China’s gambit in calling a ‘closed-door’ meeting on Kashmir at the UN Security Council India seems to have backfired as UNSC member nations continued to stand by India’s contention that Article 370 is an internal matter and that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir remained a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Reports suggest that of the five permanent nations at the UNSC, Russia and the U.S. backed India at the closed-door meeting, isolating China and forcing it to back down.
Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on Kashmir
Such a move coupled with the fact that this UN meeting was an informal one – as opposed to the more formal ones which are held in the Council Chamber of Security where the UNSC is required to issue a formal statement – meant this meeting had little takeaways for Islamabad. With no formal statement on Kashmir, it was as one observer pointedly stated, ‘little more than a chat.’ So though Pakistan could talk about raising the Kashmir issue internationally there was very little to show for it in terms of substance.
Such a move would have been known in advance by both Beijing and Islamabad. But China needed to be seen to be helping its all-weather friend, and the Pakistan government needed something to show the domestic public that they were successfully ‘internationalising’ the Kashmir issue. And with that began a flurry of activity. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had written a formal letter to the UN Security Council president, requesting an emergency meeting and also in the run-up to the meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump where he expressed his concerns on Kashmir.
The White House issued a statement saying “The President conveyed the importance of India and Pakistan reducing tensions through bilateral dialogueregarding the situation in J&K.”
Inside the auspices of the UN, China and Pakistan did not find the going easier. India’s Permanent Representative at the UN Syed Akbaruddin was a complete contrast to his Pakistani and Chinese counterparts (who read out statements and took no questions) in his nearly 18-minute interaction with the media.
Not only did Akbaruddin take seven questions, three from Pakistani journalists, he also scored a ‘diplomatic coup’ through a dramatic gesture at the media forum. Asked by a Pakistani journalist, ‘When will you begin a dialogue with Pakistan?’ he retorted ‘So let me begin by coming across to you. Give me your hand.’
Speaking about the Kashmir issue and Article 370, Akbaruddin said: “Matters relating to Article 370 are entirely an internal matter of India. These have no external ramifications”. Rejecting Islamabad’s contention about the need for the international community to ‘act’ on Kashmir he said, “India’s commitment to addressing these issues on the bilateral track has very broad acceptance globally. Measures taken in J&K are preventive in nature to stop terrorists from bleeding our people…Public order is essential to ensuring democracy prospers. There are reasonable restrictions and we’re easing them. India is a vibrant, thriving democracy and we live by it every day”.
Media statement by Maleeha Lohdi, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations, on the situation in India & Pakistan.
In a prepared statement, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodi stated that her country would launch more moves on Kashmir at various global fora.
“The voice of the Kashmiri people has been heard at the highest diplomatic forum of the world. The fact that this meeting took place is a testimony to the fact that this is an internationally recognized dispute. As far as Pakistan is concerned, we stand ready for a peaceful settlement to the Kashmir dispute…The meeting nullifies India’s claim that J&K is an internal matter for India. Our Foreign Minister has confirmed this is Pakistan’s first step. It will not end here.”
Zhang Jun, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, on Kashmir- Security Council Media Stakeout
On Beijing’s side, China’s envoy Zhang Jun stated that his country was ‘deeply concerned’ about the current situation in J&K which he described as ‘serious’ and ‘dangerous’. In a statement, he said: “India’s action has also challenged China’s sovereign interests and violated the bilateral agreement to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas. Such a unilateral practice by India is not valid in relation to China and will not change China’s exercise of sovereignty and administrative jurisdiction. Both India and Pakistan are India’s friendly neighbours and India and Pakistan should settle disputes peacefully and maintain security in the region collectively and jointly”.
Informal comments to the media by Dmitry Polyanskiy, the First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations.
Neither Islamabad nor Beijing could win over the other member countries of the UNSC or non-permanent members. Russia has constantly been espousing India’s cause and before the meeting Dmitry Polyanskiy, the First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, made his country’s position on the matter by telling journalists: “We feel it should be a bilateral track between India and Pakistan. It’s a bilateral issue”.
As world reactions to the meeting flowed in, Pakistan’s failure to ‘internationalise’ Kashmir at the UN’s highest table was echoed even by Kashmiri leaders. Shabir Choudhry, one of the founders of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), sarcastically ‘congratulated’ the Imran Khan government for having ‘fooled the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the people of Pakistan’, for having successfully diverted attention away from ‘domestic problems’ and ‘manipulating’ the people of J&K to ‘advance their agenda on J&K.’ Such reactions showed the failure of the Imran Khan government to ‘score’ a convincing ‘win’ with anyone, anywhere, who mattered despite all their tough talk on Kashmir.