Parried Peacemakers

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In the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan on the LoC, the United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) is unable to get a role that would change its profile back to the seventies, a Kashmir Life report.

Parried Peacemakers

(Soldiers manning a forward post in Uri’s Charunda Village)

It was a master diplomatic stroke by Islamabad. With Pakistan heading the rotating Presidency of the UN Security Council for 2013, Hina Rabbani Khar suggested that since the two countries are blaming each other for the recent hostilities, it was better that United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) investigate and fix the responsibilities.

Had India agreed, it would have taken clock back to a larger extent. For a change, the UNMOGIP officials in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad would stop accepting memorandum for their boss in New York and would go back to the role they were deployed for – managing a ceasefire between the two countries, an exercise they have rarely done since 1972.

Pakistan army had actually submitted a complaint with the UNMOGIP. The UN mission did issue a statement and the UN Secretary General also admitted that a petition has been made. But India disagreed. “We are certainly not going to agree to internationalize the issue or allow the United Nations to hold an enquiry,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram said. “That demand is obviously rejected out of hand.”

UNMOGIP is the only relic supporting the disputed status of Kashmir. It was outcome of a process that started in response to India taking the Kashmir case to UN General Assembly against Pakistan for later’s military action.

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, by its resolution 47 (1948), the Council decided to enlarge the membership of UNCIP and to recommend various measures, including the use of observers to stop the fighting. On July 27 1949, India and Pakistan signed the Karachi Agreement, establishing a ceasefire line to be supervised by the observers. On March 30, 1951, following the termination of UNCIP, the Security Council, by its resolution 91 (1951) decided that UNMOGIP should continue to supervise the ceasefire in Kashmir. UNMOGIP’s functions were to observe and report, investigate complaints of ceasefire violations and submit its finding to each party and to the Secretary-General.

At the end of 1971, hostilities again broke out between India and Pakistan. When a ceasefire came into effect again, a number of positions on both sides of the 1949 ceasefire line had changed hands. In July1972, India and Pakistan signed an agreement defining a Line of Control in Kashmir which, with minor deviations, followed the same course as the ceasefire line established by the Karachi Agreement in 1949. India took the position that the mandate of UNMOGIP had lapsed, since it related specifically to the ceasefire line under the Karachi Agreement. Pakistan, however, did not accept this position.

Given the disagreement between the two parties about UNMOGIP’s mandate and functions, the Secretary General’s position has been that UNMOGIP could be terminated only by a decision of the Security Council. The military authorities of Pakistan have continued to lodge complaints with UNMOGIP about ceasefire violations. The military authorities of India have lodged no complaints since January 1972 and have restricted the activities of the UN observers on this side of the Line of Control. They have, however, continued to provide accommodation, transport and other facilities to UNMOGIP.

Since the birth of Bangladesh, there have been numerous occasions when UNMOGIP wanted to act as per the mandate but they never succeeded. The most recent was in wake of Kargil war. The then Chief Military Observer (CMO) of UNMOGIP Major General Jozsef Bali wanted to visited Drass and Batalik sectors but he was denied permission for security reasons. Earlier, the UNMOGIP station was closed down by India for the same reasons. Unlike Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), the Hungarian General was quoted saying that they have highly restrictive movements in J&K. During Kargil war, especially on this side of the LoC, the mission officials said they have the media as the main source of information.

With nothing happening and the observers shuttling between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, it does create news sometimes beyond its mandate. In October 2001, for instance, the then CMO Major General Hermann K Loidolt invited few selected newsmen on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the closedown of UNMOGIP Headquarters in Srinagar – it follows a Durbar Move, the general’s statement shocked everybody.

Cover Story Parried Peacemakers

(UN officials at work in Srinagar before the ceasefire was announced)

“All of us are aware of the situation in Kashmir and the games both parties (India and Pakistan) are playing with this tormented country. We all know there is no easy solution and especially war is absolutely no solution for Kashmir….. It will be an issue for the US to solve it,” said Major General Loidolt. “May it be diversionary maneuver on the Pakistani side to make India the real enemy, instead of the US, or may it be the dawning of next election in India, it is an issue for US to solve.”

Loidolt’s statement surprised everyone. In Kashmir, it made commoners think that something big is brewing somewhere. Separatists felt elated. “International community has realized the gravity of the situation. General Liodolt’s statement is a welcome step and now the UN should step-in and solve the vexed issue according to the wishes of Kashmiri people,” the then Chairman of Hurriyat Conference, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat was quoted saying.

It ended with Delhi formally lodging a protest with UN and the general was moved out. MEA outrightly rejected the “undiplomatic comments”. Two days later, the Austrian General admitted “stepping out of his mission brief” in making political comments on J&K. In a letter of apology to Army headquarters, he regretted his statements and said while making comments to the media about Kashmir, he was not “aware of the ground realities as he had recently been posted as CMO”.

The next was in September 2003 when the-then UNMOGIP acting head, Colonel Miguel Dumay, made a statement for peace. It was the occasion of the International Day of Peace when the colonel issued a statement.

“Let us together try to make the International Day of Peace a day that will enable us to remember that peace is better than tension; that ceasefire is better than war and that as there is hope, there can also be concrete results. Let us together observe September 21, the International Day of Peace,” Colonel Dumay stated.

Colonel asserted that the conflict over J&K has cost many lives, caused much tragedy and could, sadly, continue to affect the stability of the region for years to come. “It is UNMOGIP’s hope that the parties to the conflict will embrace this opportunity to lay down their arms and observe the International Day of Peace on September 21, and preferably not only that day – the International Day of Peace should be regarded like a chance to cease all hostilities for as long a time as possible, since reduced tension means less suffering for countless individuals.” It added: “UNMOGIP pledges to cooperate closely and with great devotion with the parties to the (Kashmir) conflict in order to achieve these aims”, Colonel Dumay said.

The statement assumed significance in wake of the fact that in August 2003, Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan establishment had called for a conjoint ceasefire. It could not take off because New Delhi said it was impossible until the cross-border infiltration stops completely. Earlier in July 2000, the main ethnic militant outfit Hizb ul Mujahideen had called for a three-month unilateral ceasefire. It led to a crisis within and the initiative was rolled back in the first fortnight. Though Delhi followed the botched initiative by a unilateral ceasefire in the same year, it was withdrawn after a few months as it failed to get desired dividends. Colonel’s appeal was the first in recent history for a meaningful peace.

While being deployed in the erstwhile J&K, some of these foreigners do not remain immune to what they see around. Josef Karbel, father of former US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, was one of the members of the UNICIP. After he retired, he wrote a book ‘Danger In Kashmir’, still a major reference of the darkest times that created the LoC and the Kashmir dispute.

There are interesting anecdotes involving the UNMOGIP members being caught in the divide, literally. Lt Gen Maurice Delvoic, a Belgian military adviser to the first UN mission in subcontinent, for instance, took seven boxes of valuables to a lady in PaK (who was later identified as wife of a person declared an enemy agent by J&K) in 1949 and lost his job the same year. US Navy Commander, J Cadwaladar, who was part of UNMOGIP, was recalled by UN Security Council for delivering a message of a father to his daughter in Srinagar!

During the later part of the Kofi Anan’s leadership, New Delhi unleashed its diplomatic power to get the UN wind-up the UNMOGIP. This followed after the UN failed to even mention UNMOGIP in its yearly reports for obvious reasons that there was no activity. Islamabad reacted and finally Anan ruled that the sole right of disbanding the UNMOGIP lies with the UN Security Council that had constituted it. While it somehow managed to survive, there has been no effort to get UNMOGIP’s role back, apparently because most of the world believes the dispute over Kashmir is expressly a bilateral issue in wake of the Shimla Agreement.

Regardless of the tensions between the rival sides, the UNMOGIP is unlikely to return back to its role that it used to play till 1972. They will continue to spend half of the year on either side of the LoC. While in Kashmir, they may face problems in visiting Batalik but not to Gulmarg. In PaK, they may well go beyond the tourist spots as well.

Led by Korean Major General Young-Bum Choi since June 2012, the UNMOGIP has 39 military observers, 25 international civilian personnel and 48 locals on its staff. The observers are from “Non Aligned block” from countries like Chile, Croatia, Finland, Italy, Philippines, Korea, Sweden, Thailand and Uruguay. Over the years, it has suffered 11 causalities including that of five troops, a military observer, two international civilian staffers and three locals. For the current fiscal, UNMOGIP would cost UN $ 21084900.

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