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Despite denials, UN statement on J&K remains a mystery

August 04, 2010 11:03 IST
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon never made any remark on the state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir, neither did he make any statement on the state as has been alleged in media reports, and "the matter is settled", highly placed Indian diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

Reports last week, including in the Indian media, said Ban has expressed concern over the recent unrest in Kashmir. Press Trust of India, among others, quoted Ban's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq that in relation to recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir, the UN Secretary General is concerned over the prevailing security situation there over the past month. 'He calls on all concerned to exercise utmost restraint and address problems peacefully,' it added.

India's Permanent Mission to the UN, led by Ambassador Hardeep Puri, took up the issue with the Secretary General on Monday and was assured that Ban never made any such statement. "It was supposed to be a press guidance issued by the Secretary General's office. And that is all," the sources said. "In fact, during the noon briefing on July 28, which Haq referred to, no question was asked about Jammu and Kashmir."

Farhan, a former journalist who had worked with the Inter Press Service at the UN for a long time before taking up the UN job, later clarified that while the e-mail was not a statement by Ban, it was handed by the United Nations, according to media reports. It was not clear who handed him the press guidance.

On Tuesday, Ban's chief spokesperson Martin Nesirky too said the purported remark on the situation in Kashmir valley was not a statement made by Ban but was 'information provided by the UN secretariat and distributed by the spokespersons office.' Nesirky said the email was 'media guidance taken out of context.'

"The United Nations is certainly not in a mood to make Jammu and Kashmir an issue as far as India is concerned. The world body knows what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no doubt after the inquiry at the highest level that Ban never issued such a statement at all," the sources said.

"The spokesperson issued the e-mail on his own, misquoting the secretary general. And some of the separatist leaders tried to exploit it by claiming that the SG is calling for dialogue between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue," the sources said. "The issue has been settled despite what some news media is claiming."

"Had there been any truth in this, the Indian Permanent Mission would have taken it up with the SG's office and issued a condemnation. But there was no such case."

But what remained unclear was whether Haq jumped the gun or made an unauthorised statement by the Haq?

Despite repeated questions as to whether it was a statement or 'guidance' at Tuesday's noon briefing, Nesirky would not make any comment except saying that it was issued by SG's secretariat as guidance. To a pointed question at the briefing Tuesday as to whether it constitutes an unauthorised statement, Nesirky parried a reply. 'I have said what I wanted to say.'

Haq is the son of celebrated Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, founder of the UN Human Development Report along with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York