Pakistan Brings Kashmir Centrestage At UNGA, Sharif On A Roll
NEW DELHI: The United Nations General Assembly is in session as tensions between India and Pakistan spike following an attack on an Indian military base in Uri which killed 18 soldiers in the early hours of Sunday. The last few days have, in fact, seen a renewed push by Pakistan to internationalise the Kashmir issue, with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif address at the UNGA on Wednesday expected to be dominated by Kashmir.
The UNGA General Debate opens Tuesday, with Sharif expected to address the assembly in the morning session on Wednesday. The address is expected to follow Sharif’s assertion back home that he will “emphatically highlight” the alleged human rights violations by India in Kashmir, especially in light of the recent turmoil in the state as civilian protesters clashed with security forces over the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani. “Pakistan will continue to extend moral, diplomatic and political support to Kashmiris,” Sharif had contended last week, adding that the alleged atrocities by India against the people of Kashmir had reached extremes.
Sharif followed this assertion with a letter to the United Nations Security Council on the issue of Kashmir. In the letter, Sharif said that the "non-resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is a constant source of tension and instability in the region and a threat to international peace and security.” The Pakistani PM called on the members of the UNSC "to fulfill their responsibility with regard to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute." "Despite the passage of more than 68 years since the adoption of multiple resolutions, the people of Jammu and Kashmir still await the implementation of these resolutions which promised them the right to self-determination to be exercised through the holding of a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices," the letter said.
Sharif also met US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, and reportedly raised the issue of Kashmir at the meeting. "PM urged the US to play a role in the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute and highlighted human rights abuses in occupied Kashmir," Pakistan's envoy to the UN Maleeha Lodhi tweeted. State-owned Radio Pakistan reported the following of the meeting: “Highlighting Kashmir issue, he (Sharif) said so far one hundred and seven people have been martyred and hundreds injured during the current spree of violence in Occupied Kashmir… He said human rights violations are being carried out as state terrorism in the held valley… John Kerry appreciated Pakistan's endeavours in fight against terrorism and extremism… He said peace and stability in the region is in the interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Sharif also met with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May, respectively. In his meeting with PM May, Sharif -- according to Pakistani publication The News -- urged the UK PM to “play her part in ending the crisis. Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan will not leave Kashmiris alone in their time of need and also stated that if the global community failed in putting an end to human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, then it would serve as encouragement for India.”
Kashmir is also expected to dominate a meeting between Sharif and US President Barack Obama, scheduled to take place on the sidelines of an international conclave on the refugees issue on September 20. A story in Pakistani paper The Express Tribune states: “According to sources, Nawaz will raise the use of brute force by Indian security forces against Kashmiri civilians in an attempt to subdue an uprising triggered by the killing of a popular Kashmiri separatist in July. More than 80 Kashmiris have been killed and thousands more injured since then… Premier Nawaz will urge President Obama to use his influence to stop Indian atrocities in Kashmir.”
Further, Sharif’s top foreign policy aide Sartaj Aziz is expected to bring up the Kashmir issue in a meeting of the Contact Group of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in New York.
Meanwhile, the Indian and Pakistani press have reported Sharif’s efforts to internationalise Kashmir in stark contrast to one another. The Indian media has largely argued that Sharif’s efforts have fallen on deaf ears. “US, UK snub Sharif’s attempts to raise Kashmir issue at UNGA,” notes a headline in Hindustan Times. “All P5 nations have repeatedly advised Pakistan to resolve the issues bilaterally under commitments it has made with the Shimla Accord and the Lahore declaration. But Sharif harped on the resolutions that the UN itself has suggested is not valid anymore because of Pakistani transgressions, including initiating wars and ceding territory to China,” elaborates an article in the Times of India on Sharif’s letter to the UNSC.
The Pakistani media, on the contrary, has projected the string of meetings between Sharif and other world leaders as successes. In the Pakistani media, the Indian government’s statements against Pakistan following the Uri attack have been widely denounced. A lead article in Dawn notes, “Failing to suppress the sustained uprising in India-held Kashmir, the Modi government has intensified its smear campaign against Pakistan in yet another attempt to portray the Kashmiri protest as Pakistan-inspired terrorism.” Meanwhile, a headline on Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s response to the Uri attack reads, “'Pakistan a terrorist state' ? Rajnath spews vitriol ahead of UN General Assembly session.”
Further, as India contemplates its response to the Uri attack, a diplomatic counter to Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise Kashmir seems to have already emerged. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on India’s independence day, brought up the issue of Balochistan -- a large province in Pakistan that has been home to a decades long insurgency. In fact, as Sharif addresses the UNGA tomorrow, Baloch activists will hold protests outside the UN headquarters to highlight “atrocities” and human rights violations by Pakistani forces in Balochistan. The Baloch National Movement of North America (BNM) said a joint protest of Baloch and Sindhi activists will be held, and the ‘Coalition of American Friends of Balochistan’ said they were organising a “peaceful” protest.