On Friday, the U.N. Security Council formally discussed the disputed region of Kashmir for the first time in nearly four decades. Although council members didn’t reach any conclusion—failing to issue even the lowest level of action, a statement to the press—holding the meeting was notable in and of itself.
The media game. “The voice of the Kashmiri people … has been heard today in the highest diplomatic forum of the world,” Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi said after the session. Indian U.N. Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin disagreed, calling his country’s Aug. 5 move to revoke certain autonomies in India-administered Kashmir an internal matter: “We don’t need international busybodies,” he said.
The factions. Permanent Security Council members France, the United States, and Russia favored keeping Kashmir a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan—a stance that New Delhi has long advocated. But China had called for the meeting, and its U.N. ambassador said India had “changed the status quo in Kashmir, causing tensions in the region.” China’s support for Pakistan’s position is no surprise given the close relations between the two countries. Their attempts to draw international attention to the plight of Muslims in Kashmir, however, rang hollow given the internment of 2 million Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region—actions that Pakistan has yet to publicly condemn.
Interestingly, the fifth permanent member of the council, Britain, seemed to alignpartly with China. Why? Ashok Malik, a former spokesman for India’s president, writes in the Print that the Pakistani community in Britain may have influenced London’s stance.
What’s next? Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York next month and are likely to continue lobbying the Security Council and the media. But it’s unlikely any of the players will shift allegiances. On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Modi and Khan and described the phone calls on Twitter as a “tough situation, but good conversations!”—a departure from his controversial offer last month to mediate the crisis.
The larger question, however, is how India will deal with the Kashmir Valley in the coming weeks. If it continues its security and communications lockdown, global criticism of India will continue. (Amy Kazmin, for example, writes in the Financial Times that New Delhi’s actions show “a profound lack of empathy.”) On the other hand, restoring the internet and allowing protests could lead the Kashmiri population to finally vent its outrage, potentially leading to clashes with the military.
The internet factor. Some telephone landlines and basic cellular connections were restored over the weekend. But the broader internet shutdown remains, and that isn’t a new phenomenon in Kashmir. Largely thanks to Kashmir, India has recorded more internet shutdowns than any other country.
Originally published on www.foreignpolicy.com