Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and Antonio Guterres’ offer of UN mediation goes against India’s historic position on the region

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is fully aware of the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is a sovereign part of India. If there is anything to be discussed about it, it is between India and Pakistan. Through diplomatic channels and also at the higher level meeting with the UN Secretary General, India has made it clear that its August 5, 2019 decision to scrap Article 370 has, in no way, altered the geographical status of the region.

Despite such a clear position on Jammu and Kashmir, if the UN Secretary General talks about offering his “good offices” for mediation over the region, it is absolutely against the spirit of the Simla Agreement signed between India and Pakistan in 1972. That Kashmir is a bilateral issue between the two neighbours is a documented reality and as such, the UN Secretary General should have avoided jumping the gun by talking about third party mediation.

Also, he should know that India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir has not changed since the region acceded to the country on October 26, 1947. Jammu and Kashmir has been, is and will continue to be an integral part of India. Pakistan has to vacate the region’s territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it for the peace and stability of the region. Therefore, it would have been better if Antonio Guterres would have asked Pakistan to let peace prevail in the sub-continent by withdrawing its people and claim from the western part of Kashmir. Because, now, if India holds talks with Pakistan, it will be on the issue of Kashmiri territory held by the latter.

India has repeatedly called for an end to cross-border terrorism. So long as Pakistan doesn’t take credible, sustained and irreversible action against terrorists and their promoters who support an anti-India campaign from the country’s soil, New Delhi can’t sit with Islamabad at any negotiating table. Since 1989, more than 70,000 people have been killed in the region in terrorism-related incidents, while thousands of people have been displaced. This is all happening under the Pakistani military’s doctrine of a thousand cuts on India.

The UN Secretary General, who spoke glowingly about the country’s role in sheltering lakhs of Afghan refugees on its land, should have questioned Islamabad’s sincerity in ending terrorism. To make the international community believe that it has put terrorists and their financiers to task, it has placed some of them behind bars. But the reality is that only some terrorist commanders have been put in jails. A majority of their followers are still free and they continue to get training in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

Besides, human rights violation of minorities in Pakistan is continuing at an alarming rate. Every month, 20 or more minor girls belonging to the Hindu, Sikh and Christian communities are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to Muslim boys in Sindh and other parts of Pakistan.

Members of the minority community are also discriminated against electorally and in jobs. Their landed and other property is forcibly taken away by members of the majority community. Under the draconian blasphemy law, several non-Muslims are killed and jailed in Pakistan. Yet, the UN chief did not care to ask Pakistan about its human rights record. Instead, he raised his concern about Kashmir and offered to mediate between the two countries over the region. The UN Secretary General’s post is that of neutrality and impartiality. Guterres should have respected that mandate.