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UNSC to discuss J&K in closed-door consultation

The UN Security Council is set to take up the situation in Kashmir during closed door informal consultations on Friday, instead of the open and formal meeting Islamabad sought along with the right to address it, people familiar with developments said on Thursday.

China on Wednesday threw its weight behind its all-weather ally Pakistan’s call for convening an “urgent meeting” of the Security Council to take up the agenda item “India-Pakistan Question” to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following India’s decision to end the state’s special status and split it into two Union Territories.

China’s statement backing Pakistan’s call for the meeting said the 15-member Security Council should hold “closed consultations under the agenda ‘India-Pakistan Question’” and invite the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Department of Peace Operations to brief the body. If China had wanted a broader formal meeting, it would have said so instead of seeking “consultations”, the people said.

“The UN Security Council will discuss the Jammu and Kashmir situation behind closed doors most likely on August 16,” Poland’s permanent representative to the UN and current Security Council president, Joanna Wronecka, was quoted as saying by Geo News channel. Poland holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency for August.

Russia’s acting UN envoy, Dmitry Polyansky, told reporters that Moscow did not object to the holding of such a meeting but that the issue should be discussed behind closed doors. Security Council members need to coordinate their positions first because the Kashmir issue hasn’t been on the agenda for quite a while, he added.

“Consultations” and an “open” or a “closed meeting” are technically and substantively different, reflecting the gravity of the issue. According to the UN’s definitions, both open and closed meetings are formal meetings of the Security Council, though closed meetings are not open to the public and no verbatim record of statements is kept and the council issues a communiqué. Consultations are informal meetings of the council members and aren’t covered in the repertoire.

The Security Council holds such consultations frequently, sometimes thrice a week, and members can raise any issue and several topics can come up at these discussions. China has inserted Kashmir into the agenda and it will be one of them on Friday, the people cited above said. The session will neither be recorded nor telecast live and Pakistan won’t get to address the members, they added.

France had even proposed the council should discuss the issue in a less formal manner – known as “any other business” – next week, Reuters quoted unnamed diplomats as saying.

Russia has already said India and Pakistan should address their differences bilaterally, a position also adopted by Poland and the European Union. The US, too, has ruled out mediation on the Kashmir issue and called for a dialogue between India and Pakistan.

A letter sent by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to the Security Council president on August 13 said a representative of the Pakistani government should be allowed to join the meeting. Experts said if this request were to be accepted by the council, an Indian representative would also have to be allowed to participate in the discussions.

The experts said much depends on the format of discussions and their outcomes – such as whether there is a binding or non-binding resolution and whether the minutes are recorded.

The people cited above also said that though Pakistan had tried many times to internationalise the Kashmir issue, the situation on the ground had changed since the Indian government’s decision on August 5 to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

“In the past, such efforts to internationalise the matter were aimed at discussing the status of Kashmir. This is no longer the case now as the status has changed,” said a person who did not want to be identified.

The people noted that Pakistan was persisting with efforts to portray a “doomsday picture”, including Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public remarks and tweets, and Qureshi’s letter to the Security Council. Qureshi wrote in his letter that the situation in Kashmir poses “an imminent threat to international peace”. Qureshi also referred to Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, killed by security forces in 2016, as a “popular resistance leader”.

“There is, furthermore, a clear and present danger that India will provoke another conflict with Pakistan to divert attention from its recent actions in Jammu & Kashmir,” Qureshi wrote in the letter.

He added, “Pakistan will not provoke a conflict. But India should not mistake our restraint for weakness. If India chooses to resort again to the use of force, Pakistan will be obliged to respond, in self-defense, with all its capabilities.”

The Indian government hasn’t formally responded to the remarks by the Pakistani leadership and the people cited above said the changes in Kashmir were purely an internal issue.

First Published:
Aug 15, 2019 23:28 IST

Source: HindustanTimes