New Delhi: After the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein reiterated the demand for India and Pakistan to give access to their part of Kashmir to the UN Human Rights Office, Islamabad was quick to score propaganda points, but New Delhi said that the connection between terrorism and violation of human rights should be recognised.
The 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council opened in Geneva on Tuesday with a statement from the chief, which included a reference to the continuing violence in Kashmir.
— UN Human Rights Asia (@OHCHRAsia) September 13, 2016
According to a UN press release, Al-Hussein asked for “unconditional access to both sides of the line of control” for an “independent, impartial and international assessment of the claims made by the two sides as to the cause for the confrontations and the reported large numbers of people killed and wounded.”
UNHRC had approached both India and Pakistan for access in July, but according to a statement issued on August 17, both turned it down.
In India’s case, the formal denial came after the government tabled the request at the all party meeting on Kashmir on August 12, where it was unanimously rejected.
While Pakistan had rejected the plea earlier, it has since stepped up its diplomatic lobbying by sending special envoys to UN bodies and world capitals to talk about the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.
On September 11, Pakistan’s special envoy and chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari met with Al-Hussein and submitted six “action points.” He urged for a fair, transparent and independent inquiry into the martyrdom of Burhan Muzaffar Wani and to help bring to justice those responsible for it.
Immediately after this statement in Geneva, Pakistan was first to get off the block and take the high road.
In a U-turn, Pakistan agreed to grant a UN team conditional access to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The rider being that the fact-finding trip had to be in tandem with a similar visit to India’s Kashmir.
“Pakistan has expressed its readiness for the visit of any UN team sent by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Azad Jammu and Kashmir together with the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, even though there is no comparison whatsoever between the situation in AJK and the rampant human rights violations and oppression in IOK,” the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson said.
With India having categorically denied any such visit earlier, Pakistan was well aware that making such a condition would be tantamount to ensuring that there would be no visits by the UNHRC.
In a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs, India pointed out that the “issue of external missions” was considered and rejected by the all-party conference on August 12 as “it was unanimously felt that Indian democracy has all that is required to address legitimate grievances.”
“Accordingly, an all-party delegation visited Srinagar. Despite cross-border terrorist infiltration that saw an encounter only yesterday, government remains fully engaged in normalising the situation as soon as possible”.
The Indian statement claimed that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had “received conflicting narratives on the cause for the confrontations.”
It said that the “present situation” broke out after the death of a “self-acknowledged commander of the terrorist organisation Hizb-ul-Mujahideen who was wanted for several terrorist acts” and was “aggravated by sustained cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.”
“Terrorism is the grossest violation of human rights and should be so acknowledged by any impartial and objective observer,” India asserted. Reinforcing this point, India hoped that the “connection between terrorism and violation of human rights would be recognised and deliberated upon in Geneva.”
Further, the statement said that the “high number of casualties sustained by Indian security forces is a reflection of the tremendous restraint they have displayed in difficult circumstances.”
The Indian statement used unusually strong language – even in this strained period – to characterise Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“The former has a democratically elected government, while the latter has seen a Pakistani diplomat arbitrarily appointed as its head. The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of a pluralistic and secular democracy, where freedoms are guaranteed by an independent judiciary, an active media and a vibrant civil society. In contrast, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is administered by a ‘deep state’ and has become a hub for the global export of terror,” the statement said.