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India’s walkout from UNSC was a turning point: Natwar

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1.India’s walkout from UNSC was a turning point: Natwar

Even as the government celebrates India’s “forgotten war” with Pakistan in 1965, India’s former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh says India’s “silent diplomatic victory” at the end of the war must not be forgotten either.

According to Mr. Singh, posted at India’s permanent mission at the U.N. then, 1965 was a “turning point” for the U.N. on Kashmir, and a well-planned “walkout” from the U.N. Security Council by the Indian delegation as a protest against Pakistani Foreign Minister (and later PM) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s speech ensured Kashmir was dropped from the UNSC agenda for all practical purposes.

“As a result, there was hardly any reference to Kashmir for the next few decades at the UNSC, barring one resolution after the 1971 war. The Soviet Union helped by vetoing many of the resolutions Pakistan tried to push, and after the Simla Agreement of 1972, which committed to a bilateral resolution, the UNSC references to Kashmir ended entirely,” Mr. Singh recounted, in an exclusive interview to The Hindu on the occasion of the 1965 war’s 50th anniversary.

Just one resolution

According to the records, between 1948 and 1965 the UNSC passed 23 resolutions on Kashmir. After 1965, the U.N. body passed just one resolution (Resolution 307, December 21, 1971), calling on India and Pakistan to “respect the ceasefire line” after the Bangladesh war.

Mr. Singh said it took diplomats several years to reverse Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s “original sin” of taking the issue of Kashmir to the UNSC in 1948. “To begin with, PM Nehru should never have taken the issue to the UNSC at all, but even when the government did, it should have been listed under Chapter 7 citing Pakistani “aggression”, rather than Chapter 6 which deals with the peaceful resolution of “disputes”,” the former diplomat said

The criticism was unusual for Mr. Singh who joined the Congress after he retired, and was External Affairs Minister from 2004-2005 until he had to resign over the Volcker controversy.

Mr. Singh said that while he was a “supporter of Nehru,” India’s first Prime Minister was “a better PM than he was a Foreign Minister.”

“I think Nehru acted in good faith. But that good faith is still costing us in terms of our position at the UN. Another minefield we should have avoided was to let the Soviet Union broker the Tashkent Agreement (Ceasefire agreement, January 1966). Fortunately that didn’t become a precedent or we couldn’t have kept ‘third parties’ out of negotiations.”

Pakistan at it again’

Recounting his time at the United Nations (1962-1966), Mr. Singh said it is apparent that Pakistan is aiming to “internationalise” the Kashmir issue once again by repeatedly taking petitions to the U.N. In August this year, it raised the issue of firing at the LoC with U.N. officials more than once, and in a briefing to the UNSC, Pakistan Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said multilateral organisations like the U.N. and the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) should play a role in resolving the “Jammu & Kashmir dispute.”

“We should be prepared for Pakistan raising the Kashmir issue at the General Assembly. And if they do we should just not respond. Or send a junior officer to respond to them. Nothing pleases them more than if our PM uses the UNGA forum to respond to their PM, as our Prime Ministers have done in the past two years.” Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2013 and PM Narendra Modi in 2014 responded to Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s UNGA statements on Kashmir.

“We must give credit to Swaran Singh [then Foreign Minister] and to the Indian decision in 1965 for ensuring Kashmir stayed out of the UNSC for several decades,” Mr. Singh said.

It took diplomats several years to reverse Nehru’s “original sin” of taking the Kashmir issue to the U.N.’

2.No death except for terror crimes: Law Commission

The Law Commission of India has recommended abolition of the death penalty for all crimes except terrorism-related offences and waging war against the state.

Noting that the ultimate goal is absolute abolition which could be brought about through a moratorium or law, the commission has suggested that a debate on death for terror be left to Parliament.

On Monday, his last day in office, Law Commission Chairperson Justice A.P. Shah presented the commission’s 262nd Report, titled ‘The death penalty’, to Law Minister Sadananda Gowda.

Three of the commission’s 10 members, did not sign the report and submitted dissent notes, while the signature of a fourth with concerns could not be obtained.

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