United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres Friday expressed concern over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Referring to the Simla Agreement, which was signed by India and Pakistan in 1972, Guterres said the “final status of J&K is to be settled by peaceful means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”.
Guterres’ statement comes a day after he was approached by Pakistan’s envoy to the UN Maleeha Lodhi over India’s decision to revoke special status to J&K and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Lodhi had appealed to Guterres to “play his due role” in the situation.
The Indian Express speaks to Vivek Katju, former Indian diplomat who has dealt with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Ministry of External Affairs, on Guterres’ statement.
The UN Secretary-General’s statement has a reference to “in accordance with the UN Charter”. Does this undermine the Indian position that all India-Pak problems are bilateral and will be resolved only through bilateral negotiation as under the Simla Agreement?
Under the Simla Agreement, India and Pakistan resolved to settle their differences “by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.”
India has always stressed the bilateral route for the resolution of differences, or issues between the two countries. Specifically, with regard to Jammu and Kashmir, India has ruled out any other means of resolution of this issue except through bilateral negotiations.
The Simla Agreement also makes two references to the UN Charter. So is the mention by the UN Secy-General problematic?
The Simla Agreement provides that the relationship between the two countries will be governed by the principles and purposes of the Charter. Obviously, the Charter provides a general basis for developing bilateral ties.
Certainly, this provision, cannot be read as providing a resolution of the J&K issue in accordance to the UN charter.
The UN Secretary-General has said the “final status” of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means. What is the meaning of “final status”?
I think the Secy General has misread the Simla Agreement. It does not mention the word “status” at all. It speaks of a “final settlement” of Jammu and Kashmir.
There is, to my mind, a difference between a final status and a final settlement. A final settlement connotes that it will be the result of a negotiating process as the Simla Agreement provides for bilateral negotiations. Hence, the term settlement has been used. It is not open to the Secretary-General to use words which are not found in the agreement.
Secondly, the Simla Agreement does not speak of resolving the J&K issue in accordance with the UN Charter. It specifically mentions that differences have to be resolved through bilateral negotiations or by any other means that India and Pakistan mutually agree upon between themselves. Hence, the UN charter cannot be applied under the Simla agreement to resolve the J&K issue..
Thus, the Secretary-General again has misread the Simla Agreement and incorporated in it mechanisms which it specifically rules out.