Charles Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent from 1983 to
1993. He is author of "Tribes with Flags." In a commentary for the on-line
ZNet magazine, Glass argues strongly for UN intervention in Kashmir to
prevent a catastrophe.
Defending the right of Kashmiris to "independence," Charles Glass suggests
that if either India or Pakistan ignore UN resolutions on Kashmir, they
should face sanctions and an arms embargo.
He writes: "Pakistan must prevent infiltration of India and close its
insurgent bases. India should be made to respect UN resolutions calling for
a referendum in Kashmir. Britain's India Act of 1947 gave the Kashmiris the
right to choose for themselves to be part of India or part of Pakistan.
Evolution of Kashmiri opinion since then means that any referendum must
allow for a third option: independence. The only international forum that
could discuss all the outstanding issues and compel the parties to agree to
a referendum is the United Nations. It can impose an arms embargo and other
sanctions on both India and Pakistan if they ignore UN resolutions."
Read and reflect.
June 10, 2002
By Charles Glass
PARIS: India and Pakistan are at war. A million troops stand mobilised on
either side of the 1972 Line of Control that separates the two counties in
Kashmir. Civilians on both sides are dying in artillery exchanges.
Pakistani-armed militants have attacked Indian troops and civilians in
India. Pakistan and India have, by international consensus, at least two
hundred nuclear warheads between them. If ever the United Nations Security
Council had the obligation to invoke Article 34, calling for investigation
of disputes "likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and
security," this must be it.
So, what is happening at the UN? An emergency session, urgent discussions,
formation of a peacekeeping force, proposed sanctions for the two parties if
they escalate the conflict? Not exactly. A Reuters report conveys the
urgency: "Security Council members agree India and Pakistan's dispute over
Kashmir should be left to bilateral diplomatic efforts outside of the UN,
Syrian Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said on Tuesday."
The UN is abdicating its legal role. In its place, bilateral diplomacy
permits the threat of nuclear war to grow. The UN Charter allows any state
(Article 35) or the Secretary General (Article 99) to place any threat to
international peace before the Security Council. No one has done so.
Instead, the United States has sent a deputy secretary of state, Richard
Armitage, and is sending Defence Secretary William Rumsfeld to discuss the
conflict with the leaders of Pakistan and India. The Russian president,
Vladimir Putin, has invited Pakistani President Pervez Musharref and Indian
Prime Atal Behari Vajpayee to Moscow. Britain has sent emissaries.
But there has been no concerted international effort to end the latest
small-scale war or to prevent a nuclear exchange that would kill millions in
both countries. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are
not invoking international law to protect civilians from what will be a
American diplomacy is having as much effect on India as President George
Bush's admonition to General Ariel Sharon earlier this year to withdraw his
forces from Palestinian territory "immediately," "at once," and "without
delay." If Bush was not serious about influencing a country that the US
subsidises with more than $3 billion a year, why should the Indians and
Pakistanis take his words seriously?
If the US has no influence, what can little Britain or emasculated Russia
do? At the UN, the United States, Russia, China and the rest of the world
could work together to force an agreement on two leaders who fear losing
face more than the destruction of their countries.
The United States, whose recent Nuclear Posture Review suggested options for
American first use of nuclear weapons, has created a new atmosphere.
"Resurgent American militarism is destroying arms control measures
everywhere," writes the Pakistani physicist Pervez Hoodboy of Qaid-e-Azam
University in Islamabad. "Those of us in Pakistan and India who have long
fought against nuclearisation of the subcontinent have been temporarily
rendered speechless." And defenceless.
Security Council resolutions of 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1972 established a
framework for resolving the dispute over Kashmir. Sadly, the superpowers of
the time did not encourage the UN to follow up with a full resolution of the
Kashmir dispute. The United Nations Military Observer Group in India and
Pakistan, first deployed in 1949, remains in position to become a larger,
stronger force that could help both sides to police the border.
Pakistan must prevent infiltration of India and close its insurgent bases.
India should be made to respect UN resolutions calling for a referendum in
Kashmir. Britain's India Act of 1947 gave the Kashmiris the right to choose
for themselves to be part of India or part of Pakistan. Evolution of
Kashmiri opinion since then means that any referendum must allow for a third
The only international forum that could discuss all the outstanding issues
and compel the parties to agree to a referendum is the United Nations. It
can impose an arms embargo and other sanctions on both India and Pakistan if
they ignore UN resolutions.
The United Nations missed a similar opportunity to prevent the planet's last
act of genocide, which took place in Rwanda in 1994. President Bill Clinton
did not want the UN to intervene. He feared that invoking the UN's Genocide
Convention would require the world community to prevent genocide by sending
American troops again to Africa in the aftermath of the debacle he had just
brought about in Somalia.
The UN commander in Rwanda, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, had 2,500
troops. He pleaded with the chief of peacekeeping in New York for another
three thousand, plus amoured cars and other protective equipment, to prevent
the genocide that his informants assured him was on the way. His UN force
was so ill-prepared that General Dallaire cabled to the UN, "They [UN
troops] will hand over these local people for inevitable killing rather than
use their weapons to save local people."
The local UN commander in Kigali, Belgian Colonel Luc Marchal, told me
later, "I still have the feeling that we were in a desert, and that we were
trying to cry outside to get help, not only for us, but for the mission, and
for the population. During weeks and weeks, we were crying and nobody
answered us." More than 800,000 Rwandans were butchered by Hutu extremists
using rifles, machetes and knives.
The United States, Belgium and France were informed about conditions in
Rwanda. Thanks to General Dallaire, so was the head of UN peacekeeping
operations, Kofi Annan. Neither Annan nor the US ambassador to the UN,
Madeleine Albright, informed the UN or called for an emergency session.
Annan became secretary-general of the UN. Madeleine Albright was appointed
secretary of state by Bill Clinton, who went on to win a second term of
office. The lesson was: keep quiet, ignore genocide and win promotion.
Rwandans killed nearly a million of their own with primitive weapons. How
many more can Vajpayee and Musharref take with their armouries of mass
destruction? What precedent will UN inaction now set for other countries -
Russia, China or Israel - considering the quick fix of an atomic bomb or
Perhaps times have not changed all that much. On Armistice Day in 1948,
America's General of the Army Omar Bradley lamented, "Ours is a world of
nuclear giants and ethical infants."