(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times)
India on Tuesday rejected the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s criticism of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, saying her “unwarranted remarks” do not reflect the ground reality. In her opening statement at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Bachelet had criticised restrictions on public assembly and frequent communication blackouts in Jammu and Kashmir.
Responding to the statement, secretary (West) Reenat Sandhu of the external affairs ministry said India’s approach to global promotion and protection of human rights is based on “our own experience as a pluralistic and inclusive society and vibrant democracy”. She added, “We believe that promotion and protection of human rights are best pursued through dialogue, consultation and cooperation among states and through provision of technical assistance and capacity building.”
Pointing to the references to India in Bachelet’s statement, Sandhu expressed India’s “disappointment over her unwarranted remarks on the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which do not reflect the ground reality”. “Any shortcomings in upholding human rights must be addressed in a transparent and impartial manner, anchored in respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of states,” Sandhu said.
India’s Constitution enshrines basic human rights as fundamental rights, and the Parliament, independent judiciary, media and civil society ensure full enjoyment of human rights by the people, she said. As part of a development agenda, the Indian government has undertaken targeted policy measures to empower the most vulnerable segments of society and had followed this approach despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 to save lives and livelihoods, she added.
Sandhu also referred to the situation in Afghanistan and said it continues to be of grave concern. The UN Security Council resolution 2593 should guide the world community’s approach to Afghanistan as it reaffirms the importance of upholding human rights, including those of women, children and minorities, allowing safe passage for those wanting to leave the country and ensuring unhindered access for humanitarian aid.
“The international community must stand with the people of Afghanistan in their desire to live in peace and dignity,” she said. Sandhu also said India is seeking re-election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2022-24, and looks forward to the continued support of member states for its candidature.