Kashmir returning to UNSC raises several legal questions

A United Nations logo is seen on a glass door in the Assembly Building at the United Nations headquarters in New York City September 18, 2015.

A United Nations logo is seen on a glass door in the Assembly Building at the United Nations headquarters in New York City September 18, 2015.

In view of China’s letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the Kashmir issue, experts and veteran diplomats are indicating that irrespective of the outcome, the discussion is a diplomatic landmark as the last time the most important U.N. organ discussed Kashmir was decades ago in 1971.

“Last of the Kashmir related resolutions came up in 1971 during the Bangladesh war which led to the Simla agreement. Following that, the issue was more or less kept away from international platforms,” said K. Natwar Singh, former External Affairs Minister.

UNSC Resolution 307 had taken up the Kashmir issue in the backdrop of the war of 1971 while demanding ceasefire between India and Pakistan.

A former diplomat who represented India at the U.N. pointed out the closed discussion will have to first address whether the current letter from China is suitable to be discussed under “India-Pakistan Questions”, a title which was used to discuss Kashmir since 1947-’48 till 1971. After the Simla Agreement of 1972, India had informed the U.N. about the treaty which had turned Kashmir into a bilateral subject.

“Therefore, the UNSC first of all has to discuss if the members have the legal space to deal with the subject at all under the “India-Pakistan Questions” as mentioned in the Chinese letter as U.N. was duly informed that India and Pakistan had termed Kashmir as a bilateral issue through a treaty,” the veteran diplomat said.

India has maintained that the August 5 decision to end the Special Status for Kashmir is a strictly bilateral affair which is not having any bearing on Pakistan. However, Pakistan has been carrying out an international campaign to take it to the UNSC once again. The role of China in this case has also come under spotlight as the letter from Beijing was sent a day after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar returned from Beijing where he had met his counterpart Wang Yi and explained India’s official stance on the Kashmir issue. China had expressed unhappiness over the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir which led to the creation of a new Union Territory of Ladakh which hints at Indian claims over Aksai Chin that is part of the discussion on India-China Boundary Question.

Veteran diplomats say that a mention of Kashmir at this time in the UNSC is not a positive turn as it indicates that China is eager to pacify Pakistan’s concern and Russia, by not stopping the meeting, has indicated that it is not willing to play the role that it used to play during the 1970s and 1980s when the fear of the veto from Moscow under the Soviet Union was a significant deterrent for any Pakistani action at the UNSC on Kashmir.

Though Pakistan took up the issue in 1994 at the U.N. human rights body, during the tenure of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, Kashmir did not figure under the India-Pakistan Questions since December 1971. It, therefore, needs to be seen how various member-countries make their respective moves on the lingering issue in the meeting at the U.N.

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