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UN Trusteeship Council: a way out for Kashmir?

The situation in India-occupied Kashmir (IOK) is ripe to be placed under the UN Trusteeship Council for administration for at least 10 years. The situation is not only volatile and an impending catastrophe, but a looming nuclear threat which got an impetus after Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's speech the other day - reviewing his country's No First Use (NFU) policy of nuclear weapons in case of war.

According to the UN Charter, Trusteeship Council is a permanent organ of the United Nations which, since its inception in October 1945, has been responsible for administering territories towards self-determination. The last trust territory was Palau which got independence in October 1994.

Following the end of the First World War, the League of Nations established a mandate system where territories, detached from defeated powers like the German and Ottoman Empires, were placed under its control and administered by various allied powers. After the demise of the League of Nations, those territories were transferred to a new body, created to supplant the League's role, namely the UN Trusteeship Council.

Described as an innovative idea, self-determination to territories would only be granted once the socio-economic and political conditions enabled the local people to seek statehood. At the moment, the council is the only organ of the UN which has been non-functional since November 1994 but has not been disbanded.

According to Article 75 under Chapter XII of the UN Charter entitled International Trusteeship System, it is stated, 'The United Nations shall establish under its authority an international system for the administration and supervision of such territories as may be placed thereunder by subsequent individual agreements. These territories are hereafter referred to as trust territories.'

Jammu and Kashmir - a disputed territory since the partition of the Indian sub-continent, duly recognised by the UN Security Council resolutions 39 and 48 passed on January 20, 1948, and April 21, 1948, respectively - can be placed under the Trusteeship Council for 10 years of administration. The reasoning behind giving responsibility to the UN Trusteeship Council to take control of Jammu and Kashmir, a major international flashpoint, cannot be denied. The UN Security Council met on August 16, almost 50 years later, to enter into consultation following the revocation of articles 370 and 35-A - revoking the special status granted to J and K. Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, had written a letter to the UNSC president expressing grave concern on the fast deteriorating situation in the Muslim-dominated Valley and requested the council to call a meeting. In turn, a 15-member informal consultation meeting was set up to brief the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. Amidst such an apprehensive situation, perhaps a possible solution can be found within the answers to the following questions:

Can J and K be placed under the UN Trusteeship Council for administration? Can the permanent members of the UNSC, along with the two-thirds majority of non-permanent members, pass a resolution authorising the Trusteeship Council to take control of J and K? To what extent can the Trusteeship Council's administration of J and K be assisted by the UN peacekeeping force?

One can infer three major justifications for the intrusion of the UN Trusteeship Council. First, the modalities and dynamics of the Trusteeship Council's role in administering J and K for 10 years need to be examined both by the Council and the UN General Assembly. The whole region will be placed under the Trusteeship Council for administration, requiring India and Pakistan to end their military and administrative control over their respective territories and give the authority to the Trusteeship Council, in collaboration with local stakeholders of J and K. When India and Pakistan are unable to deal with the prevailing security threats emanating from J and K, it is then the responsibility of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to act swiftly so that the suffering of Kashmiris are alleviated.

Second, it is the responsibility of the United Nations to prevent a nuclear showdown in the event of a sharp escalation of the situation. When Rajnath Singh puts India's NFU policy in question, it becomes clear that the world now not only becomes a stakeholder but becomes vulnerable to large-scale destruction proceeding from a nuclear threat. The only way such a threat can be averted is by placing the disputed territory under the Trusteeship Council. The role of the UN as a buffer between the two adversaries will certainly help salvage peace and security in the region.

In order to efficiently implement this, the UN Secretary-General, the Security Council and General Assembly will have to formulate specific structures for an unstable region amidst such fickle conditions. It will certainly be a daunting task, requiring substantial financial resources and an establishment of a peacekeeping force. Thirdly, more than it being a nuclear overhang, the situation has also already evolved into a humanitarian crisis after the revocation of the above-mentioned articles. This should surely prompt the UN Security Council to act.

Whatever the case, the smallest possibility of peace seems unfathomable, at least till the near future. Resentment and hatred against Indian rule cannot be reduced by offering economic incentives. Mehbooba Mufti, the People's Democratic Party leader, stated that with the removal of the special status, as enshrined in the original version of Article 370 and laws protecting demography, the very basis of the relationship between India and Kashmir has been shattered and the Indian military is instead now an occupation force in Kashmir.

Once Chapter VII of the UN Charter is invoked and peacekeeping force is sent to J and K, one can hopefully expect that peace and stability will prevail in the region. However, all such possibilities depend on the premise that India and Pakistan will cooperate by withdrawing their forces from all controlled parts of J and K and withdraw administrative control from that territory. Chinese cooperation in the entire process is also of utmost importance since it is a bordering country.

The out-of-the-box solution for the J and K imbroglio is not to be found in maintaining the territorial status quo or dividing the region on religious grounds but instead in keeping it united by a neutral authority. In the proposed 10 years of its administrative control of J and K, the council can significantly improve socio-economic conditions of local people by eliminating restrictions on movement as the Line of Control will be abolished, thus removing a major impediment to trade and commerce. Formation of a local government composed of elected representatives of the different regions of J and K will promote human development and help improve the quality of life for the people thus paving the way for a flourishing independent state.
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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Aug 23, 2019
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