Pakistan has suffered a major diplomatic setback on ?documented? violation of human rights in territories under its control in J&K, denial of democratic rights, freedom of expression and association and religious freedom and its position on Northern Areas. There is now greater appreciation of India'sposition in J&K and its efforts to strengthen democracy in J&K in the international community. A case in point is the adoption by the European Parliament (EP)?the only EU institution directly elected by people of European Union?of Baroness Emma Nicholson report Kashmir: Present situation and Future Prospects. The report has severely indicted Islamabad for human rights violations and absence of democracy in PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan and declared that Northern Areas were constituents of J&K since 1877 and also in 1947 when the Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession. The report came down heavily in Pak-sponsored terrorism and declared that there could be no real progress towards political solution to Kashmir issue or in improving the economic conditions of the people of J&K without an end to terrorism. It asked Islamabad to close down all militant camps operating from its territory and urged militants to declare ceasefire followed by demobilisation and reintegration process. Further, it asked Pakistan to close down militant websites and magazines and recommended a law against ?hate campaign? on both India and Pakistan.
The highly critical report that caused a lot of embarrassment to Pakistan observed that conditions set by the United Nation for a plebiscite in the state had not been met. Interestingly, the Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in J&K in 1947 had called for a plebiscite after complete withdrawal of forces by Pakistan from the entire territory of J&K followed by reduction of Indian forces. Meanwhile, international opinion has now veered round to the view that plebiscite is no longer relevant in view of the developments during the past half a century. While the Nicholson report is highly appreciative of Indian position on J&K, it asked New Delhi to put an end to alleged ?extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary detentions? in J&K and asked India to establish an independent and impartial commission of enquiry into violation of human rights in the Valley.
Although the adoption of the Nicholson Report doesn'tcarry the weight of law and the EC is not bound by its contents, it has serious implications on policy making in Brussels. It represents the will of the European Parliament that adopted it with an overwhelming majority with 522 voting for and only nine against the report. Pakistani diplomats worked overtime to get certain amendments incorporated in the report. Scores of Pakistani delegations visited Brussels, headquarters of the EU, since December 2006 when the draft of the report was made public. Although India won a great diplomatic victory, the UPA Government did almost nothing to lobby for the deletion of remarks against India. Not a single deputation on behalf of the Indian civil society went to Brussels to put across our viewpoint. If the report that is largely critical of Pakistan received massive support of Members of European Parliament (MPEs), it is largely because of rigorous research done by the author?Baroness Emma Nicholson who is a member of the House of Lords?and her stout defence of her report and recommendations. Nicholson says she is determined to pursue various forums within the European Union (EU) to push for the implementation of her report and recommendations. The European Commission and the Council of Ministers would study the report to suggest a way forward. She is hugely concerned about the conditions in Northern Areas?Gilgit and Baltistan?and has strongly demanded that people of Northern Areas should be given their democratic and political rights and asserts that her position on the issue is consistent with EU core values.
Although Pakistan succeeded through aggressive lobbying in getting certain aspects of the report modified, it is extremely unhappy with the final outcome. Islamabad'sbiggest set back is on its position on Northern Areas. Islamabad foreign ministry spokesman says the report adopted by EP had several ?factual inaccuracies? for it to have any value for the efforts to find a solution to the Kashmir issue. Pakistan ambassador to EU, Saeed Khalid, in a communication to Nicholson, contended that Northern Areas were never a part of J&K and that Siachen Glacier formed part of the Northern Areas. In a sharp rejoinder, the author of the report said she had rigorously revisited her earlier research on the geography and history of the region, including checking of maps, treaties, historic documents and speeches from 1846 till date and had come to the following conclusions:
All the evidence points to the fact that Gilgit and Baltistan regions were constituent part of J&K by 1877.
These areas were under the sovereignty of the Maharaja of J&K and remained in this princely domain till the date of accession on October 26, 1947.
The assertion that Northern Areas were independent of J&K in August 1947 is incorrect, as the British had only leased a small part of the territory from the Maharaja on March 29, 1935 to provide strong defence and security provision against persistent Russian invasion of the state.
The lease didn'ttake away the sovereignty of J&K. The ownership fairly and squarely remained with the ruler. The lease came to an end on August 1, 1947 in preparation for the partition of the country thus giving the ruler full powers to decide which two emerging nations would his state join.
To further buttress her point, Nicholson forwarded with her letter made available to the media, an official map of the region as it existed in 1909 that clearly showed Gilgit and Baltistan to be well within the borders of J&K, an extract of the leasehold agreement of 1935, an extract of the instrument of accession of October 26, 1947 and a letter from Maharaja Hari Singh giving reasons for his decision to accede the state to the dominion of India. She asserted that there was no historical or geographical justification for Pakistan'sposition on Northern Areas. A careful reading of the interim constitution of PoK, she said, reveal that it was not free but in ?chains?. Poor people of Gilgit and Baltistan could be compared to those who suffered mental and physical torture in the ?black holes?.
Baroness Nicholson deserves to be commended for her rigorous research and steadfastness in rebutting false Pakistani propaganda. She has done a good job by focussing international attention on stark realities in PoK and Northern Areas. Multi-colour posters pasted all over Brussels denouncing ?human rights violations? in J&K are the handiwork of the strong pro-Pak lobby operating there. Unfortunately, Indian diplomacy has not responded to the Pak offensive in a befitting manner. Now, it is for the Government, the bureaucracy and the civil society to work on the positives of the EP endorsed report to marshal international support for our cause in J&K and to contain the damage caused to our case by the report commending: out of box solutions offered by General Musharraf that are a ruse to take out of India J&K that is an integral part of our country. We can allow another partition of the country at our own peril.