UNHRC Topic 1 – Issue Briefing Pack

Topic 1 – The Question of Human Rights Abuses in Kashmir

The region of Kashmir in the north-west of the Indian subcontinent has been under near-constant dispute since the end of World War 2. The belligerents—China, India, and Pakistan—each have different religious policies, and treat the local groups differently. 

Background

In 1846, the British government created a Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu with a mixed population of many faiths and denominations as a result of the first Anglo-Sikh war. This state encompasses the same area as the modern day region of interest, and includes, for example: the Kashmir Valley, accounting for much of the overall population of the region with its majority Sunni Muslim demographics ruled in large part by an influential Hindu minority; Jammu, with a mixed population of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs; and Punch, where the mostly Muslim populace were of a different ethnicity to those in the Kashmir Valley. 101 years later, this same region lay under more direct British rule in response to a rebellion, yet the same inequalities between the Muslim minority and the Hindu brahmins and pandits remained. The British withdrew from the subcontinent in 1947, which split the former Raj into new, independent countries: the Dominions of Pakistan (modern day Pakistan and Bangladesh) and India. There was an allotted referendum to be held in the state of Kashmir and Jammu, to determine whether the state would join India or Pakistan; this never took place. Indian forces entered the region at the request of the Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir and seized the majority of the territory in response to growing numbers of pro-Pakistan Muslim irregulars and militias following the partition. 

The People’s Republic of China’s administration of Aksai Chin and India’s competing claim are due in part to discrepancies between the declared border of the Princely State and a lack of any real British presence during that period: Chinese officials maintain that the only border they were informed of gave them control of the area, while on the Indian side a different map is used as the traditional boundary of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1952, the Chinese government built a road through Aksai Chin in order to connect the provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet, but the Indian government only became aware of it in 1957.

Following a UN-mediated ceasefire, de facto zones of occupation were established, which have remained in force to the present day. Three subsequent armed conflicts have taken place, the first in 1965, the second in 1971, and the third in 1999 but these did not change the effective borders, which were established by the Simla Agreement in 1972. The Chinese-administered region was challenged once, in the brief Sino-Indian War, but control was maintained

Due to the Kashmir Valley’s Muslim majority population despite the Hindu rule, there has historically been much discrimination. NGOs such as Amnesty International have stated that Indian forces in the Kashmir Valley have committed a number of crimes and abuses against the local populace, which has led to an escalation of tensions and growing insurgency in the region in recent decades. In the last 10 years, there have been a series of violent protests. Recently, riots began following the death of a member Hizbul Mujahideen at the hands of Indian troops in 2016. Further, in February 2019 after a suicide attack claimed by an Islamist organisation in Pakistan, the Indian goverment accused Pakistan of sheltering terrorists and bombed an alleged terror camp; the Pakistani government deny any connection to the attack. In August, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 came into effect, which revoked the autonomy of the region, imposing martial law. 

Stakeholders

India and Pakistan are the most visibly involved parties; China took control of their zone of occupation in order to build transport connections through the area, and have convinced Pakistan to withdraw their claims to those areas. Many Muslim countries may find themselves opposed to India on religious grounds, especially Sunni-majority nations, who align with the Kashmiri Sunni populace. Outside of these groups, countries’ positions on the matter and potential solutions will vary, in accordance with their history and ideals.

Questions to consider when writing a resolution:

What can be done to de-escalate the situation in Kashmir?

Ideologically, which involved party is your country most similar to? Does this affect what solutions your country will seek? How does your country value ‘moral’ solutions compared to pragmatic ones?

What are the relations like between your country and each of the three countries in the region? Would your country side with an opponent to remain true to their ethics and values, even if it goes against economic or political interests?

How have each of the parties treated both each other and the inhabitants? What are their goals in the region? Would your country support them?

What are your country’s stances on the various religions present? Do they agree with the treatment of religious groups in each of the jurisdictions?

Further reading to get started:

BBC News In Depth on the future of Kashmir: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/south_asia/03/kashmir_future/html/default.stm

Wall Street Journal on the Line of Control:

https://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2016/09/30/what-is-the-line-of-control-the-short-answer/

UN Secretary-General on religious persecution:

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/08/1044751

BBC News on the revocation of Kashmir autonomy:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49246434