UN backtracks on role of its observers in Kashmir, says limited to LOC

United Nations, Aug 2 (IANS) The UN has backtracked on its assertion that it was monitoring the situation in Kashmir through the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), clarifying that the observers’ mission is limited to the line of control between Indian and Pakistani forces.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric gave the clarification Tuesday at his daily media briefing.

Replying to a volley of questions on the Kashmir situation from visiting Pakistani journalists on Monday, deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq had said: “We will continue to monitor the situation including, of course, through our monitoring group on the ground, UNMOGIP.”

Haq had said, “The United Nations has repeatedly, including just a few weeks ago, put out the message to both sides about the need for them to work constructively with each other on this issue.” Asked about “UN rights” being violated, Haq said: “I would refer you to the work of our Human Rights colleagues in Geneva, but we have issued periodic communications on this.”

On Tuesday, as a follow-up Dujarric was asked by a reporter why he gave the clarification about the limited role of the UNMOGIP. He said cryptically: “It needed to be said.”

The implication appeared to be that the incidents within Kashmir are internal matters of India and, therefore, not under the purview of UNMOGIP that deals with border issues.

Dujarric faced several questions on why the UN was not more actively involved in the Kashmir issue, with the insinuation that there was “reluctance” to take it up.

Asked why the UN had not taken up the Kashmir issue as it had matters like the Cyprus dispute, he replied that Ban had had commented on the issue and added: “I will leave it to you analyse it.”

Asked again if Ban was “reluctant” to speak about the Kashmir developments, Dujarric said, “When questions arise, we offer comments.” He added, “I don’t agree that there is reluctance.”

UNMOGIP is not a peacekeeping operation but an observation mission with the limited mandate of observing the line of control and reporting back on situations involving the armed forces of the two countries.

India maintains that the UNMOGIP has been made irrelevant by the 1972 Simla Agreement between Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that acknowledges the Kashmir dispute as a bilateral issue. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, has called for an expansion of the UNMOGIP and his country continues to file complaints with it about alleged Indian ceasefire violations.

In 2014, India asked the UNMOGIP to leave the government building it had provided the mission.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in)

–IANS

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