Indo-Pak ‘Dangal’ at Geneva

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As President Ram Nath Kovind arrives on a state visit to the Swiss capital of Berne, about 160 kms away in Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is the venue where India and Pakistan are expected to have a showdown regarding the Jammu & Kashmir issue.

An Indo-Pak clash at the UNHRC on this issue isn’t as pleasant as watching the two rivals battle it out on a 22 yards pitch. The abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution conferring special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir has kicked up a storm within Pakistan as they seek third party intervention, which is against the Shimla Agreement of 1972. Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Quereshi is expected to raise the issue today.

India has been rocked over the years by various reports published by the UNHRC over unmarked graves, mass killings and use of pellet guns in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This has been the main issue during India’s Universal Periodic review at the UNHRC. Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in her report has highlighted the issues of forced detention of political leaders, communication blockages and other alleged atrocities that have occurred after the abrogation.

The report also censures Pakistani actions in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Pakistan has sought an urgent discussion over this issue and if consented to by a majority of the 47-member council, it will be discussed and can lead to a diplomatically embarrassing situation for India.

India has been making concerted efforts to woo the members of the council. Senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs including Ms Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East) and Mr. Ajay Bisaria, former High Commissioner of India to Pakistan who was expelled after Pakistan decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with India, are camping in Geneva and have been reaching out to the members.

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A discussion on a particular issue would need to be accompanied by a vote. It is highly unlikely that Pakistan will be able to muster the numbers to ensure a discussion. If India chooses to exercise its right to reply after Quereshi’s speech, it is expected to explain the importance of the abrogation of Article 370 and firmly state that it is an internal matter of India and no other nation or organization has any locus standi in the issue. India is also expected to raise the issue of Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism within India and its actions in the territory under its control.

It is also pertinent to note that Pakistan received a setback when last month 14 out of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in a closed door meeting, declined to intervene and stated that it was a bilateral matter between the two nations.

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