Thursday, January 20, 2022

The UNHRC Session: India Needs No Preaching

by Sunil Gatade, Senior Journalist

It is poetic justice for Pakistan. Days after India at the UNHRC Session called the bluff of Islamabad on the issue of terror, Pakistan again stands exposed. The anti-terror financing watchdog FATF has announced that Islamabad has once again failed to move out of the FATF ‘grey list’ and remained under increased monitoring.

The FATF announcement has come within days of India told the UN Human Rights Council during its current session at Geneva about the scourge of cross border terrorism faced by New Delhi.

Calling the bluff of Pakistan and Turkey on Kashmir, Indian diplomats had highlighted at the High-Level Segment of the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council that the recent release of Al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is a “clear example” of the connection between the Pakistani state and terrorists. India had also hit out at Turkey and said the country had “trampled upon” its own civil society.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had put the nail right on the head by insisting that the human rights agenda continues to face severe challenges, most of all from terrorism. As a long-standing victim, India has been in the forefront of global action against terrorism.

He had told the UNHRC that this is possible only when there is a clear realisation, including in bodies dealing with human rights, that terrorism can never be justified, nor its perpetrators ever equated with its victims.

India, as a vibrant democracy, has always been “fully cognizant” of its human rights obligations as against the fact that Pakistan has been the home and patron to the largest number of internationally proscribed terrorist entities and individuals in the world.

The question uppermost in the mind of observers of the international scene is over the utility of institutions like the UNHRC and as to what has been achieved by it in the last 15 years of its existence.

Experts note that the UNHRC was founded in 2006 to replace the U.N. Human Rights Commission which had become a mutual admiration society for human rights violators. Membership had its privileges: immunity from criticism. The council was supposed to be an improvement over the commission. It turned out to be a clone instead.

The Peoples Republic of China was among the states voted onto the UNHRC by the U.N. General Assembly last fall, despite evidence of genocide against the Uyghurs, the Turkic Muslim people of Xinjiang.

Other current members include Pakistan where dwindling religious minorities like Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and Ahmadi Muslims suffer oppression. The growing bonhomie between China and Pakistan in recent years has been a bane for India given the fact that Islamabad is being used as a proxy by Beijing to stir trouble.

Faced with a dwindling economy, Pakistan is dependent more and more on China which has been adept at extracting the price. In the light of the controversy over the Wuhan virus and the Covid pandemic, a section of the democratic world is saying that despots are dominating the WHO and the UNHRC.

Besides, the question being asked as to how Pakistan could scramble up the pole and grab a place on the Council? Some experts have claimed that this revealed the deep-seated flaw in the UNHRC’s terms of association. Given Pakistan’s half-hearted adoption of the UN human rights architecture UNHRC should in fact deny Pakistan full-member status, is their refrain.

As the Human Rights Council completes 15 years since its establishment, India, therefore, has raised the right questions. It is time for us to assess the Council’s achievements, reflect on its failures and deliberate on the ways to strengthen and reform it so as to enable it to achieve the objectives for which it has been set up.

The next few years are expected to be a bit of turmoil for the UNHRC as also WHO as America under Joe Biden wants to rejoin the UN agencies. Some of his advisors are saying that he should insist on at least a few reforms in the two agencies in exchange for America’s return. (EOM)

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