NEW YORK: The UN rights office hammered India and Pakistan on Monday for failing to improve the situation in Kashmir, while renewing calls for an international probe into violations in the disputed Himalayan region.
Kashmir, ruled in part but claimed in full by both countries, has suffered decades of unrest with rebel groups fighting for independence from Indian rule or a merger of Kashmir with Pakistan, in bloodshed that has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
Last year, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released its first-ever report on Kashmir, documenting wrongdoing by both sides and urging action to reduce long-standing tensions.
In a follow-up report, the rights office said, “Neither India nor Pakistan have taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised.”
“In Indian-administered Kashmir, accountability for violations committed by members of the Indian security forces remains virtually non-existent,” the report said.
The groundbreaking 2018 findings were particularly hard on India, highlighting “chronic impunity” for misconduct by troops.
Pakistan welcomed the 2018 findings even though the UN said obtaining information about Pakistan-administered Kashmir was difficult given restrictions on freedom of expression and information.
“No steps have been taken to resolve the main issues, including a number of highly problematic legal restrictions,” the rights office said on Monday.
It also noted that four major armed groups in Kashmir “are believed to be based on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control,” and that civil society organisations blame Pakistani security forces for a series of “enforced disappearances,” in the region.
Call for investigation
Given the failure of both states to address the issues raised, the report calls on the UN Human Rights Council to again consider creating “a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”.
The rights office shared the report with both countries last month.
According to the UN, India requested the report not be published and dismissed the findings as “fallacious, tendentious and [politically] motivated” – similar wording to New Delhi’s rejection of the 2018 report.
Pakistan again “welcomed the report,” the rights office said.
Kashmir has been divided since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 and both New Delhi and Islamabad claim the former Himalayan kingdom in full.
The arch-rivals barely escaped war in February when they launched cross-border air strikes at each other.
Pakistan had shot down an Indian Air Force Mig-21 Bison during a dogfight that resulted in the capture of an Indian Air Force pilot.
Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan was released by Pakistan within the week of his capture as a goodwill gesture by Pakistan.
Since then they have stepped back from the brink, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian rival Narendra Modi exchanging warm messages after Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist party won a new term in May.