By Arul Louis
United Nations, Jan 22 (IANS): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has reiterated his offer of "good offices" to resolve the Kashmir issue, which India has resolutely rejected in the past as New Delhi considers the dispute with Pakistan a bilateral matter.
"I'd offered my good offices several times and we hope that this is something that can be solved peacefully," he said at his news conference on Friday.
While replying to a question by a Pakistani reporter on the Kashmir issue, he added that he hoped "the situation in Kashmir is a situation in which human rights are respected and in which people can live in peace and security".
Citing the Simla Agreement signed in 1972 by then Indian Prime Minister India Gandhi and Pakistan President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, India has rejected any third party involvement in the Kashmir dispute.
The two countries agreed under the pact to resolve all disputes bilaterally.
Guterres said: "The position of the UN and the resolutions that were taken are the same, remain the same. We have, as you know, a peacekeeping operation there."
While Islamabad and its supporters assert that the UN Security Council has endorsed the holding of a plebiscite in Kashmir, its resolution adopted on April 21, 1948, requires the Pakistani government first "to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the state".
Asked about Afghanistan, Guterres said that while it faced "a serious situation of violations of human rights", he would like to separate it from the humanitarian crisis there which needs to be addressed because of the dire situation faced by the people.
"It would be a mistake to submit the people of Afghanistan to a collective punishment just because the de facto authorities are not behaving properly.
"At the same time, we'll go on insisting with the Taliban on human rights but also on the question of terrorism and on the question of inclusive governance," the UN chief added.
On the current global hotspot, Ukraine, Guterres disagreed with the prediction of US President Joe Biden and the American media of an imminent Russian invasion.
He said: "I am convinced it will not happen, and I strongly hope to be right. Of course, any invasion by one country to another country is against international law, and I hope that this, of course, will not happen in the present circumstances.
"I simply believe that we have to find a diplomatic solution to make sure that whatever the name you give to (a Russian intervention) it doesn't happen."
He characterised the current global confrontation between major powers as a "tepid confrontation".
Asked if the world was on the verge of a Cold War II, he said: "We are witnessing a new form. I wouldn't call Cold War. I wouldn't call hot war. I would call probably a new form of tepid confrontation."
Unlike the Cold War, which was between two structured blocs with military alliances and had rules to prevent conflict, he said the tepid confrontation "is much more chaotic, much less predictable".
"And (in) the Cold War, to a certain extent, the truces never became hot because there was a certain level of predictability in the way that Cold War existed."
If the tepid confrontation "leads to forms of confrontation that would be a disaster for us all", Guterres warned.