The theme put forth by Ambassador Volkan Bozkir, the President of the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN is “The future we want, the United Nations we need; reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism”. Ambassador Bozkir further added, “I intend to place an emphasis on the need to advance the UN collective agenda for humanity with particular attention to vulnerable groups, people in need and the people under oppression.”
Mr. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations reaffirmed his commitment to addressing the international conflicts when he said, “And it’s very important that we now create the conditions to address the smaller but still dramatically deadly conflicts that we are facing in today’s world.”
“While we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we are still looking in askance for the solution of some of the core issues pertaining to the Muslim world. The main issue being Kashmir, Palestine, solution of Syrian crises, etc. The United Nations Security Council has to be more assertive.” Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan, Former Chief Justice of Gambia.
I am deeply flattered by the opportunity to present my appraisal of the United Nations during its 75th anniversary.
Success is measured not only by objectives but also by whether an alternate strategy would have been an improvement. Thus, as Winston Churchill said of democracy, it is the worst form of government except for all others that have been conceived or attempted. Similarly, it might be said of the United Nations that it is the worst international organization for achieving peace, self-determination, and human rights, but for all the alternatives that have been attempted or contemplated.
Success is also measured by goals. Article I of the United Nations Charter identifies a cluster of primary purposes: the maintenance of international peace and security; collective efforts to prevent and to remove threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression; the adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations that might lead to a breach of the international peace and security; the cultivation of amity among nations based on the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples; and, in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.
Before surveying its historical record in achieving these lofty goals, a few earthbound observations are in order.
Candor and fair-mindedness, I submit, support the conclusion that the United Nations has been painfully ineffective measured by the yardsticks of international peace, human rights, and self-determination.
The most gifted men and women have toiled since the beginning of civilization to end conflict and warfare without much ocular success. Fix your eyes upon the globe as it comes before you day after day. Conflict and carnage seem ubiquitous: Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Palestine, Kashmir, etc. The list seems horrifyingly endless. The United Nations has no excuse for its failure to pluck universal peace on the planet from the profoundly flawed human species.
Counted among the greatest failures of the UN is Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia only ten miles from the border of Serbia, which came under attack by the Serbs in July 1995 during the Bosnian war. Although U.S. and British officials knew several weeks in advance that the Serbs intended not only to attack the village but also intended to separate all the men and boys from women and children and kill them, they did nothing to protect them. UN forces were not reinforced. No plan to evacuate them was made. The official policy was to allow the Serbs to take the town because it had been surrounded by Serb forces and was considered indefensible, despite being guaranteed as a “safe zone” by the UN. More than 8,000 men and boys were slaughtered in a matter of days.
May 1948, on the heels of a United Nations partition plan, gave rise to Arab – Israeli conflict over the sovereignty of Palestine. The United Nations remained militarily passive but did arrange a fragile truce or armistice. The United Nations deployed peacekeeping troops in the Sinai in the peace plan that ended the Suez conflict, but the Secretary-General withdrew them with alacrity in 1967. Then came the Six-day war, which resulted in United Nations resolutions 242 and later 338. The mainstream approach resolving the Palestinian issue is ‘two-state solution.’ At present, the United States is the only international arbiter of peace in the Middle East, though Palestinians have lost faith in the neutrality of the US. The United Nations plays only an ornamental or ceremonial role.
Another dangerous situation was and remains Kashmir, over which I must disclose a personal bias since it is my birthplace. Kashmir was a princely state under the British raj and achieved statehood on August 15, 1947, when British paramountcy lapsed. Amidst much intrigue, India dispatched military troops to prop up a crumbling autocratic regime but concurrently raced to the United Nations Security Council, with Pakistan in close pursuit, to secure multiple resolutions prescribing a self-determination plebiscite for Kashmir conducted by the United Nations. The Security Council agreed to the plebiscite formula, but India soon apostatized from its international law commitment when it recognized that Kashmiris would never vote accession to its sovereign orbit in a free and fair referendum.
India’s international lawlessness has escaped United Nations sanctions or even moral reproach for more than 73 years. India’s human rights record is gruesome but hidden behind an iron curtain that keeps out the likes of CNN and BBC; but the commonplace Indian military atrocities extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, plunder, abduction, and arbitrary detentions without trial, are at least on a par with Slobodan Milosevic’s savagery towards Kosovar Albanians, which provoked NATO’s, but not United Nations, military intervention.
The document of JKCHR, circulated by the UN Secretary-General on August 22, 2019, describes the pain and agony of the people in these words: “One such people who have been recognized by the United Nations for their “rights and dignity” and “security and self-determination” are the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. United Nations has defined these people as “People of legend, song, and story, associated with snow-capped mountains, beautiful valleys, and life-giving waters”. Today we associate them with living in a highly militarized zone and locked down inside their homes. We associate them with a habitat where children are recruited to carry out espionage for the Indian Security Forces (a war crime).”
The tens of thousands who have been killed in Kashmir along with vast human rights abuses seem to go on without end. This past year’s tragedy of the abrogation of Article 370 & 35A was just another episode in the long drama that has been witnessed. In 2020, Domicile Law was enacted to change the demography that may push not only the culture and language but also the identity of Kashmir to the brink of extinction.
The festering Kashmir dispute has occasioned two wars between Pakistan and India; and, at present, made the territory the largest army concentration anywhere in the world and the most dangerous nuclear hotspot on the globe. The United Nations observers along the Line of Control are an irrelevancy. They are but spectators who deter nothing and protect no human rights of millions of people of Kashmir.
We consider it extremely unlikely that entirely on their own, India and Pakistan will embark upon any meaningful peace process. Even if they did, there would be a risk of the rights and interests of the people of Kashmir itself being bypassed. The case for an earnest mediatory initiative by the United Nations is thus indubitable, even though in the words of Antonio Guterres, “it’s very difficult to mediate them (international conflicts) and to solve them.”
It’s very clear that Kashmir needs a strong and determined will and the genius of an imagination that has the negotiating skills and knows how to bring people together. We believe that there cannot be a better person than the Secretary-General of the United Nations himself to mediate between India & Pakistan. Secretary-General will have to remain under no obligation to please any particular power or a particular set of powers or groups.
Without reservation, it can be said that the person who becomes instrumental in resolving the Kashmir dispute – the bone of contention of the nuclear confrontation between the two nuclear powers – deserves a special place in history. The resolution of the dispute will bring unparalleled honor to the one who helps to achieve it. That honor could be yours, Mr. Secretary General. Your leadership in helping to settle the Kashmir dispute should not be seen to favor India or Pakistan but to advance the cause of freedom, democracy, and human rights in the region of South Asia.