialogue, is unacceptable as well as counter-productive, referring to the Indian pre-condition for talks. The tension on the Line of Control in Kashmir and the Working Boundary require Pakistan and India to take possible measures to avert further escalation.

The Writer is a freelance journalist, based in London

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