More articles by

Mandira Nayar
Mandira Nayar


UN rights chief seeks 'unconditional access' to both sides of LoC, India says 'no'

PTI9_13_2016_000254B Kashmiri Muslims shout freedom slogans during a protest after Eid al-Adha prayers in Srinagar | PTI

The situation in Kashmir found a place in a session of the Human Rights Council that began in Geneva on Tuesday. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his opening statement, noted that the commission had been receiving reports of Indian authorities using force "excessively" against civilians.

“We had previously received reports, and still continue to do so, claiming the Indian authorities had used force excessively against the civilian population under its administration," said Hussein.

He made a public appeal to India and Pakistan for unconditional access to both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). The request had been made two months ago, he added. Pakistan government had sent an invite requesting the team for a visit on Friday, but India was yet to respond.

“I believe an independent, impartial and international mission is now needed crucially and that it should be given free and complete access to establish an objective assessment of the claims made by the two sides," he said.

Hussein, however, acknowledged that he had received conflicting narratives about the cause of the situation.

Now it's time for India to put its diplomacy at the UN to the test.

India so far has politely, but firmly asserted that Kashmir is an internal affair. A strongly worded statement issued by the ministry of external affairs on Wednesday reiterated India’s position.

“It would be recalled that the present situation arose from the death of a self-acknowledged commander of the terrorist organisation, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, who was wanted for several terrorist acts," said the ministry. “It was further aggravated by sustained cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Terrorism is the grossest violation of human rights and should be so acknowledged by any impartial and objective observer. The high number of casualties sustained by Indian security forces is a reflection of the tremendous restraint they have displayed in difficult circumstances,” it said.

Virtually denying access to the commission, India has said that the issue of an external mission was considered by the All-Party Conference that met on August 12 to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “It was unanimously felt that Indian democracy has all that is required to address legitimate grievances. Accordingly, an all-party delegation visited Srinagar. Despite cross-border terrorist infiltration that saw an encounter only yesterday, Government remains fully engaged in normalizing the situation as soon as possible," said the MEA.

Meanwhile, Pakistan welcomed the move. The question now is how India manages to win not only the statement war, but the battle of perception.

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