Pakistan hit by diplomatic setback as UNSC declines request for open session on Kashmir
By Arul Louis
United Nations, Aug 16 (IANS) Despite intense lobbying, Pakistan has been dealt a diplomatic setback with the UN Security Council declining to hold a formal session on Kashmir with its participation, and instead scheduling a closed-door consultation on "India/Pakistan" at China's insistence on Friday.
Pakistan had asked for a full-fledged meeting of the Council at which it could speak on New Delhi revoking Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution that gave Jammu and Kashmir special status and about alleged human rights abuses in the region.
The format of the Council meeting as a closed-door consultation would preclude non-members participating and the proceedings would be secret, without official written records or access to the media or being broadcast.
It will not be held in the ornate Council chamber either, but will take place in a side room away from public glare.
The UN announced on Thursday that the closed consultations will be on "India/Pakistan" avoiding mention of Kashmir, and will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday.
It will be presided over by Poland's Permanent Representative Joanna Wronecka, who holds the Council's rotating presidency for this month.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had a premonition about the turn of events. No one was waiting for Pakistan "with garlands" at the Council, he told reporters on Monday in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).
He said that internationally "the atmosphere is not favourable" to Pakistan and blamed it on trade as India has a "market of 1 billion people".
Pakistan's Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi had met Wronecka to plead her country's cause and Qureshi spoke to to Foreign Ministers of several countries.
Except for China, all the other four permanent members of the Council have openly backed New Delhi's position that disputes between India and Pakistan are bilateral matters, with the US even saying that the Kashmir developments are an internal matter of India.
After finding that none of the other members of the Council wanted the open meeting that Pakistan sought, its ally China used its prerogative as a member to request the scaled-down closed-door consultation, according to a diplomat with knowledge of the Council workings.
China first made the request for a closed-door consultation in a letter and then brought it up on Wednesday during the Council's informal consultations on other subjects, according to a diplomat at the Security Council.
Like Pakistan, China also has a dispute with India over Kashmir having claimed Aksai Chin in Ladakh, which it now controls. Pakistan signed a deal with China in 1963 recognising Chinese sovereignty over some areas of Kashmir it had occupied.
Diplomats told IANS that France and China expressed differences at the consultations on Wednesday on how to proceed.
While China wanted it taken up on Thursday, France said more time should be given - perhaps till next week - and that the consultation rather than being specifically on Kashmir it should be taken up at a lower level as "other matters" - a sort of footnote to a consultation, the sources said.
As a compromise, it was decided to hold it on Friday with the topic as "India/Pakistan", avoiding direct mention of Kashmir, according to the sources.
Although the consultations on Wednesday were on Syria and Central Africa, China also brought up the request for scheduling a consultation on Kashmir.
If China were to raise human rights issues at the consultation it requested, it could prove to be an embarrassment for it as it has come under international criticism for its treatment of the Muslim minority in its Uighur province, where large numbers of them have been put in camps
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)