Niloofar Qureshi

Abrogation of Article 370 and Islamabad: lessons not learnt

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After Islamabad’s contention that since J&K is “disputed territory,” New Delhi’s decision to abrogate Article 370 of its constitution that provided ‘special status’ to citizens of J&K was “Illegal” didn’t find favour with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), one had thought that Pakistanwould reorient it’s diplomatic approach on the ‘K’ issue. However, the Foreign Office has now disclosed that Foreign Minister (FM) Shah Mahmood Qureshi has written letters to the UN Security Council President and the UN Secretary General to protest against India’s new J&Kdomicile laws (“Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Order 2020” and “Jammu & Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate Rules 2020”). Qureshi has informed UNSC that this law would facilitate demographic changes and by paving the way for non-Kashmiris to acquire permanent residence, result in the Muslim majority here being reduced to a minority.

The problem with Islamabad is its obduracy due to which it refuses to learn lessons from past setbacks. Qureshi may have forgottenof how he embarrassed the people of Kashmir last year by saying that we were living in a “fool’s paradise,” but we haven’t. We also remember his “They (UNSC members) are not waiting for you with garlands in their hands” remarks. And that is the reason why he needs to explain the wisdom of repeating last year’s unsuccessful post Article 370 abrogation strategy by once again bringing up the demography issue. Last year he was teaching us that “Giving vent to emotions is easy and raising objections is much easier. However, it is difficult to understand the issue and move forward.” Well, if this was the lesson that he learnt last year, then what has changed so drastically since then that makes him optimistic that the UNSC will accept Islamabad’s same complaint this time?

The handout released by the FO mentions that “since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019, the Jammu & Kashmir dispute has been taken up in the Security Council on three different occasions.”Since it’s the end results and not the number of attempts that count, what is the point of boasting of having taken up the ‘K’ issue thrice in the last one year, when the UNSC hasn’t even chided, let alone asked New Delhi to reinstitute Articles 370 and 35A? Why is Islamabad so keen on broadcasting its own failures? The FO release also mentions that besides drawing attention of the UNSC president and UN Secretary General to the demographic change issue, the new laws also “underscored that these actions are illegal and in violation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions and international law, in particular the 4th Geneva Convention.”

Even though the UNSC didn’t agree with Islamabad’s contention that any revocation of existing laws in J&K by New Delhi was “illegal and in violation of the UNSC resolutions” Qureshi has once again applied the same logic for the new domicile laws with one small addition. He has stated that this move by New Delhi is illegal as it violates the 4th Geneva Convention “in particular.” Even though I’m not an expert on international law, but I can still say with confidence that the Pakistani FM’s bid to cite Geneva Conventions in order to get a favourable response from UNSC is unlikely to succeed. Article 4 of Geneva Convention (as explained in Wikipedia) “defines who is protected person: Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.”

While Islamabad may contend that the people of IaK are under “occupation” and that New Delhi is an “Occupying Power,” but the UNSC, UN as well as the global community doesn’t think so. Thus, no one will ever agree that Article 4 of Geneva Convention is applicable to the people of IaK and I don’t know why Islamabad takes pleasure in further complicating matters. Qureshi should realise that when he refers to J&K as “disputed territory,” then what holds good for IaK is also equally applicable to PaK too and so, how can Article 4 of Geneva Convention be relevant to IaK only? Moreover, Islamabad needs to realise that it isn’t on very firm ground as regards its “disputed territory” logic. If merely abrogating sections of its own constitution and bringing in new laws in IaK amounts to violating UNSC resolutions” then how does Islamabad explain its ceding Shaksgam Valley in PaK to China in 1963 and allowing China to construct the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through what it calls a “disputed area”?

Islamabad needs to learn some tricks from India.  CPEC running through PaK is a very big issue for New Delhi but unlike Islamabad, which keeps mentioning Kashmir everywhere to the extent of getting on the nerves of the global community, New Delhi’s response has been far more well calculated. After having lodged an official complaint regarding the CPEC project, New Delhi continues to maintain a discreet silence, knowing very well that by allowing the Chinese to undertake developmental activities in PaK, Islamabad is destroying its own case of Kashmir being “disputed territory.” And with the separatist camp looking the other way despite knowing fully well that CPEC is detrimental to ‘self-determination’ in J&K, it’s New Delhi that must be having the last laugh at Islamabad’s grand betrayal of the Kashmir cause and the Hurriyat’s stoic silence on this issue!

– The writer is based in New Delhi and can be reached at [email protected]

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