The festering Kashmir dispute between nuclear neighbors Indian and Pakistan needs to be resolved for sustainable peace in South Asia, said the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) president-elect on Monday.
The long-smoldering issue should be resolved through “peaceful means,” Volkan Bozkir told a joint press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the country’s foreign minister.
Bozkir, a former Turkish diplomat, who is set to take the General Assembly helm on Sept. 15, arrived in Islamabad on Sunday evening on a two-day maiden visit.
Apart from the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, he observed, there is the 1972 Simla Agreement between Islamabad and New Delhi which called for resolving the dispute through political and diplomatic channels and in line with the will of Kashmiris, state-run Pakistan Television reported.
Asked about an improved role for the UN Military Observers Mission, which has been supervising the cease-fire between India and Pakistan in the disputed region since 1949, Bozkir said he would consult with the secretary general and other UN officials once he takes office.
“Turkey’s stand on Kashmir is well-known to the world. It has been explained time and again,” he said.
“As a Turkish citizen, my hands are big for Pakistan, but as a UNGA president, I have to follow certain procedures and maintain impartiality.”
One of the main objectives of this visit, he went on to say, is to understand the latest situation in disputed Jammu and Kashmir, so that “when the issue comes” to the General Assembly, they can discuss it accordingly.
Foreign Minister Qureshi, for his part, accused India of changing the demography of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir through a slew of actions, mainly by its revocation one year ago of the disputed valley’s decades-long special status.
He urged the UN and the international community to pressure India to end the “military siege” and communications blockade in the Himalayan valley imposed since Aug. 5 of last year and to release the pro-freedom leaders and political activists.
Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
Impressed by Pakistan’s COVID-19 success
Bozkir hailed Pakistan’s policies fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, calling them “successful.”
“Pakistan has been a good example for the world in the fight against the pandemic. Figures show that Pakistan has done better than any other country in the world in this regard,” he said.
Pakistan is one of a handful of countries where coronavirus cases have dropped significantly over the last month. Currently, the country has only slightly over 17,000 active COVID-19 cases.
The raging pandemic has had serious economic, social, and political, repercussions across the world, he said, and the UN should play an active role in facing these challenges.
“The UN should start functioning normally, adopting all safety precautions. The world should know that the UN is alive, otherwise we will start losing people’s interest,” he said.
The General Assembly, he added, should hold its yearly session in September in New York physically, with no restrictions on the participation of world leaders.
“We will evaluate the situation in September before making a final decision on that,” he added.
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