The expected slanging match between India and Pakistan at the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva brought even more expected results. Pakistan attempted to make some noise over Kashmir and called for an “international investigation” into the alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir but ended up with more egg on its face. To top it all, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was caught on camera referring to J&K as an “Indian State”. Some called it the proverbial “Freudian slip”.

That the cookie would crumble this way was not a surprise. Pakistan’s notoriety is so wide and deep, and the global fatigue over its Kashmir narrative is so acute, that its rants on every global forum now elicit nothing more than a yawn.

Besides, the specifics in this case make it difficult for the UNHRC to take any particular note of the developments. First, India is perceived internationally as nation whose commitment towards democracy is abiding and deep. Second, the nature of India’s heterogenous polity — multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual — make it difficult for casual charges to stick, more so from a nation whose own record against minorities is among the worst in the world.

MEA secretary (east) Vijay Thakur Singh who led the Indian delegation at the UNHRC. Twitter/@MEAIndia

India is well aware of this point. During its right to rebuttal to Pakistan’s statement, young Indian diplomat Vimarsh Aryan, a 2011 batch IFS officer from Jammu, referred to the cases of Aasia Bibi, Abdul Sakoor and Jagjit Kaur — all members of the minority communities in Pakistan who have been hounded, persecuted and/or forcibly converted — to underscore the nation’s atrocious record against minorities.

“Pakistan’s gory record speaks for itself. This rhetoric will not distract international attention from Pakistan’s persecution and elimination of religious and ethnic minorities – be it the Christians, Sikhs, Shias, Ahmadiyas and Hindus. This is the reason that Pakistan no longer publishes official statistics about its minorities as India does,” said Aryan, the first secretary at the Permanent Mission of India at the UN in Geneva. His hard-hitting rebuttal was centred around the focal point that “it defies credibility that Pakistan, which is the epicentre of global terrorism is claiming to speak on behalf of unnamed countries on the issue of human rights. It forgets that terrorism is the worst form of human rights abuse.”

Third, as India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during a recent visit to Beijing, that the legislative decision taken by the Indian Parliament to read down a temporary provision enshrined in India’s Constitution and reorganize the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories is a sovereign move aimed at better governance and socio-economic development. In no way does it raise any fresh territorial claims.

“I told them that does not change the international boundaries or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan. I conveyed our position to him which was that we maintain our international boundary according to our map,” Jaishankar told the media after the visit.

Now, let us look at this issue from the UN’s perspective. India is the world’s largest democracy with an abiding commitment to democratic norms and institutions — a point underscored by MEA secretary (east) Vijay Thakur Singh, who led the Indian delegation at the UNHRC. Every point in Singh’s statement was aimed at reinforcing India’s credentials.

“Earlier this year, the world was witness to the biggest democratic exercise in human history, involving 900 million Indian voters and over a million polling stations. Our commitment to democracy is unshakable, and this is appreciated globally… Our Constitution is supreme and guarantees fundamental rights to all our citizens, without any distinction… Our independent judiciary is the guardian of these fundamental rights and liberties… Our free media, vibrant civil society and the impartial human rights institutions provide an effective framework for protection of human rights of all sections of society.”

For the UN, India’s commitment to democracy and its institutions, a vast, heterogenous population and the fact that abrogation of Article 370 and reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in no way raises any additional territorial claims but instead aims to increase focus on governance and raising of socio-economic profile, present a compelling narrative. It would be very difficult for the UNHRC to call for an “urgent debate” or passing a resolution (even more unlikely) on this issue, unless India loses control of the situation and Kashmir descends into a vortex of violence and deaths.

That hasn’t happened. In fact, India has claimed that ever since abrogation of Article 370 was announced on 5 August, not a single bullet has been fired by Indian law enforcement agencies. So, the only point of contention that the UN could legitimately raise at this point is the blackout of communication.

The UN chief already has done so, but India’s reiteration, that “despite challenging circumstances, Jammu & Kashmir’s Civil Administration is ensuring basic services, essential supplies, normal functioning of institutions, mobility and nearly full connectivity. Democratic processes have been initiated. Restrictions are being eased continuously. Temporary preventive and precautionary measures were necessitated to ensure safety and security of our citizens in the face of credible threats of cross-border terrorism” makes it even more difficult for Pakistan to build a case.

Besides, India has also reiterated, rather forcefully, that “this sovereign decision, like other legislations passed by Parliament, is entirely internal to India. No country can accept interference in its internal affairs, certainly not India” during the statement delivered by Singh.

As this piece in Outlook points out unless these exigencies are altered in an irrevocable way, the UN is extremely unlikely to act against India’s move. The piece argues that “ever since the 1972 Shimla Agreement, when India and Pakistan had agreed to resolve all outstanding disputes, including Kashmir, through peaceful, bilateral negotiations, it is extremely difficult for Pakistan to convince UNSC members to take up Kashmir. Indian diplomats who have served in the UN point out that the Agreement, under Article 104 of the UN Charter, is now in its data bank. Therefore, any time a dispute between India and Pakistan is raised, the UN refers to the same, asking the two countries to resolve it in the spirit of the bilateral treaty.”

Among the five permanent members of UN Security Council, France, the US, Russia and even the UK are in India’s corner, leaving only Pakistan’s ‘iron brother’ China who is more concerned about India’s manoeuvres in Ladakh than Kashmir.

India knew it had a winning case at the UNHRC, but the Narendra Modi government must be credited for not taking things for granted. Led by external affairs minister Jaishankar, India has been on a diplomatic offensive to counter Pakistan’s propaganda on Kashmir, and this sustained effort has clearly brought dividends.

Among the 47 members at the UNHRC, India’s diplomatic overdrive was aimed at ensuring that Pakistan doesn’t have the requisite numbers to force the UN to pass a resolution on the issue – that could be interpreted as India’s diplomatic defeat.

As Economic Times notes in a report, India is hopeful of support from 13 European states at the UNHRC including Italy, Spain and central European countries of Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia. “India also remains engaged with some other European states such as Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands, which are currently not members of UNHRC but strong proponents of human rights.”

India’s plan of action to defeat Pakistan’s motives also includes explaining its position and ensuring support from Japan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Egypt, South Africa, some other African nations, Australia while the Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have already shown an inclination to understand India’s point of view.

In short, India has done its homework. Pakistan has been making tall claims about passing a resolution or a procedural vote, but so far it hasn’t been able to garner a simple majority for even an “urgent debate”. As India Today points out, “Sources say that Pakistan does not have the simple majority in the 47-member Council and therefore has not made that request yet. The last date to file for a resolution is 19 September.”

Pakistan lies thoroughly beaten at the diplomatic game. This wasn’t a surprise, but the “banana republic” must seriously introspect on its lack of heft on global stage, and the self-defeating policies that has brought it to this precipice.

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Published Date: Sep 11, 2019 18:56 PM
| Updated Date: Sep 11, 2019 18:57 PM

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Updated Date: Sep 11, 2019 18:57:15 IST

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