While the UN was celebrating its 76th UN Day on 24th October 2021, globally Kashmiris were observing the Black Day on 27th October. An unfinished and one of the longest outstanding agendas on the UN, Kashmir deserves a solution.
Founded on the ashes of the second world war, the UN replaced the League of Nations. League of Nations failed because it was unable to preserve the sanctity of its objectives. The states held the national interests dear to themselves. Hence, continuous conflicts marred the world’s peace.
The establishment of the UN later for the very same reason although justified its existence. UN has successfully intervened in many international issues and tried to meditate. However, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is still unresolved. As an unfinished agenda of the descending empire of the British Raj, Kashmir has remained the bleed wound of the subcontinent even after seven decades of UN and partitition.
A nuclear flashpoint, Kashmir has the potential to create chaos beyond imagination in the world. For better peace and stability in the region, resolution of the Kashmir issue according to the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people is important.
Two basic principles of the UN Charter are important to highlight here. First, the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and second principle of the right of self-determination. These two principles of the UN Charter collide with each other in the case of Kashmir.
Article 1 and Article 55 of the UN Charter lay down the principle of the right of self-determination of the people.
Article 1 (2): “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace”.
Article 55: “With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, the United Nations shall promote…”.
Whereas Article 2 stipulates the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Article 2 (1): “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members”.
Article 2 (7): “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter”.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir (Indian-controlled Kashmir) are struggling for their right of self-determination. This right entitles them to choose freely their social, cultural, economic, and political future.
When the British ended their sovereignty over the Indian subcontinent, nearly 565 Princely States of India were given the choice to join either India or Pakistan. The partition of the Subcontinent was decided on the grounds of the majority population, and geographical proximity. In this vein, the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir should have been part of Pakistan.
On the contrary, the Hindu ruler of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India on 27th October 1947. The accession was not decided according to the wish of the people of Kashmir- that is they were not given the choice to freely decide their political future in accordance with the UN Charter.
Nonetheless, the former Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, on numerous occasions committed the accession of Kashmir to India would be decided by the people of Kashmir.
The plebiscite never happened. Eventually, Pakistan and India fought their first war over Jammu and Kashmir from October 1947 to January 1949.
The Indian state is adamant and has maintained that Kashmir is its internal problem. India tries to manipulate the prospect for external intervention. It has even gone further by abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution that provided J&K with “special and autonomous status”.
This is ironic because it was India that took the issue to the UNSC and filed a complaint against Pakistan on January 1, 1948. Three UN Resolutions were passed from 1948 – 49 calling upon the governments of India and Pakistan to organize a plebiscite in order to allow Kashmiris to choose their future according to their own wishes.
And therefore, India’s maneuvers cannot make Kashmir its domestic issue because it is still there on the agenda of the UNSC as a disputed territory. this makes India’s claim dubious that Kashmir is its issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Seventy-four years have passed, and the people of J&K are still struggling for their right to self-determination. Because the UN has so far not been able to preserve its own objectives especially in the case of Kashmir. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his message on the UN Day said, “It is deplorable that these universal ideals continue to be defied with impunity across many parts of the world – nowhere more egregiously than in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). The just struggle of the people of IIOJK to realize their inalienable right of self-determination, guaranteed under several resolutions of the UN Security Council, is being suppressed with brutal force by an occupying power”.
Peace in South Asia is only possible if there is a just resolution of the Kashmir dispute and that too in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir. As the UN celebrated the day with the thematic objective of “Building Back Together for Peace and Prosperity”, but this cant be possible in the world without justice for Kashmiris.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and The Diplomatic Insight Magazine
*Views expressed in this article are by writer’s own and do not necessarily represent the position of the magazine.