UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon before embarking on a two-day visit to Pakistan, in an interview with the New York based APP correspondent, underscored the need for both Pakistan and India to resolve the longstanding Kashmir issue. He said that he was prepared to mediate if both sides thought it useful and agreed on such an initiative.
The Secretary General by giving this statement has regrettably tried to absolve the UN of its responsibility to have the dispute settled as enunciated in 23 resolutions of the world body. Perhaps, it is also an endorsement of the Indian view that the resolutions are no more relevant after the signing of Simla Agreement, which stipulates the resolution of all outstanding issues between the two countries, including Kashmir, through bilateral negotiations. One could understand such hypocritical statements by the US, its Western allies and those who have strong political and economic bonds with India, but it was simply untenable and regrettable to hear such utterances from UN Secretary General.
President Barack Obama during the pre-election campaign of his first term expressed his commitment to have the Kashmir issue resolved. But after coming into power, he took a somersault, and even refused to mediate between the two countries, subscribing to the Indian view of handling the dispute through bilateral channels knowing fully well that even after nearly 39 years of signing the Simla Agreement, no headway has been made towards its resolution. It is assumed that New Delhi has invariably used different pretexts to suspend the dialogue process. The US instead seems more focused on propping up India as a superpower, supporting its bid for permanent membership in the Security Council, and giving it an enhanced role in the post-withdrawal period of US-Nato forces in Afghanistan. With the passage of time, perhaps, its priorities and strategic interests in the region have changed and it is no more interested in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan, unfortunately, does not figure in the scheme of things visualised and purported to be unleashed by the US in the South Asian region.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his election campaign and after assuming power has been expressing his resolve to improve relations with India and accordingly has extended the hand of friendship by offering to restart the suspended dialogue between the two countries. But the Indians have reignited border skirmishes on the Line of Control in Kashmir, which are likely to affect the resumption of peace talks.
No person in his right mind can take an issue with the proposition that improvement of Pak-India relations is in the best interest of both the countries, provided it eventually paves the way for the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir. That would usher in an era of peace, tranquillity, and shared economic prosperity in the region. It may sound rather pessimistic, but by looking at the track record of the bilateral negotiations and the changing geopolitical and strategic environment, the possibility of achieving a breakthrough on the Kashmir issue remains as elusive as ever.
Another point that forces one to draw this inference, perhaps, is India’s claim of Kashmir being its integral part, maintaining that the question of accession has already been settled by the Constituent Assembly of Occupied Kashmir in 1957; despite the fact that UN through its Resolutions 91 and 122 repudiated the Indian stance reiterating that the question of accession could not be resolved by any means other than enunciated in the UN resolutions.
Contrary to the Indian view, the bilateral agreement does not change the legal status of the dispute. It also does not preclude the possibility of raising it again at the UN in case the agreement fails to deliver. Article 103 maintains: “In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail."
This means that UN resolutions on Kashmir will take precedence over all other international agreements on it. So Pakistan is very much within its right to invoke UN resolutions, after having been frustrated to find solution through the bilateral arrangement. The resolutions on Kashmir adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter remain legally binding on the parties; Article 25 also reiterates their obligatory nature. The Security Council has the power to enforce its decisions and resolutions militarily or by any other means necessary; the powers that it had used during the Korean War in 1950 and in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991.
It is abundantly clear from the foregoing that the legal status and obligations of the parties to the dispute under UN resolutions, and that of the Security Council, to have its resolutions implemented remain unaffected.
One would have welcomed a statement by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressing the resolve to fulfil UN obligations under Article 25, rather than toeing the line of the powers that hold sway over its policies and are hell bent to refashion the world to fulfil their imperialistic designs.
The writer is a freelance columnist.