LoC Fracas and the UNMOGIP
As if on a cue, the routine of peaceful vigil on the Line of Control (LoC), separating the Indian and Pakistani forces in the disputed Kashmir Region, has undergone a wakeup jolt without a warning. The guns in Kashmir are silent due to a ceasefire being in effect since 2003. It is worthwhile to remember that even when the largest ever mobilization of Indian armed forces (Operation Parkaram), following the attack on the Indian Parliament in Dec 2001, had been rolled back in October 2002, the exchanges had continued across the LoC. The ceasefire in Kashmir that came into effect in Nov 2003 provided the much needed balm; making possible the Islamabad Summit in Jan 2004 which set the ball rolling for Indo-Pak engagement under the Composite Dialog Process (CDP). The cross-LoC assault on a Pakistani Post by Indian troops and the Indian accusations of a Pakistani retaliation, has reignited the tensions in a potential flash point where the troops remain in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation. With both countries blaming one another for initiating aggression, the spot light has come to rest, once again, on the UNSC mandated United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), who are stationed in the disputed Region of Kashmir to oversee the ceasefire violations in Kashmir since 1949.
Once India landed its forces in Sri Nagar on October 27, 1947 and occupied the predominantly Muslim princely state, fighting broke out between India and Pakistan. In January 1948, the Security Council adopted resolution 39 (1948), establishing the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to investigate and mediate the dispute. In April 1948, through resolution 47 (1948), the Council decided to send UN observers to enforce a ceasefire. UNMOGIP owes its existence to Paragraph 17 of this resolution which stated; ”The Commission should establish in Jammu and Kashmir such observers as it may require of any of proceedings in pursuance of the measures indicated…”. The UN sponsored ceasefire came into effect on 1st Jan 1949 and The Commander-in-Chiefs of the two armies met on 15 Jan; agreeing to provide UNCIP all facilities required for establishing the UNMOGIP. In July 1949, India and Pakistan signed the Karachi Agreement establishing a Cease Fire Line (CFL) to be supervised by the observers of the UNMOGIP. Consequently the UNMOGIP was deployed along the Cease Fire Line (CFL) with a UN mandate to observe, report and investigate complaints of ceasefire violations and submit finding to each party and to the UN Secretary-General.
East Pakistan debacle in 1971 provided a chance to India to exploit Pakistan’s weakened position to attempt changing nature of the CFL through self serving interpretations of the provisions of the Simla Agreement which entered into force on 4th August 1972 and stated that the two countries resolved “to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed by them”. Regarding the CFL it said, “In Jammu and Kashmir the Line of Control resulting from the ceasefire of December 17, 1971shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side.” Employing an obviously convoluted logic, Indians claimed that since CFL had been renamed as Line of Control in the Agreement, the UN mandate for the UNMOGIP had become outdated. The fact remained that CFL, with small deviations, had remained same on ground, as established by the Karachi Agreement in 1949 and through Simla Agreement. Pakistan had made no change to its position on CFL or the UN linkages to the Kashmir issue. Nor the people of Kashmir had forsaken their inalienable right to a UN mandated plebiscite. To get rid of the UNMOGIP India prevented the UN observers from patrolling the CFL even as the talks between the two countries were going on.
It is instructive to note that Simla Agreement doesn’t circumscribe a UN role in resolution of Kashmir nor the deployment or functioning of the UNMOGIP yet Indians, given to their unilateral partisan interpretations, have ever since made concerted efforts to have the UNMOGIP withdrawn from Kashmir. Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh, as back as 7th July 1972 , met the UN Secretary General and repeated his Government’s view that since the CFL no longer existed (only according to Indian interpretations), therefore the UNMOGIP had no function to perform. He asked that his Government would appreciate if the UNMOGIP would “fade out”. UN however made it clear that under Security Council Resolutions, particularly Resolution 307, as well as Karachi Agreement, the Secretary General was obliged to maintain UNMOGIP until both parties agreed to request a change, and the Security Council formally decided to accept such a request.
Ever since her failure to have the UNMOGIP withdrawn from Kashmir, the Indians have brazenly curtailed the liberty of actions of UN observers posted on their side of the LoC. Indian media, in a conspiracy of silence maintains a very low profile on the UNMOGIP in an attempt to fade out its presence from the public conscience. The evident result is that most people in India have never heard of this potent and present UN linkage to the Kashmir Issue. It is victory of sorts for Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir that India has not been able, despite her best possible endeavors, to unilaterally remove the UNMOGIP from Kashmir. This Indian failure serves to emphatically underscore the fact that despite passage of considerable time the UN resolutions on Kashmir have not become obsolete; as India is wont to make the world believe.
The current clashes on the LoC and the conflicting statements emerging from India and Pakistan have served to again focus attention on the importance of UNMOGIP and the active role it can play in preventing the conflagration of tension and hostilities in the disputed Kashmir Region. It is heartening to note that despite the Indian intransigence to acknowledge the UNSC validated UNMOGIP role in maintaining peace along the LoC, the UN has not stepped back from endorsing Group’s designated role. “The UNMOGIP is aware of the alleged incidents and will conduct investigations as soon as possible in accordance with its mandate,” said the spokesman for the Secretary General. With India’s stonewalling the Kashmir Issue through the subterfuge of bilateralism , this is a reassuring gesture from New York.