-01 [pol] [ed] [top] @h- UN chief offers to work for settlement of Kashmir issue

November 5, 2008

UNITED NATIONS (APP) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he would be willing to provide his good offices to promote a settlement of the decades-old Kashmir dispute if India and Pakistan agree to his role.

“If and when both parties (India and Pakistan) to this issue (Kashmir) ask me to provide my good offices, I am willing to do that,” he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on his return from his four-nation tour that took him to Philippines, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
But India, which regards Kashmir as an integral part, has always opposed UN intervention on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute even though it is on the agenda of the Security Council. “But as you know, good offices (of the UN Secretary General) are available when and whenever there is some agreed requests from both parties,” Ban said in response to a specific question if the Secretary General was willing to offer his good offices to find a solution to the Kashmir dispute.
Referring to his meeting with Indian leaders while he was in New Delhi last week, Ban said he did discuss the Kashmir issue with them. He said he urged the Indian leaders to continue their composite dialogue with Pakistan.
“The recent summit meeting between President of Pakistan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York provided a very good opportunity in breakthrough in their current relationship,” Ban said.
The two leaders had met in New York on the sidelines of the 63rd session of UN General Assembly meeting in September, wherein India and Pakistan agreed on a number of confidence building measures.
He said trade between India and Pakistan has now opened up and exchanges are continuing. “Through gradual progress in this area I am sure that they will be able to resolve this Kashmir issue through dialogue in a peaceful manner,” Ban added.
Meanwhile Pakistan on Monday rejected an Indian claim that Kashmir is a part of India, saying United Nations resolutions have recognized the Himalayan state as disputed territory. “Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory according to several UN Resolutions. The Security Council’s demand for free and fair plebiscite under the UN auspices still remains to be implemented,” Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural questions.
Referring to the current violence in Indian-held Kashmir, he said the occupying forces killed innocent protestors and the Kashmiri political leadership was put behind bars to silence their call for freedom. Such actions created tension and aggravated the situation on the ground.
Haroon was exercising his right of reply to a statement by Indian delegate Rajeev Shukla claiming Kashmir to be a part of India, and insisting that an earlier speech by the Pakistani ambassador amounted to “unwarranted” interference in the Indian internal affairs and that it was also “factually incorrect”.
The Indian delegate said, “The people of Jammu and Kashmir exercised their right to self determination at the time of India’s independence and have since then repeatedly participated in free, fair and open elections at all levels. In contrast, Pakistan pretends to be concerned over human rights, yet denied even a semblance of such rights to the people of Pakistan-held Kashmir.”
In a strong response, Haroon, the Pakistani ambassador, said the Indian claims about Kashmiris’ exercise of the right to self-determination through elections have been rejected not only by the UN Security Council but also by the people of Kashmir. “The current response to announcing elections is in front of the whole world. The Kashmiri leadership has once again rejected the so-called elections, they have been put behind the bars, and widespread protests in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir are going on”.
As regards human rights violations, Haroon said, Pakistan has only echoed what has been said and reported both by the international and Indian human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media about Jammu and Kashmir.
“Pakistan remains committed to the ongoing dialogue between the two countries and considers it an important vehicle for promotion of cooperative and good neighborly relations as well as peace and security in the region. It is, however, important that the process of engagement produce results in addressing the outstanding issues. It should move from a stage of conflict management to conflict resolution,” the Pakistani ambassador added.