Pakistan says it’ll raise Kashmir again at UN. India says go ahead, nobody’s listening

Stuck forever.
Stuck forever.
Image: Reuters/Mohsin Raza
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United Nations, New York

Sixty-nine years after it was first discussed here, the vexed Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan will again feature at the UN when world leaders meet in New York next week.

Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, said her country will raise the dispute when prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi speaks during the UN general debate on Sept. 21, especially now that the dialogue process between New Delhi and Islamabad is stalled. India, however, remains unperturbed, while analysts described it as “diversionary tactics” at a time when Islamabad is under increasing pressure over the many terror groups operating from its territory.

“When the bilateral track (talks) has been stopped in its tracks by the present Indian government, then, I think, for Pakistan to raise the issue of Kashmir internationally becomes even more important,” Lodhi said in an interview at the UN headquarters. “It’s very important for the international community to hear Pakistan, and they will hear Pakistan. They will hear Pakistan loud and clear. That, this is not the way that we can get to peace in our region.”

In response, Indian ambassador to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said Pakistan was free to raise the issue. ”There is no restriction of anybody raising any issue of their interest,” he said in an interview. ”They tried it last year, end number of times. However, they did not get the support of one country.”

The dialogue process between the two countries has been suspended since last year following an attack on India’s Pathankot airbase by terrorists allegedly based in Pakistan. India has insisted that it won’t come to the table—if only for bilateral talks—until Pakistan stops supporting cross-border terror. “We have repeatedly said that for any dialogue, there needs to be a conducive atmosphere. Create that atmosphere, we’re ready to talk,” Akbaruddin added.

Meanwhile, Lodhi emphasised that with talks suspended, Pakistan expects to gain more traction from the international community. “We will continue to raise Kashmir at this world stage in the most, sort of, explicit of ways. We’ll make sure that the international community knows where we are, and how the people of Kashmir look towards the United Nations to fulfill its obligation, which are long-standing obligations,” she said. “This is an issue that, obviously, the prime minister will raise with the secretary general of the United Nations.”

Analysts, however, questioned the effectiveness of this outreach.

“Despite Pakistan’s attempts to project Kashmir as a major global flashpoint, it’s really an off-the-radar issue in most key capitals, most especially Washington,” said Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at Washington DC’s Woodrow Wilson Centre. “For western capitals, the threat perception posed by Kashmir is so much lower than that of North Korea and ISIS, among others.”

Last month, US president Donald Trump publicly rebuked Pakistan for often providing “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” prompting Islamabad to temporarily suspend talks with Washington DC. Meanwhile, in early September, the BRICS group issued a statement (pdf) that, for the first time, named Pakistan-based terror groups. This was deemed a diplomatic win for India.

“Pakistan has been under pressure for years, and it has always managed to wiggle out of it while not addressing the very issue that precipitates the pressure,” Kugelman said. “One way that Pakistan does this in global forums is by resorting to diversionary tactics. This is why Pakistan tends to use the annual UNGA meetings as an opportunity to bring attention to the Kashmir crisis.”