India, Pakistan spar over UN military observers

Security council had deployed them in Kashmir over six decades ago

India has suggested withdrawal of a military observer group the United Nations Security Council had deployed in Kashmir over six decades back, even as Pakistan sought to underscore its continued relevance during a debate on peacekeeping at the international organization’s headquarters in New York.

New Delhi on Tuesday reiterated that the issues between the two neighbours should be resolved bilaterally, without any intervention by any third country or the UN. Earlier this month, India rejected Islamabad’s offer for a probe into the recent skirmishes along the Line of Control by the United Nations Military Observer Group.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, however, once again referred to the UNMOGIP during a debate on peacekeeping at the Security Council on Monday, prompting India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, H S Puri, to suggest withdrawal of the mission.

“In times of austerity, we need to address the question, whether the resources being spent on UNMOGIP would not be better utilized elsewhere,” said Puri. He also reiterated New Delhi’s position that the UNMOGIP’s role had been overtaken by the Simla Agreement, which had been signed by India and Pakistan in 1972 and had also been ratified subsequently by parliaments of both the countries.

New Delhi stopped recognizing the UNMOGIP more than 40 years ago and restricted the UN military observers’ access to the Indian side of the LoC. India however continued to provide accommodation, transport and other facilities to the UNMOGIP, which maintains offices in both Srinagar and Islamabad with field stations on the Pakistani side of the LoC.

Puri’s Pakistani counterpart Masood Khan challenged his remarks. Making an additional statement at the end of the debate in the Security Council, he said: “No bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan has overtaken or affected the role or legality of the UNMOGIP. The UNMOGIP continues to monitor the ceasefire in accordance with SC (Security Council) resolution.

Its mandate is therefore fully valid, relevant, and operative.”Refuting Pakistani assertion, Manish Gupta, counselor at India’s Permanent Mission at the UN headquarters, stated that the cease-fire line that the UNMOGIP had been mandated to supervise had ceased to exist and a new cease-fire line came into existence on December 17, 1971.

He noted that India and Pakistan had agreed in the Simla Agreement to settle differences by “peaceful means through bilateral negotiations”.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari prompted similar reactions from the United Nations last September, when he said that Kashmir was a symbol of failures, rather than strengths, of the international organization.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday also reiterated India’s opposition to Pakistan’s bid to internationalize the issue.

“We do reiterate our position that these are bilateral issues and they should be settled bilaterally. We have a history of being able to work bilaterally and would want to maintain that. We need to contain this in bilateral purview,” he told journalists after a meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris in New Delhi.

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