UN seeks inquiry into alleged human rights violations in Kashmir: A brief history of body's attempts to intervene in dispute

The United Nations on Thursday released the first-ever report on alleged human rights violations in both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, demanding an international inquiry into the claims.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein called for maximum restraint and the establishment of a commission of inquiry. "It is also why I will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir," he said.

This is not the first time the UN has taken a stand on the Kashmir conflict. In fact, the history of the UN's take on Kashmir is nearly as old as the dispute itself.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A brief history of UN in Kashmir

In 1957, the legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir adopted its Constitution modelled along the lines of the Indian Constitution. Since then, the Indian State has considered Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of its territory.

Things were quiet until the first India-Pakistan war in 1965, and the UN mandated a ceasefire agreement between the neighbours in September the same year. In addition to the UN, the United States and the former Soviet Union also mediated in the conflict and helped India and Pakistan achieve their ceasefire. On 10 January, 1966, the two countries signed the Tashkent declaration.

As reported in The Times of India, the then UN general secretary U Thant made hectic efforts to end the conflict. "In September, the UN Security Council, by resolution 209 (1965), called for a ceasefire and asked the two governments to cooperate fully with UNMOGIP (UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan) in its task of supervising the observance of the ceasefire. Two days later, the council adopted resolution 210 (1965), by which it requested the secretary general to exert every possible effort to give effect to the present resolution and to resolution 209 (1965), to take all measures possible to strengthen the UNMOGIP and to keep the council promptly and currently informed on the implementation of the resolutions and on the situation in the area," the article said.

It was calm for the next six years, until hostilities resumed and culminated in the 1971 India-Pakistan war. With heavy casualties on both sides, former US ambassador to the UN, George HW Bush — who would go on to become the US president — introduced a resolution in the UN Security Council, calling for a ceasefire.

However, as mentioned in this article by Rediff, the Soviets vetoed this resolution. "The following days witnessed a great pressure on the Soviets from the Nixon-Kissinger duo to get India to withdraw, but to no avail," the report added.

In the next few decades, Pakistan moved the UNMOGIP — formed to observe and report ceasefire violations — on several occasions. However, as reported in the International Journal of Research, India has bristled at the presence of UN observers in Kashmir and insisted that it is a matter that needs India's internal resolution.

The Shimla Agreement

In July 1972, the two countries signed the Shimla Agreement with the aim to resolve the Kashmir dispute, upholding the inviolability of the Line of Control and stating that all issues must be resolved bilaterally.

It is something that India has often cited while refusing UN intervention in Kashmir. As reported in the International Journal of Research, India's contention has been that the UN needs to respect the Shimla Agreement and let India and Pakistan resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has insisted that the Shimla Agreement cannot override UN resolutions. As recently as 2016, Pakistan's then prime minister Nawaz Sharif wrote to the UN, urging efforts to end the "persistent and egregious violation of the basic human rights" of the Kashmiri people.

The country's external affairs ministry also insisted that the Shimla Agreement cannot override UN resolutions. The spokesperson for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tasnim Aslam, had said she failed to understand "how one country can decide that UN resolutions are no more valid" and how a bilateral agreement can "override UN Security Council resolutions"

Even if India and Pakistan do reach an agreement on how the Kashmir dispute is to be settled, she added, they would have to go back to the UN Security Council to get another resolution to endorse the agreement for it to be legally binding. So rejecting the UN entirely is out of question.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 09:13:48 IST

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