One often comes across Pakistan leaders talking about implementation of the United Nations (UN) resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. In the same breath, they also call for holding of an “impartial plebiscite’’ in territories to ascertain the will of the people. As long as he was alive, secessionist and separatist Kashmiri leader SAS Geelani remained the most recognisable face of the Pakistani narrative, in India, in Pakistan and globally. He often harped on the word plebiscite meaning thereby that voting should be held in J&K (under UN mandate) to decide whether they wanted to live with India or go to Pakistan.
What are the facts pertaining to the word plebiscite or ascertaining the will of the people in the context of J&K? There is considerable confusion among masses that India is not willing to hold plebiscite in the territories of J&K. But it is contrary to facts and UN resolutions on the subject. The first thing that needs to be understood clearly is that the plebiscite is to be held in entire J&K, including the areas now in illegal occupation of Pakistan (which means POJK as also Gilgit-Baltistan). We need to understand the finer nuances of the UN resolutions and why they got stalled & could not be implemented.
The most important UN resolution on J&K is the one passed on August 13, 1948, from India’s point of view. On this day, a resolution was adopted after holding consultations with both India and Pakistan governments. The resolution was a three part document, which amended and amplified the UN Resolution 47 of April 20, 1948. Part I deals with a truce agreement, Part II deals with …. And Part III deals with what will happen once Part I and II have been implemented.
Part I, Part II and Part III were to follow one another chronologically, meaning they were to be implemented one after the other. As per Wikpedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_47) entry on the subject: In the first step, Pakistan was asked to withdraw all its nationals that entered Kashmir for the sake of fighting. In the second step, India was asked to progressively reduce its forces to the minimum level required for law and order. In the third step, India was asked to appoint a plebiscite administrator nominated by the United Nations who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite.
At that time, the five member United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) consisted of the representatives from Czechoslovakia (Josef Korbel), Argentina (Ricardo Siri), Belgium (Egbert Graeffe), Colombia (Alfredo Lozano) and the United States (Jerome Klahr Huddle). It’s secretariat was headed by Erik Colban, the Norwegian ambassador to the UK, with the British Quaker Richard Symonds acting as Colban’s secretary.
In July 1948, upon arrival in Karachi, the UNCIP members were informed that three brigades of its regular troops had been fighting in Kashmir since May, and this fact was described as a “bombshell’’ by Joseph Korbel. Before that, Pakistan had denied the complicity of its armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir. It had maintained a public posture that the fighting in J&K was being carried out by tribals. This admission that three brigades were involved in fighting from May 1948 onwards was also a blatant lie. Its regular troops, far more numerous than three brigades, had been involved in the invasion of J&K from October 1947.
On October 26, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India and J&K became a part of India. It was only then that Indian troops started taking part in fighting going on in different parts of the former princely state, now its own territory legally and as per international law. The resolution of August 13, 1948, is an amplification of the Resolution 47 of April 20, 1948.
It is this amplified resolution which guides the official stance of successive governments of India, right from those days to present times. From India’s point of view, “complete withdrawal of Pakistan’s fighting forces, including the Army, tribals and other Pakistani nationals’’ stated under Part II was very significant. It was after the Pakistani withdrawal, India was expected to withdraw “bulk of its forces’’ reducing them to a minimum level required for maintaining law and order in the territory.
Incidentally, Part II, withdrawal of all Pakistani fighting forces from the territories of Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan, never happened. At different times, Pakistan gave different excuses for non-fulfillment of this basic condition. It has, however, demanded that Part III (holding plebiscite under UN mandate) be implemented. This is something unacceptable to India and it rightly insists on implementation of Part II before moving further.
Part III of this resolution lays down that after the acceptance of the truce agreement as per Part II, the two countries (India and Pakistan) would enter into consultation with the UN. These consultations were meant to finally settle the future of J&K “in accordance with the will of the people’’. Pakistan and secessionists towing its line, like late Syed Ali Shah Geelani, harped on the phrase “in accordance with the will of the people’’ through a UN mandated plebiscite. All the time, sidestepping the issue of vacating all J&K territories by Pakistani nationals.
This has created a stalemate and officially Pakistan continues to make noises on various international forums about plebiscite being stalled by India. This means that it wants Part III of the resolution to be implemented but without adhering to Part II. In 2020, UN General Secretary Antonio Gutteres called for the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir. This should include holding of plebiscite in J&K to ascertain the “will of the people’’ but it was a no-go beyond a declaration. Since vacating all territories of J&K by all Pakistanis is a precondition for holding plebiscite, no progress was made.
In 1949, the Security Council asked its Canadian delegate General A G L McNaughton to hold discussions with India and Pakistan to find a way forward. On December 22, 1949, McNaughton proposed that both Indian and Pakistani forces should be reduced to a minimum level. This proposal actually meant that India and Pakistan were treated on an equal footing, meaning the aggressor had been treated on par with the aggrieved party. This was summarily rejected by India as totally unacceptable.
(Sant began as a teacher but after six years, joined the Indian Express, Chandigarh in 1990, the year when terrorism was taking its first step in J & K and soon there would be exodus of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. He subsequently worked for The Statesman, The Times of India and Star News among others. He is based in Jammu since May 2000.
He edits epaper.earthnews.in, a newspaper from Jammu presently.