India’s unchanged diplomatic course on Kashmir

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani

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India seems to have kept its diplomatic course on Kashmir. Eighty three groups of Indian diaspora have taken exception to the formation of a Conservative Party group on Kashmir and have lodged their complaint to Conservative Party Headquarters, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel. Conservative Member of Parliament Bob Blackman who heads the Conservative Friends of India has asked his party not to recognise the group on Kashmir. It is a targeted and well considered action. Conservative Party group on Kashmir has a challenge ahead.

Under these circumstances Government of Pakistan, Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora and their friends sympathetic to the besieged people of Jammu and Kashmir and their right of self-determination should not be seen slowing down and changing their horse’s mid-stream. They also need to keep the course and add more horses to cross the stormy stream.

Unfortunately, we do not seem to be taking any proportionate and pointed steps to vacate the Indian 427 day’s siege of the people of the Valley. Pakistan has taken upon to advocate the four components of Rights Movement, namely, “Rights and Dignity” and “Security and Self-Determination” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a serious challenge and we should not abandon the people of Kashmir to endure the siege and suffering.

ISLAMABAD: Activists of civil society hold placards during a demonstration on Kashmir issue outside National Press Club in Islamabad on October 3.

At a time when we should be galvanising the interest and responsibility of the people of Azad Kashmir, people of Gilgit-Baltistan, people of Pakistan, Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora, important capitals of the world and the United Nations in favour of the besieged people of Kashmir and against the Indian unlawful re-occupation, we seem to have added avoidable items on our agenda.

We have started a debate that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been left behind and are without a status. There is a debate that we need to amend articles 257 and 1 (2) of the Constitution of Pakistan and embrace GB as a ‘provisional province’ of Pakistan pending the implementation of UN Resolutions.

As a start Government of Pakistan has remained in the direct charge and control of these areas, since 28 April 1949, when Government of Pakistan, Government of Azad Kashmir and a Kashmiri political party (Muslim Conference) entered into Karachi Agreement and distributed 21 responsibilities amongst themselves. Therefore, development and enjoyment of a full regime of human rights should not have been put on hold for the last 71 years. If these areas have been denied development and a full regime of human rights, it is unfortunate. The situation needs to be corrected as early as possible and on a war footing.

Why did we fail in developing a mechanism under which the three parties could sit and appraise the progress on their respective duties? Pakistan has undertaken 8, Government of Azad Kashmir 5 and Muslim Conference 8 duties in the Agreement. The proposal to amend the articles 257 and Article 1 of the constitution of Pakistan to accommodate Gilgit and Baltistan and grant it a “Provisional Provincial Status” is a misdirection of wisdom. It will seriously hurt the jurisprudence of Kashmir Case and would undeniably be considered as a variation in Pakistan’s principled stand on Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 257 would assume itself as a consequence of the decision of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, that they are ready for accession to Pakistan. Exercise of the right of self-determination remains a pre-requisite. A condition and a caveat attends upon article 257. Unless the people of Jammu and Kashmir have a legal capacity and ability, to make a desire for accession, Article 257 would not be fit to perform.

At this point the accommodation of GB into the territories of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, through an amendment would deeply wrong its constituency in a UN supervised Plebiscite and help India to argue her actions of post 5 August 2019 as legitimate. It would be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution of 30 March 1951. We should not be caught in a trap. Pakistan should keep to her statement made in respect of GB at the 228th meeting of the UN Security Council held on 16 January 1948, keep to the Karachi Agreement and keep to the responsibilities assumed in partnership with the Government of Azad Kashmir under UNCIP resolutions.

A solution in respect of GB is provided in Part II A (3) of 13 August Resolution of 1948. It provides for an “administration by the local authorities under the surveillance of the Commission”. Gilgit and Baltistan should return to a “full autonomous entity” as provided under UNCIP Resolutions. Government of Pakistan could act as a “proxy” for UN Commission as it has been doing in the Case of Azad Kashmir. Pakistan could infuse a new life in the Kashmir Case by inviting UN to share in the process of ‘surveillance’. UNCIP Resolutions have explained that this surveillance is not as understood in military terms.

A special status for GB as envisaged under UNCIP Resolutions has a reference in Article 6 of China-Pakistan Agreement of 2 March 1963 lodged with the UN by India with her complaint dated 18 march 1963. There is no dispute about the fact that the People of GB are entitled to empowerment and full regime of Human Rights. The answer is not a “provisional provincial status” but a “provisional autonomous status” as envisaged in UNCIP Resolutions and supported by the wisdom of article 257 of the constitution of Pakistan. It would bring GB at par with AJK and conserve the dignity of the Kashmir Case and Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir.

Government of Pakistan needs to address the matter in accordance with the existing aggregate jurisprudence of Kashmir Case and the UN template on Jammu and Kashmir. The process of consultation in the future should embrace the six Kashmiris living at Srinagar, Jammu, Muzaffarabad, Ladakh, Refugees in the four provinces of Pakistan (represented through 12 members in AJK Assembly) and the Diaspora.

(The author is President of London based Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.)