Win Kashmiri hearts and minds

The United Nations Security Council’s ‘informal consultations’ behind closed doors on the Kashmir issue – the first time in nearly half-a-century—had a mixed result for India. On the plus side, Indian diplomacy was successful in blocking Pakistani and Chinese attempts to bring the Kashmir issue back on the formal agenda of the UNSC. Also, it prevented the UNSC from issuing a public statement on the situation in Kashmir. Most permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC endorsed New Delhi's stand that India’s recent decisions relating to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are 'internal matters’ of India. They also agreed that India and Pakistan should resolve issues through bilateral dialogue. It is heartening, too, that the US and France batted for India. This should provide New Delhi with some quiet satisfaction.

However, India needs to take note of the changing, nuanced and even dwindling support of its friends in the international community. Britain, for instance, expressed concern over the human rights situation in J&K and extended support for China's demand that the UNSC issue a statement. Particularly shocking was Russia’s position at the meeting. Although it did support India-Pakistan bilateral dialogue to resolve the Kashmir conflict—the traditional Indian position—Russia called on the two countries to resolve differences through bilateral agreements and under the 'charter' and 'relevant resolutions' of the United Nations. Under the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration, India and Pakistan have committed to resolve contentious issues through bilateral dialogue. India has always opposed a role for third parties, including the UN, in resolving the Kashmir issue. Indeed, even the UN had come around to accepting the irrelevance of the world body’s resolutions regarding Kashmir. Russia’s digging up UN resolutions relating to Kashmir is unwarranted and unfriendly. Moscow’s newly warming ties with Pakistan appears to be behind its wavering support to India on the Kashmir issue.

Several UNSC members are understandably concerned over the lockdown in Kashmir. Steps to ease restrictions, which have been set in motion in recent days, are reported to have convinced several UNSC members, including the US and France, to stand by India. The Narendra Modi government must accelerate the process of restoration of normal life in the Valley. This is necessary not only to allay international apprehensions but also to ease fears in the Valley. A sensitive people-centric strategy must be implemented now. Detained leaders should be freed, communications and public transport restored fully. All-party consultations and civil society outreach should be prioritized. India will win the diplomatic battle on Kashmir if it wins the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people.

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