The principle of equality among peoples and nations, basic principle of the UN Charter, is gaining strength and there is a strong movement to reform the UN Security Council. Nations are demanding that the Security Council should be more democratic, representative and accountable. During the Security Council reform debate on 9 March 2016 Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi (Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN in New York) criticised the abuse of veto by permanent members and pointed out that the use of the veto in the Security Council prevented a resolution of the longstanding dispute of Kashmir and hindered implementation of UN Resolutions on the issue. The ambassador opposed any expansion in the UN Security Council membership with a veto.
Victim of Russia’s veto
If anyone on the globe needs to understand the suffering caused by the use of a veto at the UN Security Council it should be the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the people of Palestine. People of India and Pakistan and the peace in the region have also suffered by the use of a veto in the case of Kashmir.
The question is that when the people of Jammu and Kashmir became a victim of this privilege of Russia at the UN Security Council, did they in any manner from within or outside Kashmir stand up to reach out the conscientious people of Russia and others or just left it at the radio broadcast or news carried in the press. There is no denying the fact that people of Kashmir and their leaders till to date have never considered to examine their case within the brackets of UN Resolutions and examine the respective stands of India and Pakistan, at the UN during the debates, towards the final UN mechanism on Kashmir and if they could make any input. There has been no input from Kashmiri people, except the routine press statements that UN has failed to implement its Resolutions on Kashmir.
Leadership of Palestine
In contrast the people and the leadership of Palestine, changed course and took to UN General Assembly, where all are equals and succeeded to defeat US veto used against Palestinian cause to favour Israel. Palestine succeeded to attain non-member observer State’s status and at the 69th session of UN General Assembly the world body adopted the resolution on raising the flags of non-member observer States at the United Nations (document A/69/L.76) by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, United States), with 45 abstentions. By the terms of that text, the General Assembly decided that the flags of non-member observer States maintaining permanent observer missions at Headquarters shall be raised at Headquarters and United Nations offices following the flags of the Members States of the Organization.
There is substantive merit in examining the use of veto by Russia against one of the basic principles, that is, equality and right of self-determination of a people. Permanent members have the privilege of a veto. The question is whether this privilege could be used against one of the basic principles of UN Charter. A common interpretation suggests that a country can’t vote against the Charter that it has accepted to obey in maintaining international peace and security or for which UN has come into being. The second and most important interpretation are the consequences of the use of this veto. The victims have a right to raise their grievance or seek an advice in respect of a grievance procedure.
Grievance against Russia
In February 1994 a two-member delegation of Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights (JKCHR) attended a two-day “The Third Global Structures Convocation on Human Rights, Global Governance and Strengthening the United Nations” in Washington. It was attended by Assistant Secretary General of The United Nations and experts around the world. During the open discussion of the Assembly, we raised the question of the use of Russian veto in Kashmir case and rights of the affected party. We argued that Russia may have committed an excess and an abuse by voting against the basic principle of UN Charter.
Our question was widely appreciated and it was felt that the people of Jammu and Kashmir might have a strong case of grievance against Russia and the merits of the grievance need to be investigated. Our institution did not have proportionate resources to take the grievance any further. It is a question of a people, named as legendary people, a people with a song and a story. An opening that came our way in February 1994 could not be pursued until today in 2016. Here we are in March 2016 raising the same issue at the UN but in a generic sense, which does not help us as it has helped the people of Palestine.
Validity of Russia’s veto
The use of a veto against the basic principles of UN Charter may not be valid in the first place and at the same time the allowance of its use is not infinite. Around February 1957 Russia and India realised the inherent problem with the continued used of a veto in the case of Kashmir. On 21 February 1957 United States of America, co-sponsored by United Kingdom, Australia, Colombia and Cuba (pre-Castro) introduced Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council. United States was one of the five co-sponsors of the Security Council Resolution 123 (1957) of 21 February 1957 that reasserted the call for a plebiscite and declared that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly’s vote in 1954 to reaffirm the state’s accession to India was not internationally binding.
The Indian delegation, Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon, famously spoke for over five hours against the Resolution. The feat set a new United Nations record for the longest speech at a single session. Howard B Schaffer writes in his book, “The Limits of Influence – America’s Role in Kashmir”, “In this dramatic and vituperative effort, and in his almost three-hour-long presentation the following day, Krishna Menon mostly reiterated – in some 80,000 words – familiar Indian arguments dating back to the Council’s initial consideration of the issue in 1948. Delegates were no doubt impressed by his stamina and bravura, but voted 10-0 in favour of the resolution a few days later. Although the Soviet delegate reiterated Moscow’s position that the Kashmiris had settled the issue themselves, the Soviet Union abstained, possibly because of Indian concern that a veto might open the way to General Assembly consideration of Kashmir”.
Crack in the strength of Russia’s use of veto
People and the leadership of the State in all the three administrations should have noticed this emerging crack in the strength of Russia’s use of veto. Our people have no clue in regard to the discussion of their fate in 1948, 1957 or at any other time including the latest reference on 9 March 2016 during the reform debate at the UN Security Council. Senior leaders and all other Toms, Dicks and Harrys spare no time in expressing their discontent against UN and in cursing the uselessness of UN Resolutions.
It is rarely discussed that as a follow up to the Security Council Resolution of 21 February 1957 another Resolution 126 (1957) was passed by the Security Council on 2 December 1957. It observed, “that the Governments of India and Pakistan recognize and accept the provisions of its resolution 38 (1948) of 17 January 1948 and of the resolutions of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan dated 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949, which envisage in accordance with their terms the determination of the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the will of the people through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite, and that Mr. Jarring felt it appropriate to explore what was impeding their full implementation”.
‘Freedom before accession’
The resolution expressed its concern over the lack of progress towards a settlement of the dispute. There is no record to endorse that Kashmiri leadership ever followed the proceeding at the UN Security Council and attempted to adapt their narrative accordingly or made any effort to offer an input. The resistance leadership failed to pin down Sheikh Abdullah during his rule to his word given at the UN Security Council, that is, “Naturally, as I have indicated, we could not decide this all important issue before achieving our liberation, and our slogan became ‘Freedom before accession’.” Kashmiri leadership did not pin down the Srinagar governments as provided in the 21 April 1948 resolution of the Security Council to carry out the outsourced duties assigned to them by the UN. Kashmir has not only suffered at the hands of a Russian veto but the non-action and ignorance of Kashmiri leadership continues to be the major cause of this suffering.
We cannot put an end to the suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir until and unless the Kashmiri leadership educates itself around the Kashmir case. The reform debate at the UN Security Council has set a stage for their input.
by Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani
Courtesy Rising Kashmir