By News Desk
UNITED NATIONS, GENEVA—For the first time in three years, a United Nations regular update on the situation of human rights around the world drops the mention of Kashmir. An update on Kashmir is expected by UN rights monitors “soon” but is being delayed due to ‘intense pressures’ and international politics, according to UN officials and international diplomats here at UN Geneva headquarters.
“It’s a delay but hopefully not for long,” said Altaf Hussain Wani, leader of Kashmir Delegation to UNHRC, a group that combines Kashmir activists from the region.
“This is a symbolic setback,” said Ahmed Quraishi, a member of the Kashmir Delegation, and executive director YFK-International Kashmir Lobby Group. “The oral update by the High Commissioner sets the global agenda on rights issues, and the world watches it closely. For Kashmir to be suddenly dropped after being in the top UN rights agenda for three years is a matter of concern,” Quraishi added.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened the 41st session of Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday with updates on Congo, Sudan, Venezuela, Syria, and Iraq, and announced the session would review more than a hundred reports. But Kashmir was conspicuously absent. The disputed Himalayan region was a fixture in the opening remarks of the top UN rights official since September 2016, when the murder of a young Kashmiri activist Burhan Wani, in July of that year, catapulted Kashmir to international prominence. With the listing of Kashmir situation alongside Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and other urgent conflict zones, the Kashmiri question has received unprecedented international media attention, with the UN ending its silence on the conflict, and with international media, especially in the West, showing renewed interest. A landmark UN Kashmir Report, released in June 2018, changed the international trajectory of the conflict, focusing on rights abuses in Kashmir from 1948 to 2017.
It is not clear why the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights dropped any reference to Kashmir from the oral update for the June session of the Council. Informally, some UN officials have referred to “pressures” without explaining from which country or countries. Traditionally, India has opposed growing international scrutiny of its role in Kashmir. Some UN officials have privately voiced concern that India and Pakistan were resisting a visit by UN investigators to the Indian and Pakistani administered regions. Islamabad has formally welcomed such a visit. India is strongly and publicly opposed to it.
Now, diplomats expect the office of the UN High Commissioner may release an update on Kashmir in the coming days or weeks. But the fear is it may never come and Kashmir will disappear on the global radar.
India would like the UN to drop any investigation into Kashmir conflict and is quietly lobbying for support from allies.
Trade disputes have marred India’s relations with the United States and Europe in recent months, and a standoff in Kashmir with Pakistan in February saw the shooting down of at least one Indian fighter plane and the arrest of an Indian pilot, whom Pakistan released as a goodwill gesture. The episode underlined the urgency of the Kashmir conflict and sucked in major powers that mediated a ceasefire.
“Kashmir is an urgent humanitarian situation,” said Quraishi. “It deserves international attention, not least because it plunged the world into a possible nuclear war earlier this year. But there’s also a deteriorating humanitarian situation.”
The Convener of All-Parties Hurriyet Conference APHC, Syed Faiz Naqshbandi, is also part of the Kashmir Delegation to UNHRC. His group unites pro-freedom parties in Kashmir that want the UN to organize a referendum in the disputed region to end war and conflict and pave the way for a political solution.
The delegation also includes top Kashmir rights defenders Sardar Amjad Yousaf, Mrs. Shamim Shawl, Hassan Bana, Advocate Pervez Shah, Prof. Shagufta Ashraf, and Prof. Saira Shah.
Separately, a top rights defender from Kashmir, Khurram Pervez, is also attending the session and is part of an international network of activists organizing an international panel discussion on Kashmir later this week.