Pakistan wants to involve Islamic group on Kashmir, criticises SAARC ‘regional domination’

By Arul Louis

United Nations: Pakistan launched a thinly veiled criticism of India over the functioning of SAARC as it tried to involve the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in the Kashmir dispute at a meeting of the Security Council Tuesday.

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Islamabad’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi told the Council that the OIC “collectively, and in cooperation with the UN” can address the Kashmir dispute, which she bracketed with the Palestine and other Middle East problems.

“The UN should actively promote cooperation with the OIC in areas such as: mediation and conciliation of disputes; peacekeeping and peace building,” Lodhi said.

“Its members are involved-directly or indirectly-in the numerous security challenges, which bedevil the Middle East, Africa and beyond,” she said. “Collectively, and in cooperation with the UN, it has the capabilities to address and overcome these challenges-including Palestine and other Middle East conflicts as well as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”

India has ruled out a role for any third party in the Kashmir dispute and points to the 1972 Simla Agreement signed by Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi of India and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan which says the dispute is to the handled bilaterally.

Speaking at the Council session earlier in the day, India’s Acting Permanent Representative Bhagwant S. Bishnoi ruled out any role for organisations like the OIC under the UN Charter.

He did not name the OIC, but warned against extending to organisations based on religion, language or history the role that the UN Charter envisages for regional organisations because the criterion was based on geography. “Any overly liberal interpretation of terminology would be violative of the Charter besides also being counter productive,” he said.

On the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Lodhi asserted that it had not been able to reach its potential because of what she said were attempts at “regional domination.” She did not mention India by name, but in the context and with Pakistan’s history of interaction with SAARC the barb was directed at India

Lodhi compared SAARC to organisations like the European Union, African Union, Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which, she said “have proved their worth and made valuable contributions.”

On the other hand, SAARC “much potential but have yet to fulfill that promise,” she said. “SAARC has been constrained because of the deep differences among its members and attempts to utilize it for regional domination.”

Pakistan has rejected proposals for road, rail and energy connectivity across SAARC, and India has being pursuing these links with other members. Recently India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal signed agreement on motor transport.-all crucial prerequisites for an economically integrated South Asia.

In what is seen as criticism directed against Islamabad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during his visit to the United Arab Emirates that “some people” had problems with SAARC interconnectivity,

“Should we stop because some people had problem,” he asked. “Let them stay where they are. We are moving ahead. India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh have signed a pact for building connectivity.It is a major decision which will have implication in the long run.”