The United Nations cannot simply be written off
Kashmir and UN
NYLA ALI KHAN
The role of the United Nations in the Kashmir dispute is undeniable. Recent statements made by the Government of India about disregarding the role of the UN in Jammu and Kashmir and reducing the Kashmir issue to a bilateral one, between the Governments of India and Pakistan, are quite distressing. Several nations are signatories to the United Nations Charter and have committed themselves to uphold that charter in word and deed. India, which has often invoked moral superiority on other international issues, is now, without batting an eyelid, talking about disregarding world judgments on a very important issue close to home. Disputes are not resolved by violence, but they are not resolved by the blatant disregard of an important body of world opinion either. The United Nations cannot simply be written off. This is a “truth” that even mainstream politicians in the NC and PDP need to realize. The security of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be guaranteed without the unconditional support of all the neighboring states, superpowers, and the United Nations. That is the reality of global politics.
I found a letter written by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to the United Nations Security Council in 1957, while he was in incarceration, in which he invokes the moral, legal, and constitutional authority of the people's voice. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's credo is now, sadly and painfully, non-existent. The "leaders" of today in Jammu and Kashmir use the slogans of “plebiscite,” “autonomy,” and “self-rule” just for rhetorical purposes.
In 1949 the president of the UN Security Council, General A.G.L. McNaughton of Canada, endeavored to outline proposals to resolve the dispute. He proposed a program of gradual demilitarization and withdrawal of regular Indian and Pakistani forces, which were not required for the purposes of maintaining law and order from the Indian side of the cease-fire line. He also proposed disbandment of the militia of J & K, as well as of forces in Pakistani-administered “Azad” Kashmir. McNaughton recommended continuing the administration of the Northern Areas (NA) by the local authorities, subject to UN supervision. He recommended the appointment of a UN representative by the secretary general of the UN, who would supervise the process of demilitarization and procure conditions necessary to holding a fair and free plebiscite (Das 1950). Although McNaughton’s proposals were lauded by most members of the Security Council, India stipulated that Pakistani forces must unconditionally withdraw from the state, and that disbandment of Pakistani-administered Kashmir troops must be accomplished before an impartial plebiscite could be held (Rahman 1996: 90–91). In the interests of expediency, the UNCIP appointed a single mediator, Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations representative for India and Pakistan, Australian jurist and wartime ambassador to the United States, to efficiently resolve the conflict.
A meeting of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s National Conference was convened on 18 April 1950, in order to pass a resolution expressly warning the United Nations to take cognizance of Pakistan’s role as the aggressor (Korbel 2002: 170). Even as Abdullah was aware of the infeasibility of withdrawing the Kashmir issue from the UN, the NC reiterated its commitment to securing the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir. It was suspicious of the UN, which was subservient to the hegemony of the United States and the United Kingdom and flinched when it came to holding a plebiscite in Kashmir (Korbel 2002: 259). Abdullah declared that if a plebiscite was held in Kashmir and the people of Kashmir did not validate the accession to India that would not imply that, “as a matter of course Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan. . . . It would regain the status which it enjoyed immediately preceding the accession [i.e., independence]” (The Hindu, 26 March 1952). In 1949 Abdullah candidly told Michael Davidson, correspondent of the LondonObserver, that, “Accession to either side cannot bring peace. We want to live in friendship with both the Dominions” (quoted in Saxena 1975: 33).
The distrust that pervaded the Kashmir political scene was outlined by the Communist paper People’s Age, which assessed the report of the United Nations Commission to the Security Council as an instrument of the political intrigues and machinations of imperialist powers against the engendering of democracy in J & K. It was critical of the complicity of Pakistanwith these powers to destroy the beginnings of a democratic mass movement. It evaluated the attempt of the United States and the United Kingdom to preside over a purportedly “free and fair” plebiscite that would be held “under the direction of the military and political agents of American imperialism, masked as the UNO Commission officers,” as a strategy on their part to create and secure war bases on the subcontinent against the Soviet Union and China (Krishen 1951: 38).
As a placatory measure, in 1949 the UNCIP declared that “the Secretary-General of the United Nations will, in agreement with the Commission, nominate a Plebiscite Administrator who shall be a person of high international standing” (Dasgupta 1968: 402–03). Needless to say, the plebiscite was never held. The inability of the Indian government to hold a plebiscite is regarded by the Pakistani government and by pro-independence elements in Kashmir as an act of political sabotage. The Indian government has been rationalizing its decision by placing the blame squarely on Pakistan for not demilitarizing the areas of J&K under its control, which was the primary condition specified by the United Nations for holding the plebiscite. Josef Korbel, the Czech UN representative in Kashmir, observes that ten weeks after the Security Council had passed an injunction calling on both India and Pakistan to demilitarize the Kashmir region within five months, Sir Owen Dixon found that not an iota of work had been done in that regard. Although both parties had agreed to hold a plebiscite in the state, they had failed to take any of the preliminary measures required for a free and fair referendum. Sir Owen Dixon, therefore, decided to take matters into his own hands and asked for the unconditional withdrawal of Pakistani troops. This was followed by a request to both countries to enable the demilitarization of Kashmir. The then prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, agreed to initiate the process by calling for the withdrawal of his troops. But this request, which would have enabled the maintenance of law and order, was denied by India (Korbel 2002: 171). The rationale that India provided for its denial was the necessity to defend Kashmir and maintain a semblance of order. India vehemently opposed any proposal that would place Pakistan on the same platform as India, and that would not take into account the incursion of Kashmir territory by Pakistani militia and tribesmen. In order to neutralize the situation, Sir Owen Dixon suggested that while the plebiscite was being organized and held, the entire state should be governed by a coalition government, or by a neutral administration comprising nonpartisan groups, or by an executive formed of United Nations representatives. But his proposal did not meet with the approval he expected. In a further attempt to resolve the conflict, Sir Owen Dixon propounded the trifurcation of the state along communal or regional lines, or facilitating the secession of parts of the Jhelum Valley to Pakistan (Ganguly 1997: 3–4, 43–57; Rahman 1996: 4).
Despite the bombastic statements and blustering of the governments of both India and Pakistan, however, the Indian government has all along perceived the inclusion of Pakistani-administered J & K and the NA into India as unfeasible. Likewise, the government of Pakistan has all along either implicitly or explicitly acknowledged the impracticality of including the predominantly Buddhist Ladakh and predominantly Hindu Jammu as part of Pakistan. The coveted area that continues to generate irreconcilable differences between the two governments is the Valley of Kashmir.
Sir Owen Dixon nonetheless remained determined to formulate a viable solution to the Kashmir issue and suggested that a plebiscite be held only in the Kashmir Valley subsequent to its demilitarization, which would be conducted by an administrative body of UN officials. This proposal was rejected by Pakistan, which, however, reluctantly agreed to Sir Dixon’s further suggestion that the prime ministers of the two countries meet with him to discuss the viability of various solutions to the Kashmir dispute. But India decried this suggestion. A defeated man, Sir Dixon finally left the Indian subcontinent on 23 August 1950 (Korbel 2002: 174). There seemed to be an inexplicable reluctance on both sides, India and Pakistan, to solve the Kashmir dispute diplomatically and amicably. Sir Dixon’s concluding recommendation was a bilateral resolution of the dispute with India and Pakistan as the responsible parties, without taking into account the ability of the Kashmiri people to determine their own political future.
After Dixon’s inability to implement conflict mitigation proposals, Frank Graham was appointed as mediator in 1951. Graham proposed the following: a reaffirmation of the cease-fire line; a mutual agreement that India and Pakistan would avoid making incendiary statements and that would reassert that Kashmir’s future would be decided by a plebiscite; and steady attempts at demilitarization. But he was unable to dispel the doubts raised by the governments of India and Pakistan on securing the approval of both governments on a strategy for withdrawal of forces from the state, and agreement of both governments on a plebiscite administrator (ibid.: 239–40). Given the unviability of its proposals, the UN soon bowed out of the political quagmire, leaving an unhealed wound on the body politic of the Indian subcontinent: the Security Council resolutions affirming that the future of the state should be decided by its denizens.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST
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