Srinagar: As the Valley unrest neared 70 days, the UN Human Rights chief said that an international probe was "needed crucially" in Kashmir, even as India hit back saying the violence was "choreographed from across the border". India also questioned the reference to Indian and Pakistan-administered areas, stating that the entire Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.
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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, said he had requested India and Pakistan to allow teams from his office to visit both sides of the Line of Control — "in other words the India-Administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir".
Hussein said they had received reports of "excessive" force used against civilians on the Indian side and also of "conflicting narratives from the two sides" about the unrest, that has seen over 80 deaths so far.
"I believe an independent, impartial and international mission is now needed crucially and that it should be given free and complete access to establish an objective assessment of the claims made by the two sides," Hussein said, adding that while Pakistan has acceded to his request for a visit to its side, "but in tandem with a mission to the Indian side", India had yet to do so.
India, in its reply, said that while it acknowledges the role of the OHCHR for protection of human rights "more would be gained if primacy were accorded to cooperation over confrontation" as the guiding principle. India sharply rebutted the UN Human Rights chief's reference to India and Pakistan – administered Kashmir. It said the whole State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and "Pakistan remains in illegal occupation of a part of our territory. The two cannot and should not be equated".
"The neutrality of the phrase 'Indian Administered Kashmir' is, therefore, artificial," it said, adding that Jammu and Kashmir has an elected democratic government, but that is not the case on the Pakistani side.
It hit out at Pakistan, saying the current unrest "has been choreographed from across our border since the death of a known terrorist belonging to an internationally proscribed terrorist organization" in July – referring to Hizbul commander Burhan Wani. India said it has shared evidence of terrorists "who came across the border with instructions to target our security forces by mingling with protesting crowds and using human shields".
"Terrorism, I would emphasise, is the most egregious violation of human rights," the statement said. It said that Jammu and Kashmir has started to move towards normalcy after sustained efforts by both the Central and state governments, "including the exercise of maximum restraint" by security forces, 7,000 of whom have sustained injuries.
In a strong rebuttal of the UN Human Rights chief's request for unconditional access to both sides of the LoC, the statement said "India's robust democratic institutions and processes have sufficient tools for redressal of grievances".
It stressed on constructive dialogue and cooperation as best means for the protection and promotion of human rights, adding "countries often have unique national circumstances, and it is important to invest trust in their efforts".
The statement said that while India has been appreciative of the High Commissioner's efforts at improving efficiency and streamlining OHCHR's work, it remains "concerned at persisting ambiguities in OHCHR governance and administrative arrangements".
"High Commissioner's proposed Change Initiative requires more clarity," it said. India's curt response comes amid marked escalation by Pakistan at internationalising the Kashmir issue. Relations between the two neighbours has reached a low point.