Tag Archives: United Nations

Mediating the Kashmir dispute? 11 February 2014


Mediating the Kashmir dispute     11 February 2014

A surprising recent media report suggested that the United Nations was prepared to mediate the Kashmir dispute. The story arose because, during the ‘Daily Press Briefing’ by the Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General in New York, Mr Farhan Haq (photo above), a journalist called ‘Masood’ asked Haq about the India-Pakistan dispute over Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Haq’s answer was reported—not totally accurately.

Because the context is important, I have reproduced below the brief exchange on 6 February 2014 between Mr ‘Masood’ and Mr Haq. (Original transcript at www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2014/db140206.doc.htm.)

Question [by journalist]: Yes, Farhan. Today, in Pakistan, there were all these demonstrations on Kashmir, asking for India and Pakistan to resolve this issue as soon as possible. The Pakistani Prime Minister says that he’s willing to listen to anything that India has proposed. Can the Secretary-General, or will the Secretary-General propose to India to at least sit down and talk with Pakistan, because that is what it’s not doing. Even… there’s no dialogue. They don’t even want to talk. So the situation will stand at a stalemate forever.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Masood, as you know, on Kashmir, as with another of conflicts around the world, our good offices are available if both sides were to request that. And that remains the case today.

Question [by journalist]: So… the stalemate will continue forever?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: You’re aware of what our principle is in terms of the use of UN good offices, and that remains the case in this particular case. Do you have a question? Yes, Joe? [who then asked a question about Syria].

The journalist’s question occurred on the same day as Pakistan’s annual ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ commemorations held throughout Pakistan. Either it was asked out of genuine concern for J&K-ites’ wellbeing or it was designed to make mischief. It certainly put Haq in a difficult situation. According to a 2010 report on DNA (www.dnaindia.com/world/report-un-secretary-general-spokesperson-defends-farhan-haq-over-kashmir-row-1420100), Haq’s boss, Martin Nesirky, Chief Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, was forced to defend Haq who was then at the ‘centre of the controversy, against attacks in the Indian press that suggested Haq was responsible for the remarks concerning the violence in Kashmir, which came out of the United Nations on July 28’ 2010. Defending his colleague, Nesirky ‘slammed the Indian press for suggesting Haq’s “ethnicity” [w]as a possible motivation for the remarks on Kashmir, which New Delhi has strongly objected to. Haq is an American citizen born in Washington DC with roots in Pakistan.’ Some therefore perceive Haq as a pro-Pakistan interlocutor.

The current story, however, is a ‘storm in a teacup’. Haq’s exchange with the journalist, Masood, was brief: 150 words out of the 2700-word press conference report, most of which (92 words) Masood spoke. Their exchange also was a one-off matter to which neither party, nor any other party, returned for clarification or to debate. Haq appeared to be factual, not biased.

Haq also did not specifically say that the UN was ‘prepared to mediate on the Kashmir dispute’. Rather, he stated that the United Nations’ ‘good offices are available if both sides were to request that’. The UNTERM website states that ‘A theoretical distinction exists between good offices and mediation. … good offices consist in various kinds of action tending to call negotiations between the conflicting States into existence, mediation consists in direct conduct of negotiations between the parties at issue on the basis of [a] proposal made by the mediator’.

Regardless of terminology, India almost certainly will not invoke the UN’s good offices, let alone mediation, in the Kashmir dispute. New Delhi is not interested in any further third-party involvement. Its ‘fingers’ have been ‘burnt’ before. In 1948, India was disappointed when the UN Security Council failed to condemn, as India saw it, Pakistan’s aggression in 1947 in J&K. In 1968, India felt cheated when arbitrators resolving ‘The Indo-Pakistan Western Boundary (Rann of Kutch)’ awarded ten per cent of the disputed area to Pakistan—despite New Delhi’s strong belief that India obtained sovereignty over all of Kutch in 1947. (Interestingly, that arbitration involved the UN General Secretary’s good offices as he appointed the chairman and oversaw the process.) Due to these experiences, India determined that third party involvement did not provide the results it desired or deemed reasonable. In 1972, it therefore agreed the Simla Agreement with Pakistan. Since then, for India, the Kashmir dispute has been a bilateral issue to be resolved by it and Pakistan only. Forget any third parties.

The latest attempt to involve the United Nations appeals to ‘separatist leaders’ in J&K, particularly in the Kashmir Valley. It also suits Pakistan, which appears keen to resolve the Kashmir dispute, either by getting other parties involved, or re-involved in the UN’s case, or by ‘encouraging’ India to move on this matter, even slightly. Seemingly, this latter is Pakistan’s greatest challenge—even though I am led to believe that official Indian and Pakistani interlocutors are currently engaging in secret and unreported ‘back channel communications’, including about J&K.

People often ask how India can be ‘encouraged’ to move on J&K. This is difficult to answer. India is a large, increasingly economically-powerful nation that has what it, and Pakistan, want in J&K: the much desired Kashmir Valley. I suggest three ways:

1) For Indians and Pakistanis to develop active, popular and powerful ‘compelling constituencies’ of people who mount a consistent, prolonged campaign to compel their governments to resolve the Kashmir dispute;

2) That Indians and Pakistanis, and their governments, actively support second track diplomats who genuinely seek a solution to the Kashmir dispute;

3) Controversially—and this is not my idea—that Pakistan make a Big Unilateral Gesture (BUG) which, in a Gandhian-type way, imposes moral and international pressure on India to respond positively towards Pakistan, including about J&K. One such BUG would be for Pakistan to unilaterally withdraw from Siachen Glacier.

Neither of the above options are easy—nor do I expect any movement soon.

Christopher Snedden
11 February 2014


Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K 22 January 2014



Map above from The Economist, 8 February 2012, www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/indian_pakistani_and_chinese_border_disputes


Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K     22 January 2014

The dispute over the international status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is old, complicated and convoluted. India and Pakistan have been engaged in this matter emotionally, diplomatically and militarily from before the British left the Indian subcontinent in August 1947. J&K was then important to them because the princely state—commonly called ‘Kashmir’ after its most famous region—was prestigious. In 1947, J&K was India’s largest princely state. It had international borders with Afghanistan, China and (then independent) Tibet; the USSR’s Tajikistan Republic was nearby to the north. Some major rivers flowed through J&K: the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Finally, J&K would share post-partition borders with Pakistan and India, albeit short with India, with both nations wanting to include the princely state in their territory.

In the finish, neither nation secured all of J&K. Since 1947, the former princely state has been militarily-divided between India, which controls Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, and Pakistan, which administers Azad (Free) Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. China controls two areas nominally under J&K’s control in 1947: Aksai Chin and Shaksgam. Officially, India claims all of the territory ‘occupied’ by Pakistan and China because the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, acceded to India on 26 October 1947. For New Delhi, all of J&K is an ‘integral part of India’. Pakistan is administering ‘its’ areas until a United Nations-supervised plebiscite can be held to determine whether the people of J&K want ‘their’ state, in its entirety, to join India or Pakistan. India and China, as part of their ongoing territorial and border negotiations, are discussing Aksai Chin. Beijing has said that it will renegotiate its control of Shaksgam should India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K.

Interestingly, but problematically, India and Pakistan each has a different perception as to what comprises the former princely state. Official Indian maps show all of J&K as being Indian territory, even though civilian Indians have never set foot in areas outside India’s control: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Aksai Chin; Shaksgam. Official Pakistani maps show the Gilgit Agency as not being part of the ‘disputed territory’ of J&K. (Such maps also often show Junagadh and Manavadar, whose rulers acceded to Pakistan in 1947, as being Pakistan’s.) Although the British controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s, they publicly returned (or retroceded) control of this territory to the Maharaja of J&K on 1 August 1947. Therefore, Gilgit is part of J&K, and of the Kashmir dispute.

India is fussy about maps of J&K, with New Delhi sometimes insisting that publications must use its official map of the former princely state. In 2012, New Delhi censored editions of The Economist that included a map showing the actual situation on the ground in disputed J&K  (like the map above), rather than showing all of J&K as being Indian territory. For this reason, I chose not include any maps in my book about Azad Kashmir that was published internationally in 2012, and in Pakistan and India in 2013.

Another issue is terminology. The India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is known as ‘the Kashmir dispute’ because, when the princely state was created in 1846, the most prestigious and reasonably autonomous part of the entity was Kashmir. Fairly quickly thereafter, both J&K and its rulers came to be called ‘Kashmir’. For this reason, although the dispute over J&K should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, it is known instead as the ‘Kashmir dispute’. Otherwise, when Indians use the term ‘Kashmir’, they are referring to the Kashmir Valley that India controls and which Pakistan desires. For Indians, residents of Kashmir are ethnic Kashmiris. When Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they may be referring to the Kashmir Valley. More often, they are referring to the entire former princely state. Similarly, when Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmiri’, they may be referring to an ethnic Kashmiri. More often, they are referring to a resident of the former princely state. Pakistanis also talk of an ‘Azad Kashmiri’. This is a resident of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ region who, more often than not, is not an ethnic Kashmiri.

Neither India nor Pakistan knows how—nor seemingly is prepared—to resolve their dispute over J&K. Pakistan officially wants the UN plebiscite held, which is untenable for India. Conversely, India wants it and Pakistan to resolve this bilateral matter, although unofficially Pakistan might like mediation by a third party, possibly the United States, which also is untenable for India. However, the Kashmir dispute already has trilateral aspects. J&K-ites (my term for the people of J&K) are the third party to this dispute. Furthermore, in 1963, Pakistan ceded territory that India considers to be its to China; since 1948, the UN Security Council has been involved with India and Pakistan re J&K and could, if desired, re-open this matter sidelined since 1965; and, the UN has its Military Observer Group that monitors the Line of Control that divides J&K into Indian and Pakistan-administered areas.

Having been involved analysing the Kashmir dispute since 1984, I know that this issue generates considerable argument among Indians, Pakistanis and J&K-ites. Surprisingly, I have found only one matter about which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over J&K: that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can have independence. This ‘agreement’ is counter to the azadi (independence) that some, perhaps many, J&K-ites living in places such as Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Mirpur, may desire. That said, we don’t know what status, or statuses, J&K-ites actually want as they have never been asked this question in any inclusive or conclusive way. Indeed, J&K-ites are the forgotten element of the Kashmir dispute—even though they actually instigated the fight over J&K’s international status before India or Pakistan was officially involved in the state and even though this fight is over their lands. This makes J&K-ites the first party to the Kashmir dispute—a fact not recognised, or forgotten, by India and Pakistan. When it comes to J&K, there is little agreement between anyone, it seems.

Christopher Snedden
22 January 2014