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India, Pakistan cross swords at UN

By Ehtasham Khan in United Nations
March 17, 2005 22:14 IST
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Even as Pakistan President Perwez Musharraf is preparing to see the cricket match and his mother is visiting India to  recall her past, representatives of both countries are crossing swords at the United Nations.

The renewed love and cricket diplomacy between two hostile neighbours seems to be fragile if one looks at the statements and gestures of the representatives of India and Pakistan in Geneva.

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At the ongoing 61st session of the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights, it was again the K-word that brought to fore the differences between the two nuclear-armed south Asian nations.

Member states of the United Nations and several rights groups are participating in the six-week long annual session at the United Nations building at Palais des Nations in Swiss capital Geneva to discuss the human rights situations across the globe.

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On the second day of the high-level segment on March 15, Pakistan raised the issue of Kashmir much for the embarrassment of the Indian delegates.

The Pakistani representative was speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Countries.

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Alleging gross human rights violation in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the OIC spokesman said there was need of a "genuine dialogue to bring about peace" in the trouble-hit state.

Reacting to this, the Indian delegate raised serious objections. He said: "The OIC has made unacceptable reference on Kashmir. It has no standing to address the Kashmir issue."

He said the Indian Constitution protects the rights of the citizens of Kashmir.

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On Wednesday, Pakistan again ranted the Kashmir issue. The statement was made by none other than Pakistan's Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights Muhammad Wasi Zafar.

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In his 15-minute written speech, Zafar said his country was moving towards democracy under the leadership of President Musharraf. In the end, he spoke for about five minutes on alleged human rights violation in Kashmir.

He said: "The people of India-held Kashmir must be given their right to self-determination provided for in the UN Security Council resolutions. In the current dialogue between Pakistan and India, in order to improve the deteriorating human rights situation, and to work towards a just resolution of this long standing dispute, we have made a number of constructive proposals."

"These include working out mutually acceptable modalities for associating the true representative of the Kashmiri people with the dialogue process, and appointment of High Representative of both countries with a defined mandate to promote a peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in association with the people of Jammu and Kashmir."

He alleged that the Kashmiri people and their leaders face restriction on political activities and freedom of speech and expression. Thousands of people have been killed and many disappeared since 1989.

Referring to the bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar, he said Pakistan wants a "win-win" solution of the problem but the rights of Kashmiri people cannot be shelved.

When the chairperson gave the time to "Right to Reply," the Indian delegates who were present there did not respond to the Pakistani statement.

The next day on Thursday, an Indian delegate read out a speech on behalf of India's Permanent Representative at the United Nations.

He called the Pakistani statement "unwarranted, unacceptable and all the more surprising in the present context of the ongoing engagement between the two countries…"

He said: "We cannot understand what benefit Pakistan sees in vitiating the atmosphere of that dialogue…"

He reminded Pakistan of the Joint Press Statement made on January 6, 2004, of not permitting the use of its territory for terrorist activities.

He said the issue of human rights can be best served in a pluralistic and democratic country and hinted Pakistan of moving towards that.

Pakistan has been regularly raising the Kashmir issue at all international forums.

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Ehtasham Khan in United Nations