This past week saw the 30th anniversary of the invasion by Argentine forces of the British Falkland Islands. Britain went in, reclaimed its sovereign territory. End of story. Why wasn’t Kashmir like that for India? Because the British are more adapt at the UN than their Indian counterparts.
Make no mistake the Falklands conflict was warranted under specific UN resolution. Security Council Resolution 502 demanding immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the Falklands, had been adopted, with mandatory force.
Most UN resolutions matter little. This British sponsored one mattered a lot. How could the British risk taking matters to the UN? How come India, in doing the same over Kashmir, has been in stalemate for 60 years? After all, the Americans, European and the Commonwealth simply did not support the British position over the Falklands. If anything the British were in a far weaker position than India in 1948 over Kashmir when it went to the UN. Yet the British did not act unilaterally. They went to the UN. Even at a time when the majority of the 15 member Security Council could barely be counted on to support the former Colonial power.
What was critical is that Britain drafted a Resolution which made what Reagan called this ‘bunch of rocks’ a Chapter 7 security and peace issue and not a Chapter 6 issue (peaceful settlement of disputes). This made the resolution mandatory and legally binding, rather than a weak starting point for endless negotiations. Britain still needed nine Security Council votes, including Spain, Uganda, Jordan and Ireland. (If only the British had not scrapped with or colonized pretty much everyone on the Council at one time or another). Nevertheless their diplomats managed to get the votes. The heritage of Empire has some benefits – you become very adept at diplomacy and getting your way.
UN Security Council Resolution 47 – of 1948 – concerning Kashmir, is very different. It is a Chapter 6 Resolution – therefore without mandatory enforceability and non-binding. So when it required that Pakistan ‘withdraw all nationals who entered the region’, it could be safely ignored by the Pakistanis. India’s error was not that it filed the dispute in the UN, as is commonly thought, after all it sought to be a leading light in the world – this was a nation in which Gandhiji still lived – but that it filed it under Chapter 6 – which simply does not require any mandatory enforcement.
If ever you want to know whether the West is going to War – just ask if it is seeking a Chapter 7 UN Security Council Resolution. Iraq II, was the same in 2003. UN Security Council Resolution 1441 of 1992 was also a Chapter 7, peace and security, Resolution demanding ‘a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations’. It was the breach of this, incidentally, WMD, or not, had nevertheless occurred and military force was legally warranted under the Resolution (and that is the response to all those who say it was an illegal war, or ask why did we go to war). All 15 Security Council members voted in favour of this Resolution – including China and Russia and Syria.
Russia and China have now caught on. They will block such Western resolutions in future. Once bitten, twice shy. Incidentally, China and Russia abstained on the Falklands Resolution. Today, they would veto.
Alpesh B Patel