Kashmir and UN’s Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

By Mehran Iqbal*

Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a United Nations (UN) doctrine according to which the UN has assumed responsibility to ensure peace throughout the world under the international humanitarian and human rights law. R2P is invoked when there is a threat of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Simply, to understand R2P one needs to focus on the terms on which it applies. There are well defined definitions and code of conducts regarding genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing but one cannot find a universal definition of crimes against humanity. Yet, the UN tried to define it as:

“Attack directed against any civilian population’ means a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts (such as: deportation or forcible transfer of population; torture; any form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; persecution against any identifiable group; enforced disappearance of persons; crime of apartheid and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health) against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack”

In such scenarios, the UN is obligatory to act against the aggression as per the doctrine. It is its responsibility to protect and it should not be confused with the right to protect or intervene. The UN has mentioned in the doctrine that in such scenarios (war crimes, genocide etc), the UN should take measures according to the UN Charter. In UN Charter, CHAPTER VII (i.e. “Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression”) explains how it should act in such conditions.

“Should the Security Council consider that measures, include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations. If these measures would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”

In the context of R2P, the biggest concern in South Asia since 1947 is the Kashmir issue. Kashmir is also the bone of contention between India and Pakistan since inception. It is an internationally recognized disputed territory between India and Pakistan, distributed into two parts each is controlled by one state. Yet, both states fought three full fledge wars, numerous low intensity conflicts and continue border skirmishes. In this matter, the UN has adopted UN Security Council Resolution 47 on 21 April 1948, to resolve the issue of Kashmir. According to the resolution, a plebiscite should be conducted in the region and let the people of Kashmir decided rather they want to join Pakistan or India. On 5 August, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s special status and its constitutional article 370, which provides a special status to Kashmir with a certain amount of autonomy.

India did this by deploying around 700,000 army personals in Kashmir over the papulation of 8 million. After 3 months of curfew since August, India recently changed the status of the valley of Jammu and Kashmir into two different federally administrated unions. The decision was made when most of the political leaders of the valley are under house-arrests and valley is under the siege.

The international community in general and UN in specific has to take certain measure as India is culprit of three misconducts in the valley. First, it decided the remove the special status of Kashmir (unilaterally) that is recognized as disputed territory internationally and this act is also against the UN resolution for Kashmir. Second, this act of India is against the will of the people of Kashmir, as it has been done forcefully and decision is being imposed on the people of Kashmir. As the founding father of present day India Mahatma Gandhi said “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

The third and most important offense is India carrying out crimes against humanity in the valley. Starting from political repression and suppression of freedom of expression to the killings, sexual abuse and force disappearance, all these actions can be categorized as crimes against humanity. These crimes against humanity have been highlighted by many news agencies such as Al-Jazeera, Business Record, Pakistan Today, Etc. Hence, the UN doctrine R2P demands international attention and rapid response in Kashmir.

“The unfulfilled dream of integrating Jammu and Kashmir has been accomplished,” said Home Minister Amit Shah, who is leading the political strategy to deal with Kashmir. The Indian stance of being a secular state has been shattered due to forceful insertion of Jammu and Kashmir as Gandhi also said “Kashmir is real test of secularism in India”.

*The author is an M.Phil Scholar of Peace and Conflict Studies in National Defence University, can be reached at

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: