As the dust settles on the UN Security Council’s “non-meeting” on the Kashmir issue, few points are worth noting. Some will calm nerves while others demand serious action.
First, the UN keeps no record or minutes of these “informal, closed-door consultations.” So for Pakistan’s leaders to project the hour-long confab as a monumental development is delusional. To project it as an expression of international will is a straight out lie. No statement was issued despite China’s push.
Second, while Pakistan’s “iron brother” China managed to organize something resembling a get together, it was in a glaring minority of one or may be two if you take United Kingdom’s double play into account. UK’s convenient position: We won’t propose a meeting but don’t mind if someone else does. Well, trying to have your cake and eat it too goes only so far, especially for a Brexit-ing power.
Third, the United States was unambiguously in India’s corner. “They were forthright and were clearly opposed to the efforts being made over the last week,” a UN diplomat told your columnist. As was France, the original “strategic partner.”
This means the little flirtation with “mediation” by President Donald Trump is over. The US stand at the UNSC was a demonstration, perhaps that the policy process survives, that the overall strategic partnership is in good-ish health after a short fever and that India’s importance in the larger arc of where Washington wants to be in Asia remains high.
One need just look at the White House readout on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s SOS to Trump before the UNSC consultations. It said the “president conveyed the importance of India and Pakistan reducing tensions through bilateral dialogue regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
B-i-l-a-t-e-r-a-l being the key word. Painful as it might be for Khan to endure, his 15 minutes of fame with Trump are over. Pakistan is back to square one with no strategy except threats, terrorism and pleading with China and former colonial masters, the British.
No wonder Khan has taken to tweeting dangerously into the night, using big and alarming words about India in random order. Level-headed Pakistanis are embarrassed for it won’t further his country’s case with the Americans. Still there’s no room for complacency because Pakistan will keep trying and China will use the opportunities as they come.
Fourth, the larger Muslim world did not come to Pakistan’s rescue, a fact openly acknowledged by Khan’s foreign minister last week in a fit of candour. The protectors of the faith have more stakes in India than in Pakistan, compulsions of religious brotherhood notwithstanding. If anything should stir a rethink in Pakistan about its Kashmir obsession and terrorist-friendly policies, this should.
Fifth, the newly emergent “leader” of human rights, i.e. China, should be aware that “informal consultations” such as the one it forced on the UNSC on Friday can also be held about its treatment of the Uighurs. The Americans have already begun raising concerns at the UN about “re-education camps”.
Diplomats say the US was worked up about Uighurs during a UNSC meeting in July on “preventive diplomacy in Central Asia” where members discussed how best to secure the rights of minorities. Is Beijing ready for transparency? Meanwhile, the amazing protests in Hong Kong continue.
Sixth, the role of Russia should also be noted now that Moscow has somewhat different predilections. The very fact that Russia was prepared for a closed-door meeting shows the relationship is in a different place from where it was in the 70s.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy permanent representative, didn’t help matters when he invoked “relevant UN resolutions” in his tweets. May be something was lost in translation but the fact remains that Russia accommodated China, its go-to friend these days. One can “understand” but one needn’t paper over facts.
Seventh, Indian diplomats did an amazing job sensitizing their interlocuters in New York, Washington, Paris and Berlin. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, won the day when answered questions after the non-meeting, including several from Pakistani journalists.
He was hard-hitting, on point, and informative. The Chinese and Pakistani ambassadors by contrast took no questions and ran for cover after making their self-serving statements.
Eighth and finally, the battle of the narratives in the “free world” needs urgent attention. India is in some trouble, its democratic credentials under pressure with large-scale house arrests of political leaders and a forced digital silence.
Yes, BJP supporters can dismiss all criticism as motivated. To denounce the New York Times and the Washington Post for their obviously one-sided editorials and opinion pieces is easy, but to fight the battle in that arena is difficult. The image-making exercise should extend beyond India’s borders.
It should be noted, however, that general reporting in major US newspapers was fair for the most part. It was the opinion pages where critics dominated and there wasn’t a fancy name arguing India’s position.
Like it or not, newspapers remain the first draft of history and western newspapers are important if you want to fight the ISI-inspired narrative.