Thursday, August 5, 2010

Diplomatic feud over Kashmir remarks grips United Nations

Published: Wednesday, Aug 4, 2010, 15:42 IST
Place: United Nations | Agency: PTI

Despite damage control efforts, a diplomatic feud rages over remarks that were put out by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's office last week, which called for calm in Kashmir and indicated support for the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The UN appears to be backtracking on its position after India has registered a complaint that the remarks were unwarranted. India wanted the UN to distance itself from the remarks that it asserts are being used by separatists and Pakistan government to claim that the international community is on their side.

The UN communicated to the Indian government that the remarks were not a statement made by the secretary general but a "press guidance that was taken out of context."

Ban's chief spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that this information was not a statement made by Ban but it was "information provided by the Secretariat (and) distributed by the spokesperson's office."

Ban's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq, who is of Pakistani-origin, who originally sent the information by email to journalists, said that while this was not a statement made by Ban, "it was all generated by the UN."

Despite India's objections, Haq has maintained that the contents of the e-mail reflected the views of the UN chief.

The nature of the remarks, however, does not sound like a "press guidance" and at this point the UN is struggling to resolve the situation without completely disowning its remarks.

The email circulated by Haq had said that Ban was "concerned" over the prevailing security situation in Kashmir over the past one month and called on "all concerned to exercise utmost restraint and address problems peacefully."

The remarks in the e-mail also touched on the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan. "He (Ban) encourages both
sides to rekindle the spirit of the composite dialogue, which
was initiated in 2004 and had made encouraging progress on
some important confidence building measures, and to make
renewed efforts to address outstanding issues, including on
Jammu and Kashmir," the e-mail had said.

The Indian side pointed out that on the day the remarks went out, no questions were raised on Kashmir during the regular press briefing at the UN. The communication sent by the UN to the Indian government also noted that no questions were raised on Kashmir.

However, correspondents here from Pakistan have been asking questions on Kashmir on a regular basis. The UN initially did not respond to the questions and Ban himself avoided commenting on it when asked directly about the unrest.

On the other hand, questions had not been raised at any stage with reference to the composite dialogue. Therefore it remains unclear why reference to these talks was included in the statement.

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi yesterday cited Ban's remarks while asking the Indian government to "exercise restraint" in Kashmir.

In an effort to appear more neutral, the clarification, which was sent by the UN to the Indian government, noted that the violence was also being stoked "on accounts of terror or otherwise."

At the same time, questions about the tensions in Kashmir continue to be posed, mostly by the correspondents from
Pakistan at the UN. Nesirky yesterday said he had no comments
on more civilian deaths in the region.

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