Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations Munir Akram speaking outside UN building

UNITED NATIONS: India’s abstention on a landmark United Nations resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestine reflected its drive to pursue the Jewish nation’s model of demographic engineering in disputed Jammu and Kashmir to turn its Muslim majority into a minority, Pakistan said.

The decolonisation committee of the United Nations on Friday adopted a draft Palestinian resolution asking that the World Court “urgently” weigh in on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory”, which it said were violating the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — areas that Palestinians want for a state — in a 1967 Middle East war. US-sponsored negotiations stalled in 2014.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement that 98 countries supported the resolution, 52 abstained, including India, and 17 voted against.

“India’s abstention derives from its own policies of occupation in Jammu and Kashmir, usurpation of Kashmiri lands, demographic change and denial of the right to self-determination — the precise issues of the Israeli occupation on which the General Assembly has sought an advisory opinion from the ICJ.” Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram said in an interview with the Associated Press of Pakistan.

“Israeli culpability in Palestine will also confirm India’s culpability in [occupied Kashmir],” the Pakistani envoy added.

The resolution — Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem — calls on the ICJ to determine the “legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” as well as of its measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status” of the city of Jerusalem.

It also calls on the secretary general of the UN to present a report on the implementation of the resolution in the upcoming session of the General Assembly in September 2023.

Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer to the United Nations, hailed the nations that were “undeterred by threats and pressure” and voted in favour of the resolution.

“This vote comes one day after the new Israeli government was formed pledging to accelerate colonial and racist policies against the Palestinian people,” he said.

The abstention from India, which champions itself as a supporter of the Palestinian cause, was especially noted as it underlined its apprehensions about the implications of referral of the issues of occupation, illegal settlements and demographic change to the ICJ.

By revoking Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution in August 2019, the extremist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the floodgates of Israel-style settlements in Jammu and Kashmir as part of the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Muslim residents of the region.

Kashmir’s special status ensured that foreign businesses were barred from operating in the region without a lease agreement with the government. Following the abrogation, all mining bids in the disputed territory were solicited online at a time when internet connectivity was still restricted in Kashmir.

The result was a death blow to local businesses: for the first time, 70 percent of all mineral contracts in the region were awarded to non-Kashmiris.

Not only that, but it also issued “the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (procedure) rules” providing a fast-track procedure for the issuance of Kashmir domicile certificates within 15 days to people from mainland India.

The sense of urgency to legalise the region’s status is further underscored in the new rules since non-compliance with the time frame provided therein attracts a penalty of Rs 50,000 from the salary of an errant officer.

The rules also cover 7,00,000 armed forces personnel stationed in Jammu and Kashmir, along with their families, that in effect turn the occupiers into settlers in the occupied land.

Fernand de Varennes, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues, and Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said that after the changes, the region’s population “have lost power to legislate or amend laws” to protect their rights as minorities.

“These legislative changes may have the potential to pave the way for people from outside the former state of Jammu and Kashmir to settle in the region, alter the demographics of the region and undermine the minorities’ ability to exercise effectively their human rights,” the experts said.

“The number of successful applicants for domicile certificates that appear to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir raises concerns that demographic change on a linguistic, religious and ethnic basis is already underway,” they said.