Statement by Ambassador Munir Akram in the High-Level Open Debate of the Security Council on “Pandemics and Security” (July 02, 2020)

Mr. President,

We congratulate Germany on assuming the Presidency of the Security Council, and thank them for organizing this timely debate on the important issue of pandemic and security.

Mr. President,

Following the Ebola outbreak, the Security Council in Resolution 2177 (2014) pronounced that pandemics constitute a grave threat to international peace and security. They not only undermine the political, social and economic stability of the most affected countries, but also vitiate the overall security environment, becoming drivers of instability in the concerned regions and beyond.

But unlike Ebola, which was contained within a region, COVID-19 has proven much more infectious, spreading exponentially all over the world, posing threat to lives and livelihoods of all nations of the world.

While the virus has not discriminated between the rich and the poor, it has still disproportionally affected the most vulnerable, including elderly, handicapped, displaced people, like refugees and migrants, and those living in conflict zones and under foreign occupation.

In more ways than one, this pandemic has shown that in today’s interconnected world, no one is safe until everyone is safe.

At the same time, it has also reinforced the idea that without coordinated international efforts to contain the virus, and mitigate is multifaceted impacts, we cannot win against this pandemic.

Mr. President,

As Covid-19 rages through the world, two different streams of response have emerged.

On the one hand, we have seen a rise in international solidarity and cooperation. The United Nations and other international organizations, including international financial institutions and several Member States, have stepped up relief efforts to help most affected countries. Medical expertise, essential lifesaving and protective supplies, scientific research, and public health data is being shared despite disruptions in the global supply chain and political tensions. The calls for financial assistance within countries and internationally have met with a positive response. Initiatives like debt relief for the developing countries have seen widespread support, although much more is needed to address the monumental, health, economic and social challenges of the developing countries.

On the other hand, the COVID pandemic has also exacerbated tensions between major powers and have brought a sharp spike in big power rivalry. A blame game on the origins of virus, increased polarization, and reliance on populist narratives, have exposed fissures in the global response, at the cost of solidarity, humanism and multilateralism.

One example of these divisions is the lackluster response to the Secretary General’s timely and well-meaning call for a global ceasefire. In many conflict zones around the world there has been no real reduction in violence. Instead, some states have taken advantage of this situation to consolidate their illegal occupations of foreign and disputed territories.

Mr. President,

In Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, India has callously exploited the COVID-19 crisis to further advance its unlawful occupation.

For over 10 months, the Kashmiris have faced crippling restrictions on civil liberties and unrelenting human rights abuses at the hands of Indian forces. The coronavirus has now condemned them to a ‘double lockdown’ bringing them to the precipice of a vast human tragedy.

The prolonged lockdown in occupied Jammu & Kashmir had already depleted essential medical supplies in hospitals, turning them into graveyards. Now with the coronavirus spreading rapidly, they are entirely incapable of meeting the public health crisis.

Today, IOJ&K is world’s most militarized zone with 900,000 Indian troops suppressing 8 million Kashmiris. And, there is only one doctor for 4000 Kashmiris.

While the world’s attention is focused on the virus, India has taken advantage by implementing additional steps to consolidate its occupation. Besides the extended lockdown and communications blackout, India has introduced new ‘domicile rules’ to engineer a demographic change in Kashmir, to transform it from a Muslim majority State into a Hindu majority territory. These measures are in direct contravention of the relevant UNSC Resolutions and international law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Hundreds of senior Kashmiri political leaders and thousands of young men, including human rights defenders and journalists have been arbitrarily detained and incarcerated to stifle the call for “Azadi” (Freedom) and suppress their legitimate struggle for right to self-determination. Peaceful protestors, including children as young as 4, have been blinded by pellet guns; women and girls dishonoured and threatened with rape and violence; hundreds killed in extra-judicial executions, whole neighbourhood destroyed as “collective punishment”.

Mr. President,

The Security Council has a primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It cannot afford inaction and appeasement in the face of open aggression and atrocities against an occupied people.

The Council must denounce India’s illegal actions in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and take urgent actions to reign in its fascist ambitions that are putting enormous strain on peace and security of our region and beyond.

In this regard, the Council must urge India to:

These actions are urgently need not just to calm down tension in our region, but are also imperative for the credibility of the Security Council and the continued efficacy of the United Nations in matters related to peace and security.

I thank you Mr. President.