Friday, November 6, 2015

Kashmir: The Oldest Unresolved Conflict in the World

This week, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee meeting dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural questions was held. Here, Pakistan and India sparred over a decades-old issue: the Kashmir conflict.
The Kashmir conflict is a territorial dispute which started in 1947 after the British Indian Empire was divided into the sovereign states of Pakistan and India. Both countries then claimed the state known as Jammu and Kashmir. Two wars and various attempts at UN intervention later, the region is still being disputed, with both nations controlling sections of the territory today.

The United Nations' role in Kashmir has dwindled over the last few decades. In the first few months after the creation of Pakistan and India, the UN Security Council passed resolutions calling for the people of Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination through internationally supervised elections. To this day, these resolutions have still not been implemented.
At the Third Committee meeting, Pakistan repeated its call to implement the Security Council resolutions with its Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi stating that “fulfillment of the long-held promise of self-determination to the Kashmiri people is urgent as well as indispensable to establishing peace and stability in South Asia.”
Reacting sharply to Pakistan bringing up the Kashmir issue at the UN, India asserted that Lodhi’s comments were baseless and unwarranted and that Kashmir is an “integral part” of India which Pakistan is occupying illegally. Indian delegate Rattan Lal Kataria further accused Pakistan of terrorism in the region and claimed that elections had already been held in India-held Kashmir.
Diyar Khan, a minister at the Pakistan Mission to the UN, responded to these assertions by clarifying that the Security Council resolutions state that “no electoral exercise conducted by Indian authorities in Jammu and Kashmir could be accepted as substitute to a free and impartial plebiscite under UN supervision.” Furthermore, he called the Indian allegations of terrorism a false campaign aimed at preventing Pakistan from raising the issue of Kashmir at the UN.
The Kashmir dispute has emerged as one of the greatest human rights crises in history, marked by extrajudicial killings, rape, detention, and kidnapping of Kashmiris. More than 94,000 Kashmiris have been killed, 106,000 structures destroyed, 107,000 children orphaned and 10,000 women raped and molested by Indian military troops in Indian-occupied Kashmir since 1989.
A 2015 report by the International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (IPTK/APDP) has identified more than 900 individuals whom it blames for a range of human rights abuses carried out by Indian security forces between 1990 and 2014. They include 150 officers of the rank of major or above. IPTK/APDP has since appealed to the UN Security Council to investigate these crimes and refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
It is unclear whether or not the United Nations will increase its role in easing tensions in the Kashmir region. According to analyst Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert, there are issues perceived as more important for the UN than Kashmir. For this reason, it is unlikely to register as a top priority on the UN’s radar anytime soon.
Despite this, Maleeha Lodhi remains hopeful that “the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations [will] be a catalyst to spur this body into action” concerning the long-held promise of self-determination made to the Kashmiri people.
Let’s just hope that this conflict doesn’t last another 68 years.