Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General (SG) of the United Nations tweeted on August 23, 2023, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our worst enemy is complacency. We must continue to make human rights real in the lives of people everywhere.’ Honorable Antonio Guterres, I had written to you on January 7, 2017, upon assuming the office of the Secretary General that the unanimity of the Security Council is indicative of their wisdom in believing that you are an ideal candidate with the character, vision and talent to face the growing challenges in an ever-expanding global community. Six years later, I still believe that you are the right person to pave the way to settle the complicated international conflicts like Kashmir.
As you know it very well that Kashmir is not a new issue, having been on the agenda of and in the cognizance of the United Nations for nearly 76 years. Ironically, it is the only entity in the Sub-continent of South Asia, which has so far been denied the opportunity to determine its political future. This lapse, which represents a great historic injustice, deserves to be made up far.
It is often suggested by so-called experts of South Asia that if people had jobs, there wouldn’t be such turmoil and rebellion in the streets. But when the human rights of Kashmiris are so consistently violated that such suffering becomes the norm, world powers seem to forget that the pain of losing one’s son to a bullet or having the honor of one’s mother or sister violated cannot be replaced with a job at an electronics factory as suggested by Amit Shah, Interior Minister of India. The cry for self-determination has become deep and immersed in a bitterness that has no substitute. As one of the internationally known Indian human rights defender, Arundhati Roy said on October 3, 2019, when asked, ‘What do the people of Kashmir want?’ She said, ‘They’ve (Kashmiris) been saying it for 70 years. They’ve been saying it loudly. They’ve been saying it with their blood since 1990. Of course, it’s self-determination. You know, of course, it’s self-determination.’
It is worth noting that Kashmiris’ claim to self-determination is exceptionally strong even without the United Nations recognition. Kashmir has been historically independent, except in the anarchical conditions of late 18th and the first half of 19th centuries. And also, the territory of Kashmir is larger in size than 121 independent countries and bigger in number than 117 nations of the world.
The nation of Kashmir still remembers, Mr. SG, when Narendra Modi abrogated Article 370 & 35 A on August 5, 2019, his aim was not the resolve the issue but to dissolve it? Then on August 8, 2019, you gave hope to 23 million Kashmiris by articulating the principled position of the United Nations that Kashmir issue has to be resolved under UN Charter and applicable UN Security Council resolutions. That signifies, Mr. SG that the claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India does not stand. Kashmir has an international dimension that deserves the attention of the U.N. and the global community.
It is important to observe that when we talk about the international dimension of Kashmir, it is because it has the sanctity of the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions and has become a big hurdle or obstacle in the growth and stability of both India and Pakistan. The unresolved conflict over Kashmir threatens the international peace and security of the world. It is far past time for the UN to take forceful action in order to restore peace to Kashmir. Perhaps invoking Article 99 ought to be recognized as an option to consider in dealing with this problem, because nothing else to date has worked. It’s time for the UN to restore the faith of common people that it is an agency that can live up to its bold charter and mission of bringing peace and stability to the world.
Indian Defence Review reported on September 12, 2020, that ‘India has made very strong appeal for permanently removing the Jammu & Kashmir issue under outdated agenda item of the India-Pakistan question from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) agenda.’ Narender Modi Ji and Dr. Jaishankar Ji know it well that the United Nations resolutions can never become outdated or obsolete or overtaken by events or changed circumstances. Mere passage of time or the flight from realities cannot alter the fact that these resolutions remain unimplemented until today. The passage of time cannot invalidate an enduring and irreplaceable principle – the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir. If passage of time were allowed to extinguish solemn international agreements, then the United Nations Charter should suffer the same fate as the resolutions on Kashmir. If non-implementation were to render an agreement defunct, then the Geneva Convention in twenty-first century in many countries is in no better state than these resolutions.
It is high time that we try to make a constructive departure. The best point for doing so is to restore the focus where it originally belonged and where it still rests logically viz: the rights and interests of the people of Kashmir itself. What should be the procedure for putting the dispute on the road to a settlement? The better way would be to ask the Secretary General of the United Nations, with the concurrence of the Security Council, to engage himself, directly or through a representative of high international standing, in a sustained effort of facilitation which should (a) ensure that the position of the people of Kashmir is fully taken into account and (b) aim at a settlement within a reasonable time-frame, providing for a transitional period, if necessary, for a calming effect.
As you have so eloquently stated, Mr. Secretary General on April 4, 2016 that “we need a surge in diplomacy for peace. Under the guidance of the Security Council and in accordance with the Charter, the Secretary General should actively, consistently and tirelessly exercise his good offices and mediation capacity as an honest broker, bridge builder and messenger of peace.” There cannot be a better agency than the Secretary General of the United Nations himself to mediate or facilitate between the parties concerned. Secretary General has no ambition to assert dominance while as great powers do. Mediation by the Secretary General would be free from the jealousies and the ambitions that characterize individual initiative. The Secretary General will have to remain under no obligation to please any particular power or particular set of powers or groups. Yes, there will be resistance from India but if India is impressed with what she would gain by a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute, her negativity may not be insurmountable. It is an impartial third party, especially of the eminence of the Secretary General that can fully convince India the benefits India would have from the just settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
Dr. Fai is the Chairman, World Forum for Peace & Justice.. He can be reached at: WhatsApp: 1-202-607-6435. Or. email@example.com www.kashmirawareness.org