WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI: India calmly navigated a pincer diplomatic move by China and Pakistan to alarm the world about the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, saying constitutional changes in the state were “internal to India” even as UN Security Council members not only rejected Pakistan’s demand for a formal meeting but did not even adopt an informal statement.
Efforts by China and Pakistan to internationalise revocation of the special status to J&K were thwarted at the closed-door consultations on Friday even as Pakistani ambassador Maleeha Lodhi sought to claim the discussions as a win. Yet, with no informal outcome announced, it was left to China and Pakistan to make claims which India dismissed as attempts to pass “national opinions” as UNSC deliberations.
China had suggested, sources said, that an informal outcome be announced through UNSC president Joanna Wronecka. However, in the absence of support from any other member except UK, Chinese ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun addressed the media to claim that members had expressed “serious concern” about the situation in J&K and the alleged violation of human rights.
This led India’s permanent representative Syed Akbaruddin to come out and declare that the Chinese diplomat and his Pakistani counterpart, Lodhi, who too had spoken before the Indian envoy, had passed off “national sentiments as the will of the international community”. Akbaruddin asserted that the defanging of Article 370 as entirely an internal affair of India with no external ramifications.
Setting the record straight, and displaying remarkable poise in the presence of a hostile international media, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said: “Our national position was and remains that matters related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution are entirely an internal matter of India… and India remains committed to ensure that the situation there (J&K) remains calm and peaceful.”
“We note that there were some who tried to project an alarmist approach to the situation which is far from the ground realities. Of particular concern is that one state is using terminology of ‘jihad’ against, and promoting violence in, India, including by their leaders,” he added, underscoring the rhetoric whipped up by Pakistan, including talk of nuclear war.
“India’s action is meant to ensure that good governance is promoted and socio-economic development is enhanced in J&K and Ladakh. We are gratified that the Security Council in its closed consultations appreciated India’s efforts to restore normalcy and we are committed to gradually removing all restrictions,” Akbaruddin said. The Indian ambassador, unlike his Chinese and Pakistani counterparts, even took questions from the media, many of them from aggressive Pakistani and other international journalists.
Though Lodhi exulted that the Kashmir issue had been “internationalised”, the informal closed-door gathering of the 15 UNSC members concluded sans any formal votes, resolution or statements. No formal minutes or notes were taken at the meeting, and neither India not Pakistan were present at the deliberations.
Zhang had earlier said unilateral action should be avoided by the parties involved to ensure the “dangerous” situation wasn’t aggravated. Lodhi, too, had spoken after him, claiming that J&K was not an internal matter of India.
While closed consultations don’t normally lead to adoption of any outcome, India was worried that China could get the president of the UNSC to pass adverse remarks about the recent developments in J&K. Sources said there was finally no support from almost all members to this move by the Chinese.
The focus of the meeting was Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s letter to the UNSC in which he had demanded an open and formal meeting with a Pakistani representative present. There was little chance though of the UNSC holding a formal meeting as most members, including Russia, were against this. China needed the support of at least nine members to call for a formal meeting.
“History knows that the last agreement we signed in 1972, we adhere to that, but Pakistan also needs to follow that. We can go back in history. Every new agreement overtakes the past… we are committed to that,” Akbaruddin said as he underlined India’s commitment to the Simla Agreement in resolving differences with Pakistan.
But even the Chinese intervention, and presentation outside the meeting, was not entirely to Pakistan’s satisfaction. Zhang said the issue of J&K was “leftover from history and according to UN resolutions its status is undecided and it is an internationally recognised dispute”.
As he was telling reporters that India’s actions had changed the situation and “parties concerned” should refrain from taking any unilateral action which might further aggravate tension in the area, someone knocked over a stand. “Is that the tension?” Zhang joked. “So we can see how serious the situation is.”
Similarly, Akbaruddin also disarmed some aggressive questioning by Pakistani journalists who wanted to know when India would initiate peace talks by joking, “Let me come and shake your hands first.” He asserted that India was always ready for talks under bilateral agreements.
A small demonstration by Pakistanis outside the White House abjured the violence that British Pakistanis and Khalistani separatists unleashed in London on Thursday, their protest restricted to placards and slogans. “Kashmir is for Kashmiris, not for India or Pakistan. Modi is killing innocent terrorists,” one protester told TV cameras in a quote that became an instant meme.