– Shantanu Mukharji
India was quick to reject UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres’ overtures towards India offering his services to India and Pakistan for mediation in the Kashmir issue.
His offer came at Islamabad on Feb 16 when the visiting UN Chief, underlined once again that it was important for India and Pakistan to deescalate militarily and verbally exercising maximum restraint. Reacting to this statement, Indian official spokesperson stuck to the stated position asserting that Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is an integral part of India and the issue that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. Further, the Indian spokesperson ruled out any third party mediation.
India also reiterated that the UN Secretary General, instead would emphasise on the imperative for Pakistan to take credible, sustained and irreversible action to put an end to cross border terrorism against India which threatens the most elementary human right – the right to life of the Indian people including in J&K.
It is pertinent to point out that a UN Secretary General ordinarily doesn’t interfere in the Kashmir matter and India has even rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer of any mediation making it amply clear to the US as well that there was no role for any third party mediation. While in Pakistan, the UN Secretary General, after meeting Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed his ‘deep concern’ over the situation in J&K and prevailing tension along the LoC. Later, at a press conference in Islamabad, Guterres stated that diplomacy and dialogue remained the only implements to guarantee peace and stability with solutions in accordance with the UN Charter and resolutions of the Security Council. In the same vein, Guterres averred that he had repeatedly stressed the importance of United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) allowing it a free access. On the other hand, India maintains its consistent view that UNMOGIP has outlived its utility and is now past its relevance in the wake of Shimla Agreement of 1972.
Meanwhile, Government of India efforts in taking very recently yet another batch of diplomatic envoys accredited to India to the state of J&K are being hugely appreciated. This was the third round of visit to the J&K in the last six months in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 in the state and giving it a status of an Union Territory. The visiting diplomatic fraternity were exposed to the prevailing scene in the state to get the first hand assessment of the ground realities. They met members of the Civil Societies, shopkeepers, academics and section of the general public. Significantly, no envoy has given any negative comment on the J&K. It is believed that more such visits will be organised in the near future as the state is getting back to near normalcy. The US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster remarked that the trip has paved the way and ironed out many creases ahead of President Trump’s visit to India. Coincidentally, taking several envoys from the EU countries to the J&K would also help facilitate External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar’s upcoming visit to Brussels in run up to Prime Minister Modi’s scheduled trip to attend the EU-India summit in Brussels.
Ugandan High Commissioner to India, Grace Akello who formed part of the envoys’ delegation to J&K, interacted with several Kashmiris from the spheres of sports and business and felt that people are interested in economic growth and therefore are inclined for investments in the state. Similarly, Danish Ambassador to India, Freddy Svane remarked that the trip enabled him to get a holistic view of the existing scenario in the state. Also, the Afghan Ambassador, Tahir Qadiri tweeted, expressing his satisfaction saying that he was impressed by the grand hospitality accorded by the local Kashmiris and mentioned his reaction in meeting students as the schools were found open. Similar reaction came from the Mexican Ambassador, FS Lotfe and many more. Judging by these independent reactions, it would seem that normalcy is being restored in Kashmir contrary to the propaganda unleashed by Pakistan which continues with its plans of undermining and sabotaging peace in the state.
(The writer is a security analyst and freelance columnist on topical issues. The views expressed are personal.)