Delhi has strongly rejected the UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s renewed mediation offer on Kashmir. The offer came in response to a question that the UN executive was asked during his joint press conference with Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mohammad Qureshi. Guterres is currently on a three-day visit of Pakistan.
“A reporter at the joint press conference asked a question about tensions in Jammu and Kashmir and the Secretary-General explained that he had offered, from the beginning, his good offices in relation to the situation, noting however that “good offices can only work when accepted by both sides”,” according to the UN News, the official news network of the United Nations.
“He maintained the UN position that the relevant resolutions of the Security Council on the issue should be implemented and for effective de-escalation, dialogue, and another very important condition: full respect for human rights and [fundamental] freedoms of those in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Guterres, according to the PTI asserted on Sunday that it was important for India and Pakistan to de-escalate “militarily and verbally” and exercise “maximum restraint”.
“Diplomacy and dialogue remain the only tools that guarantee peace and stability with solutions in accordance with the Charter of United Nations and resolutions of the Security Council,” Guterres was quoted saying. “I offered my good offices from the beginning. I am ready to help if both countries agree for mediation.”
He was further quoted saying: “We have taken a position that UN resolutions (on Kashmir) should be implemented, there should be ceasefire (on LoC) and human rights should be respected.”
Only a few hours later, came the response from Delhi with the spokesman rejecting the offer.
“India’s position has not changed,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. “Jammu and Kashmir has been, is, and will continue to be an integral part of India. The issue that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. Further issues, if any, would be discussed bilaterally. There is no role or scope for third party mediation.”
Guterres, however, said more on the issues concerning Kashmir. “When asked about ceasefire violations in the disputed region, the UN chief mentioned his visit to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), noting that it “should have full freedom of movement; it has on the Pakistani side – we hope that this will also be achieved on the other side, and we will be strengthening its equipment capacity in order to better be able to implement its mandates”,” according to the UN News.
This essentially is a demand that Delhi must grant the UNMOGIP full access, something that has been withdrawn since 1971. Delhi believes that the Mission has outlived its utility after the Simla accord between India and Pakistan.
Guterres also visited the Gurduwara Kartarpur Sahib, now world’s largest Gurdwara, and termed the initiative a “symbol of interfaith harmony, a unique experiment in cross-border ties”.
A UN News statement said the visit is aimed at recognizing Pakistan’s decades of “outstanding generosity and solidarity” as one of the world’s largest hosts of refugees. “One of the main purposes of my visit is to spotlight the real Pakistan — with all its possibility and potential,” Guterres told reporters in Islamabad.
“The UN chief started out his day in Islamabad by meeting with refugees from Afghanistan, Yemen and Tajikistan. On Monday, he will speak at an international conference marking 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, one of the world’s largest and longest-standing refugee populations,” the UN said. “Organized by the Pakistan Government and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the conference will also be addressed by the agency’s chief, Fillipo Grandi. The Secretary-General is also expected to meet with refugees and senior Pakistani officials during the visit.”
Guterres said it was time for the world to take a step back and “look at Pakistan through a wider frame.”
Indeed, he said, the role Pakistan had played in sheltering and protecting Afghan refugees with limited international assistance, as well as its support to UN peacekeeping, and its steps to take concrete climate action with the ‘10 Billion Tree Tsunami’ campaign among other initiatives, were vital aspects of the South Asian country’s contribution to the region and the wider international community.
“The United Nations will continue to support Pakistan, and I call on other countries to support Pakistan and indeed show similar leadership in sharing this responsibility in this region and around the world,” said Guterres.
In his Special Talk on Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Guterres noted that “like other developing countries, Pakistan has contributed little to the problem yet faces disproportionate vulnerability because of it.”
Earlier on Sunday, the Secretary General and the head of the UN refugee agency, Grandi, met with three generations of Afghan refugees, listened to their compelling stories and expressed solidarity and compassion with their cause.
Though this marks Guterres’ first trip to Pakistan in his capacity as UN chief, he noted that he had visited the country many times during his tenure as UN High Commissioner of Refugees. “I gained an enormous admiration for the resilience, courage, determination, generosity and the solidarity of Afghan refugees,” said Guterres, adding that he had “drawn inspiration from their courage”.
UN News also had an opportunity to meet some of the refugees, who despite their hardships, had been able to help others and to give back to their communities.
Fazal Nabi, a 35-year-old, born in Pakistan, is passionate about helping refugees with disabilities. He drives a rickshaw to earn his living but spends most of his earnings buying equipment to help persons with disabilities.
Asked what he dream of doing if he took up another job, Nabi said that he would like to open a factory to manufacture assistive technologies, mobility aids or tools that could ease the everyday lives of persons with disabilities.