UNHCR report on Kashmir is low on facts and a likely product of China-Pakistan connivance

The first report by UNHCR on Kashmir, although talking of both sides of the LoC, focusses mainly on serious violations in Jammu and Kashmir between July 2016 and April 2018, alleging some 145 civilians killed (without mentioning terrorists, including Pakistani ones) by security forces and up to 20 civilians killed by armed groups. UNHCR commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called for maximum restraint and denounced the lack of prosecution of Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir due to a 1990 law that gives them what he called "virtual immunity" (read: AFSPA). He went on to demand a commission of inquiry by the Human Rights Council, opening a three-week session in Geneva on 18 June, into all violations, and investigation of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and the state.

India has rejected the report terming it "fallacious, tendentious and motivated", questioning its intent in bringing out a selective compilation of largely unverified information to build a false narrative. The Ministry of External Affairs noted:

"The report violates India's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression. We have repeatedly called upon Pakistan to vacate the occupied territories. The incorrect description of Indian territory in the report is mischievous, misleading and unacceptable. There are no entities such as 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir' and 'Gilgit-Baltistan'... The motivated report deliberately ignores that fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution to every Indian citizen, including in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, are protected also by an independent judiciary, human rights commissions, free and vibrant media and an active civil society."

India has also informed the UNHCR of its deep concern over individual prejudices being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution, that such malicious reports cannot undermine the will of India and that all measures necessary to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from cross-border terrorism will be taken. That the report is malicious and mischievous is without doubt because the reference to Pakistan can best be described as 'in passing', mentioning no figures, as done in the case of India.

 UNHCR report on Kashmir is low on facts and a likely product of China-Pakistan connivance

Representational image. PTI

There is no mention whatsoever of Balochistan where Pakistani genocide is unabated and the discovery of mass graves has been reported in the past. There is no mention of the Pakistani export of terror either. In the case of Afghanistan, the UN Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been periodically mentioning (by name) Pakistan-based terrorist groups operating in the country. It stands to reason that a UN report on Kashmir should have mentioned Pakistan's proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir and named the terrorist groups responsible. But the report doesn’t even mention the extrajudicial killings in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan's military courts that are unconstitutional. The preamble to the 1949 UN Convention of Kashmir called upon Pakistan to withdraw its forces from PoK, thereby acknowledging Pakistani aggression.

The UNHCR commissioner is known for his eccentric ways, even going beyond his charter. In September 2016, he attacked Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, calling him a "bigot", which led Russia to lodge a formal complaint with the UN that Zeid was overstepping his limit and that he should stick to his file. In December that year, Zeid condemned Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte for the killings of the drug mafia, but Duterte responding saying he would burn down the UN. Despite the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), in August 2016, Zeid demanded India and Pakistan give "independent observers" access to Kashmir.

There have been two recent instances where UN officials may have been bribed (see here and here). China has also been interfering in the UNHCR mechanism, with the agency ignoring treatment and protection of human rights activists critical of China, bending to the wishes of China thwarting UN scrutiny of its own human rights record. Whether or not UN officials are being bribed in this scenario is still unclear.

It is quite possible that the UNHCR report has been initiated at the behest of Beijing and Islamabad, with Pakistan mentioned superfluously in the report to avoid suspicion. The timing has been matched with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary and working group meetings (24 to 29 June), where there is every possibility of Pakistan being 'greylisted', something China will find difficult to defend. This UNHCR report is likely to be used to deflect terrorism support by Pakistan. India has already responded to the report. It is time New Delhi takes up strongly for Pakistan to vacate PoK.

The author is a veteran lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2018 09:07:23 IST