Catching at a straw

By K.N. Pandita

As non-permanent member of the 15-member Security Council, Pakistan, under rotating presidency, tried to convert the debate at the UN Security Council on peacekeeping into internationalizing of Kashmir issue. It raked up the issue of recent skirmishes at the LoC, about which it had lodged a complaint with the UN Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP), accusing India of violating the sanctity of LoC. Pakistani delegate was invoking the Observer Group’s intervention in the matter. 

In 1991, the then UN Secretary General, Boutros Gali, while on an official visit to Pakistan, told press reporters in Islamabad that UN Security Council action on Kashmir issue had lapsed after India and Pakistan signed a  bilateral agreement in Shimla in 1972 which was ratified by the parliaments of both the countries. They had agreed that they would resolve bilateral issues peacefully through bilateral negotiations.

Answering questions of media persons during his official visit to Islamabad in 1998, Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary General said that Security Council’s resolutions on Kashmir were not implementable owing to a technical flaw. The flaw was that according to the UN Charter if two contesting states concluded a bilateral agreement by virtue of which peace and normalcy are restored and the agreement is ratified by respective parliaments, the role of the Security Council comes to an end.

It has to be noted that immediately after Shimla Agreement was signed, India wrote to the UN that the role of the UNMOGIP had lost its relevance. She asked the UN to withdraw the Group from Indian part of Kashmir. The UN did not respond and left the matter in a state of limbo. But India, on her part, stopped sending intermittent reports of violation of cease fire by Pakistan, if any, to the Group on the basis of non-recognition of Group’s status. As a result of India’s non-recognition of the Group, the UN scaled down the numerical strength of observers in the Indian part of J&K.  Thus India made it clear to the UN that there was no role left for the Observer Group in her part of the J&K State. However, Pakistan, still catching at a straw, maintained the presence of the Group on its side of the LoC. It was a matter between Islamabad and the UN to decide the status of the    Observer Group posted in Pakistani occupied part of J&K State. For India, the Group was irrelevant and hence non-existent.

Any attempt by Pakistan to internationalize Kashmir issue is violation of the Shimla Agreement wherein the two countries have pledged to resolve their disputes bilaterally. Ever since that Agreement was signed, the two countries have been constantly maintaining the spirit of bilateralism. There have been violations of the ceasefire line from one or the other side, but these have been resolved through the process of bilateral negotiations. The Indian Minister of External Affairs is right in saying that bilateral talks have remained in place and have been the instrument of restoring peace along the line of control whenever violation occurred. We do not find any sense in Pakistan raking up the issue at the Security Council debate when the DGMOs of the two countries have been talking and discussing small or big incidents along the LoC.

Twice in the  past, UN Security Council secretariat tried to remove Kashmir from the agenda of disputes to be opened up for discussion in the sessions of the Council. That was done on the basis that Shimla Agreement had supervened. But both the times, Pakistan lobbied strongly for its revival. Obviously, she has supporters who are interested in keeping the Kashmir pot boiling. This indicates that Pakistan has not been sincere and honest in pursuing bilateral talks with India and internationalizing of Kashmir has been lurking in her mind all the time in the vain hope of getting support from powerful lobbies a the UN level.

There is another strong aspect of shrunken role of the Observer Group which J&K Chief Minister has very rightly pointed out. The Group was assigned the responsibility of reporting to the UN Security Council cases of violation of ceasefire line in J&K. From 1989 onwards, there has been constant violation of ceasefire line by Pakistan by opening training camps for terrorists and jihadis who are pushed into India side across the ceasefire line. The Observer Group has not reported these blatant and brazen violations to the Security Council. Even if they have reported, the Security Council has not reacted in any manner. It means that the Security Council has not given any importance to reporting, if any, made by the UNMOGIP. It is a ridiculous situation. The Security Council which created the Group de-recognizes its role and status but Pakistan wants to assign it whatever role she is happy with.

The fact is that Pakistan has lost her Kashmir case on the ground, on international platform and at the UN. Open wars have gone against her and proxy war is now fiercely boomeranging on her. So she wants backdoor entry and hopes that the Observer Group would come to its rescue. It is in such cases that the oft-repeated proverb applies aptly that a drowning man catches at a straw.

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