The members of the United Nations Security Council met in New York on the morning of August 16, 2019, for a closed-door session on Kashmir. One of the main stakeholders present were the officials of United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), a peace-keeping group deputed by the United Nations in 1951, one each in Pakistan administered Kashmir and its Indian counterpart. Pakistan Headquarters is located in Islamabad, while Srinagar houses the Indian office.
In 1948, when the Security Council adopted resolution 39, a commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was set up to meditate and observe the ground situations following the dispute broke down between India and Pakistan over the Himalayan region. Next year in 1949, with Karachi agreement, a ground team was sent to the disputed region which eventually became Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan or UNMOGIP to assist and advise general secretary via the UNCIP of the dispute. The UNCIP was however terminated in 1951 but UNMOGIP remained to observe and report, to investigate complaints of ceasefire violations and submit its finding to each party and to the Secretary-General.
The head of the mission directly reports to the UN Secretary-General who in turn reserves the authority to appoint the head of mission. The tenure of the head is two years. In July 2018, Antonio Guterres, the incumbent secretary-general appointed José Eladio Alcain, Major General of Uruguayan Army as a chief military observer and head of UNMOGIP mission succeeding Major General Per Gustaf Lodin of Sweden. The mission currently operates on an annual budget of 19 Million US dollars as per 2018–19 UN Budget report, and deploys 117 personnel across multiple nationalities in the offices of Islamabad (Pakistan) and Srinagar (India).
Since the Shimla Accord of 1972—when both India and Pakistan agreed for the bilateral solution to the dispute—India has cornered the UN observers from playing any substantive role, though the Indian Government provides all kind of assistance in maintaining the office. In 2014, India asked UNMOGIP to wind up its work in Kashmir followed by a statement by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in 2017 that again reiterated that UNMOGIP has outlived its stature in the dispute and does not possess any mandate to monitor the situation in Kashmir anymore. The United Nations mission, however, operates independently from interference from any party of the dispute and as such, the mission can be called off only on the discretion of the UN Secretary-General who have reminded both India and Pakistan, repeatedly for an eventual solution in compliance with the UN Charter.
Pakistan, on the contrary, has upheld the stature of observers group and have kept the UN in the loop about events of security considerations along the line of control (LOC). Last year, the Pakistan Army, as per routine, handed over the dossier about the alleged ceasefire violations by Indian Army across the restive line. Pakistan continues to invoke the importance of the United Nations to safeguard the human rights abuse in Kashmir. Latest closed-door session on Kashmir was the result of the same deliberations.
The significance of the UN finds strong resonance in Kashmir—the focus of the age-old clash. Kashmiris consider a sort of mediator in the global peacekeeping organization since the United Nations with its multiple resolutions on Kashmir dispute is a sole international forum which the locals believe, could intercede on their behalf. Locals and separatists have for long thronged the barbed wire clad office in Srinagar, and rather incessantly, only to be restricted by armed forces.
The catchphrase slogan of UNChalo (Let’s go to the UN) from Hurriyat leaders has featured regularly all these years as part of the resistance campaign. While the perspectives of the stakeholders may differ, the role of the international community is relevant more than ever, to help the nuclear-armed rivals find common ground for the eventual resolution of the dispute.