Running in circles
Last July, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had released its first-ever report on the situation of human rights in Kashmir and related developments from June 2016 to April 2018. As expected, the response of the Indian Union was that the report is biased and does not recognise the active role Pakistan plays to foment terrorism in the region. In a follow-up report released on Monday, OHCHR claimed that "neither India nor Pakistan have taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised". This claim is only a differently articulated reiteration of last year's claim for the same. Likewise, India's response to it has been along the same line as last year's, albeit a little more forcefully made this time. India "lodged a strong protest with the UN rights office over its report on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and asserted that it is merely a continuation of the earlier 'false and motivated' narrative and ignores the core issue of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan". Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar adequately summed up that the update of the report of the OHCHR is merely a continuation of the earlier false and motivated narrative on the situation in J&K. Amid the volley of arguments and diplomatic and political duel, notwithstanding the sensationalised involvement of the (largely ineffective) United Nations, before resorting to the convenience of debates and discussions about Kashmir, it must be understood that the officially undecided status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. It is one thing that a humongous historical blunder was committed shortly following Independence, but decades of Indian Union's sovereign rule over the state ought to have resolved the lingering Kashmir issue. It is nothing short of irony that a small part of the state in terms of territory that houses a smaller part of the state's population (but still a significant number), is the bone of contention compounded to such an extent that it virtually decides the fate of the entire state and all its people who are systemically cut off from other Indians owing to settlement laws. Pakistan's motive to 'bleed India by a thousand cuts' is no secret and it serves the notorious neighbour's interests to keep the conflict alive in the valley. A palpable lack of political will on India's part in all these decades is equally to blame. Conveniently outsourcing the peace process to political elements in the state (and they obviously doing business out of it) does nothing to address the festering Kashmir conundrum. Naturally, then, entities like the UN will assert authority over matters they are not sincerely concerned about. There happens to be nothing ground-breaking about the UN's assessment. It only highlights the same things which are discussed at length at various levels of political engagement. Peace in Kashmir can come only from a resolute India.