The Kashmir question in the UN

Madiha Shakil Khan

/By Madiha Shakil Khan/

India took the matter of Jammu and Kashmir to the Security Council on 1st January 1948 and lodged a formal complaint against Pakistan.

In reply, Pakistan lodged a counter-complaint against India on 15th January 1948 and had also requested the Security Council to deal with other disputes between India and Pakistan, including Junagadh.

As a result, a Security Council meeting was held on 16th January, 1948 with the agenda “Jammu and Kashmir Question” in which the Kashmir issue was discussed.

Again, on 20th January, 1948 Zafarullah Khan wrote a letter to the President of the Security Council to call another meeting as earlier as possible to discuss all issues between India and Pakistan, other than Jammu and Kashmir.

The next meeting of the Security Council was then held on 22nd January, 1948 with a revised agenda named “India-Pakistan Question” instead of “Jammu & Kashmir Question.”

Here it is pertinent to mention that people over the years have held Zafarullah Khan responsible for this change of agenda name as if he had requested it.

For instance, Dr. Shabir Choudhry states in his book “Kashmir Dispute: A Kashmiri Perspective” that “Initially Kashmir was registered as a ‘Kashmir problem’ in the UN, clearly showing that the matter specifically related to Jammu and Kashmir.

It was the government of Pakistan that changed it to ‘India and Pakistan Problem’, hence making it a territorial dispute, in which world powers were hesitant to take sides but at that time were willing to support the right to self-determination and oppose imperialism.”[1]


Similarly, the founder of JKLF Amanullah Khan writes in his autobiography:

“In January 1948, India filed an application regarding the Kashmir Case at the United Nations, accusing Pakistan of aggression.

In response, Pakistan also filed a counter-complaint against India for her fraudulent role in Kashmir and also made some other accusations.

The issue was raised in the UN Security Council under the heading “Situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir,” but on January 20th, 1948, Pakistan claimed that there were other issues besides Kashmir.

Therefore, the discussion should be carried on under the “India-Pakistan Problem”. This demand of Pakistan was accepted.

After January 30, 1948, the Kashmir issue was renamed the “India-Pakistan Question” instead of “The Situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.” [2]
Even late Justice Yusuf Saraf wrote that “due to Sir Zafrullah’s advocacy, the agenda was changed on 22nd January 1948 from the Kashmir Question to “the India-Pakistan Question.” [3]

Was the name changed upon the request of Pakistan? The answer to this question can be found in the details of the meeting of the Security Council on 22nd January, 1948. 

[4] On the adoption of agenda (The India Pakistan Question), the president of the Security Council said that the alternation was made “in the consequence of a letter, dated 20 January, addressed to (him) by the Pakistan Minister for Foreign Affairs.”

The president had justified the change as a consequence of Zafarullah Khan’s letter of 20 January (document S/655), the text of which has been reproduced below:

“I beg to request that a meeting of the Security Council may be called as early as possible to consider the situations, other than the Jammu and Kashmir situation, set out in my letter dated January 15, 1948, addressed to the Secretary-General. All these situations have led to a very acute crisis between India and Pakistan.

More particularly the continued occupation by the armed forces of India of the State of Junagadh, which is part of Pakistan, and the oppression and spoliation of its Muslim population constitute a casus belli end may necessitate military action on the part of Pakistan unless urgent action is taken by the Security Council.” [5]

It can be seen that Zafarullah Khan’s letter did not imply, by any means, that the name of the agenda of the Security Council should have been changed. This fact was also conceded by his Indian counterpart Mr. Gopalswami Ayyengar, who, while opposing the change, said in the same meeting:
“The item on the agenda on which the debates have so far proceeded has been described throughout as “The Jammu and Kashmir Question”. For the first time, this heading has been changed in the provisional agenda to “The India-Pakistan question.”

The justification for this change has been said to be the receipt of a letter from the representative of Pakistan dated 20 January 1948. The first sentence of this letter is as follows:

‘I beg to request that a meeting of the Security Council be called at as early a date as possible to consider the situations, other than the Jammu and Kashmir situation, set out in my letter dated 15 January 1948 addressed to the Secretary-General.”

This letter, therefore, refers to situations other than the Jammu and Kashmir situation, which we have been debating all these days. India does not contend that those situations should not be placed on the agenda of the Security Council. It is quite willing that those situations should be placed before the Security Council, but that step has not been taken yet.

It would be wrong in my opinion, merely on the strength of a request from Sir Zafarullah Khan that those questions should be put down for a meeting of the Security Council at an early date, to change the heading, and, therefore, the content of the matter on which the debate has proceeded so far.”

As the matter was being debated in the meeting, Mr. Noel Baker of the United Kingdom came up with his own proposal saying: “Since my legal adviser, Mr. Bathurst, called my attention to the item as it now stands on the agenda, to the change in the heading, I have taken the trouble to inquire how the item came to be included in the agenda as it now stands.

I understand that the heading of the item was decided upon by the President and the Secretariat. I am certain, of course, that the change was made in complete good faith, and I understand very well, I think, the arguments in favour of that change which seemed convincing to the President.

However, if I had been in the President’s place I think I should have handled the matter differently. Broadly, I agree with the representative of India. I think that I should have arranged the agenda as follows:

  1. Adoption of the agenda;
  2. The Jammu and Kashmir question [dealing with] (a) Letter dated 1 January 1948 from the representative of India to the President of the Security Council concerning the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
    (b) Letter dated 15 January 1948 from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan addressed to the Secretary-General concerning the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
  3. Junagadh and other questions [dealing the] letter dated 20 January 1948 from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Pakistan addressed to the President of the Security Council.”

Similarly, the Russian representative had also opposed the change, whereas Syrian, Argentinian, and Columbian representatives supported the change and stood by the President which compelled the British representative to withdraw his proposal, saying:

“It seems plain to me that the proposal I put forward is not going to secure the support of a majority of the Council, and I, therefore, hope that I may save time and debate by withdrawing it now.”

Zafarullah Khan’s opinion in the meeting was: “‘The order in which it may appear convenient and reasonable to the Security Council to deal with these matters is eminently a matter for the Council to decide. As I have said, I am not concerned with the technicalities of the question.

So long as it is deemed that all these questions are before the Security Council and on its agenda, I do not insist that a particular heading be applied and I do not care whether the questions are set out as a, b, and c, (as sub-paragraphs under same question) or as 1, 2 and 3 (as different questions).

That is entirely immaterial to me.
When it is said that we should proceed immediately with the question of Jammu and Kashmir, I have no objection to that, as I have already stated.

But I made it clear from what I said that my position was not that we must necessarily await the conclusion of the whole matter of Jammu and Kashmir before any of the other matters are taken up by the Security Council.”

To this Gopalswami Ayyengar replied: “I think that Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan took a very proper view, in his remarks, when he said that while the Security Council is seized of both sets of complaints, it did not matter to him how those complaints were dealt with or in what order they were considered on the agenda, and that he, for one, would not have objected to the amendment that was moved by the representative of the United Kingdom, which was unfortunately withdrawn.”

He also reiterated his stance as follows, “…that the determination of this question should be governed by rule 10 of the rules of procedure, which states: “Any item on the agenda of a meeting of the Security Council, consideration of which has not been completed at that meeting, shall, unless the Security Council otherwise decides, automatically be included in the Agenda of the next meeting.”

The president then called the representative of the UK Mr. Noel Baker to come forward and speak. He informed the Indian representative that he had to withdraw his proposal because he knew that he did not have the support of the majority in the Security Council.

To quote him; “I only want to say to the representative of India that I did not withdraw my motion because I thought it inelegant, inappropriate or wrong.

I withdrew my motion because I saw that it was not going to receive the necessary majority and I hoped that we might perhaps save time, and I felt then quite clearly that we were–all of us–agreed on the substance.”

The president then concluded before the formal adoption of the agenda, “The position is this: the United Kingdom representative has withdrawn a proposal he made earlier in the debate. We have no other resolution before us for a change in the provisional agenda.

The representative of India has asked me, as President, for a ruling. If I made such a ruling, which would touch upon the substance of the matter, I think I should be exceeding my powers, and I shall therefore ask the Council itself to decide on the matter.

The representative of India proposes that the debate follow the order in which it began, with the Jammu and Kashmir question and ail its implications taken first, and the other question discussed in due course.

The representative of Pakistan, if I understand him correctly, does not appear to oppose this order. I shall, therefore, if there is no objection, ask the Council to proceed accordingly.”

The president further said that if no member of the Security Council wished to speak, no formal vote was called for and there was no objection, he would proceed to the adoption of the agenda. No member of the Security Council had objected, so the agenda was formally adopted.

It can be concluded from the letter by Sir Zafarullah Khan on 20th January, 1948 and his speech in the meeting that he neither requested the change in the title of the debate, as is alleged nor did he speak in its favour in the Security Council’s meeting number 231 held on 22nd January, 1948.

The decision to change the title in order to accommodate the issue of Junagadh and other disputes between India and Pakistan was solely taken by the president of the UNSC and with the approval of the majority of the members of the Security Council.

References:

  1. Dr Shabir Choudhry, Kashmir Dispute: A Kashmiri Perspective, p. 78.
  2. Amanullah Khan, Jehed-e-Musalsal, vol. 3, pp. 42-43.
  3. Justice Yusuf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom, vol. 2, p. 325
  4. Security Council Official Records, Third Year, pp. 143-164
    Security Council 231st Meeting, 22 January, 1948 (Document S/PV. 231)
  5. Document S/655

Article was first published in the Kashmir Discourse.

Madiha Shakil Khan

Madiha Shakil Khan hails from AJ&K, Pakistan and is a student of international affairs. She can be mailed at madiha42356@yahoo.com.