The United Nations has been a bit of a paper tiger since the days the US started getting its way in geopolitics. When the US started pounding Iraq, dismantling Libya and meddling in Syria, the only legitimate arbiter of world’s conflicts has been just a notice board for countries willing to resort disputes through their military might.
Once the US set the tone, countries like Russia took over and went ahead with their expansionist plans in places like Crimea. Even China has had its way in provinces like Xinjiang—the verdict is still out on Hong Kong.
In this context, the United Nation Security Council’s decision to discuss Kashmir behind closed doors after 50 years doesn’t exactly sound like a huge diplomatic setback for India. At the end of the meeting, members will be briefed about the situation and then, depending on the deliberations, decide the future course of action. India will have reasons to fret only if the UNSC issues a strong statement against India or convenes an emergency meeting to talk about Kashmir further. Yet, the signs are not good for India.
The growing din against India
In an ideal world, India would have loved everyone to form their opinion on Kashmir by reading its newspapers or watching its pliant TV channels. All of them have been competing with each other for portraying Kashmir as a land in debt to the Indian government for taking its special privileges and imposing a brutal lockdown.
Unfortunately, some of the top opinion-makers — New York Times, Washington Post, the BBC and magazines like Strategic Affairs— of the world are painting a grim picture of atrocities, human right violations and accusing India of reneging on Constitutional guarantees to Kashmiris. The international media has been reporting about massive protests—played down by India—and repression of people.
The balance of opinion and reportage is heavily against India. Vehement denials by the India government and howls of protests by the Indian media are not helping at all in this battle of perception. As a result, protests have been staged in the US and the UK, where the Pakistani, Kashmiri diaspora has been joined by people from neutral venues.
The result of this global assault on India’s decision to abrogate Kashmir’s special status and impose heavy restrictions has internationalised the issue in a way that is proving to be detrimental to the India. The tide can of course turn if India also mobilises its diaspora to counter these protests on the ground and criticism in the international press. But, so far, the advantage has been with India’s critics.
The UNSC Conundrum
In this backdrop of shellacking in the propaganda war, the UNSC decision to accept China’s request for a discussion on Kashmir erodes India’s image further. The mere fact that the UNSC has decided to intervene, even if without the ability to pay anything other than lip service, will add to the perception that India has made some serious errors in Kashmir.
It is also pertinent to point out that the discussion has been demanded by China on Pakistan’s request. This is a clear sign that China is supporting its ally on the Kashmir issue in spite of foreign minister S Jaishankar’s recent visit to Beijing. India had told China that its recent decisions on Kashmir are matters of internal importance. But, China has taken it to the UNSC in a bid to draw the attention of the international community.
So far, we do not know how the US would react. But, in the past, such moves against India were checkmated by its all-weather ally Russia. That Russia has not weighed in on the matter so far implies India can’t count on the unconditional support of its Cold War ally any more. On the other hand, Pakistan is getting some traction.
That Pakistan would be happy to walk away with a minor victory at this stage is evident from statements made by Maleeha Lodhi, its ambassador to the UN. “I think at this point in time the very affirmation or re-affirmation of the council’s resolutions itself is going to nullify the Indian claim that this is an internal matter,” Lodhi had remarked during a press conference on Thursday.
In April 1948, the UN had adopted a resolution for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. It had dispatched a Commission to Kashmir to prepare for a plebiscite to decide the fate of the Valley.
In its resolution, it had asked Pakistan to withdraw its military from the parts it had occupied after the 1947 invasion by its forces and tribal militia. India was asked to reduce its forces to the minimum level required for maintaining law and order.
The plebiscite was never completed because the two countries didn’t agree on the conditions for demilitarisation of the zone.