UNHCHR seeks ‘access’ to Kashmir, India downplays move

India on Thursday downplayed remarks by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) over denial of permission by Indian government to visit Jammu and Kashmir, saying it has been constructively engaged with the UN body to project a "correct picture" of the state.
UNHCHR seeks ‘access’ to Kashmir, India downplays move
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India on Thursday downplayed remarks by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) over denial of permission by Indian government to visit Jammu and Kashmir, saying it has been constructively engaged with the UN body to project a "correct picture" of the state.

"Indian Mission in Geneva has been constructively engaged with the UN body to project a correct picture of J&K by highlighting the central role of cross-border terrorism and its glorification in the violent protests in the Valley," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

He was responding to a question about request by the UNHCHR Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein to both India and Pakistan to grant his team access to Jammu and Kashmir as well as PaK while voicing concern over alleged human rights violations there.

"We have also stressed to UNHCHR the efforts and undivided attention of all organs of the Indian state for restoring normalcy in J&K in the face of incitement and support to terrorism from across our border. We will continue to encourage international community to uphold promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the parts of J&K under illegal occupation of Pakistan, and hold the concerned accountable for their violation," said Swarup.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein had on Wednesday expressed deep regret at the failure of Indian and Pakistani authorities to grant the UN Human Rights Office access to Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir respectively, given grave concerns about recent allegations of serious human rights violations.

Since the latest outbreak of violence in early July, High Commissioner Zeid has been engaging with both Indian and Pakistani authorities and has sought access for a team to visit both Indian-Administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir to independently and thoroughly look into and verify allegations of violations of international law to be able to establish the facts accurately, particularly given the conflicting and competing claims on both sides.

"I deeply regret that our requests for access have not been granted. Given the seriousness of the allegations of the use of excessive force, allegations of state sponsorship of violence, as well as the number of people killed and the very large number of people injured, the continuing unrest and the almost daily reports of violence in the region, it is unfortunate that our sincere attempts to independently assess the facts in relation to reports of human rights violations have failed," the High Commissioner said.

"We requested full and unhindered access to the affected population, to interview a variety of individuals on the ground, including victims, witnesses, security forces, and with access to relevant documentation. Such access would enable us to provide an independent and fact-based analysis of the situation, which is so crucial in volatile, politically-charged situations." "Without access, we can only fear the worst," Zeid added. "I reiterate our request for access."

PAK WELCOMES MOVE

Pakistan on Thursday said it would welcome any team of human rights observers sent by the UN to the part of Kashmir under its control, a day after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights appealed to both India and Pakistan to grant his team access to Kashmir.

Pakistan Foreign Office, in a statement, said it would welcome any UN team of human rights experts.

"While welcoming any UN team that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights may wish to send" to PaK, "we cannot accept equating the rampant human rights violations" in Kashmir with the situation in PaK, the Foreign Office said.

"In fact, today the contrast between grim reality" in Kashmir and the peaceful situation in PaK could not be more stark. It is, therefore, essential" that the UN fact finding team must visit Kashmir, it added.

The Foreign Office said PaK is an area "open to everyone" and is frequented by foreign tourists and members of the diplomatic community in Pakistan, including representatives of the United Nations, where they have observed recent elections and met a cross section of people.

"Access to OHCHR has been denied by India" to Kashmir. Pakistan has never prevented UN officials from travelling to PaK, it said.

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