Kashmir, along with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Korean Peninsula, was among the first crisis that the United Nations had to confront in the post-World War II period. Sixty years have passed by since Kashmir conflict was first debated in the U.N and yet the conflict continues to elude a solution.
The U.N involvement in the Kashmir Conflict largely lasted for 17 years (1948-65).After the Indo-Pak war of 1965, the U.N engagement with Kashmir continued at a very nominal level till the 3rd Pakistan-India war of 1971 and completely ended with the signing of the Simla Agreement in 1972, an Indo-Pak peace agreement, which laid emphasis on adopting a bilateral framework to solve the Kashmir imbroglio and kept the U.N out of the picture afterwards.
During the course of its engagement with the Kashmir Conflict, spanning 23 years (1948-1971), the U.N passed a number of resolutions, which were aimed at mediation and resolution of the conflict. Between 1948 and 1971, the U.N Security Council passed 23 resolutions on Kashmir Conflict.
The U.N resolutions regarding the Kashmir issue are not self-enforceable. In other words the resolutions are recommendatory in nature and can be enforced only if the parties to the dispute, viz. India and Pakistan, consent to their application. Indian refusal to implement the U.N resolutions on Kashmir was to relegate them to the margins of the conflict.
India lodged a complaint under Article 35 (Chapter VI) of the U.N Charter in the U.N Security Council on January 1, 1948, charging Pakistan with ‘aiding and abetting’ the Pakistani tribal invasion in Jammu and Kashmir. In the United Nations, India claimed that all the territories of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir legally belonged to her by virtue of the treaty of accession signed by the Hindu king of the Kingdom with the Indian Union. Two weeks later, Pakistan responded to the Indian complaint with counter charges. Pakistan denied having aided the raiders, accused India of annexing Kashmir and of trying to throttle Pakistan in its infancy The first U.N debate on Kashmir started under the rubric of “Kashmir Question”. However, the Pakistani delegation argued that the Kashmir Question had to be seen in the context of India’s attempts to negate the existence of the newly born State of Pakistan and that the conflict in Kashmir was threatening the very survival of Pakistan. The Pakistani argument was to prevail and the debate in the U.N shifted from “Kashmir Question” to “India-Pakistan dispute”. The U.N Military Observers Group that was later established in the divided territories of Kashmir- with offices in both Indian-occupied-Kashmir and Pakistan occupied-Kashmir- was to be known as “U.N Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan” (UNMOGIP) and not as “U.N Military Observer Group in Kashmir”. The job of the group was to monitor, investigate and report complaints of cease-fire violations along the “cease-fire line” in Kashmir to the United Nations.
After hearing Indian and Pakistani representatives, the U.N Security Council passed its first resolution (Resolution 38) on Kashmir Conflict on January 17, 1948, calling India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and ease tensions. Three days later, on January 20, the Security Council passed another resolution (Resolution 39), creating the United Nations Commission for Indian and Pakistan (UNCIP) to investigate the dispute and mediate between the two countries.
Led by Britain and the United States, the U.N Security Council passed another resolution (Resolution 47) on April 21, 1948, which enlarged the membership of the UNCIP from 3 to 5 , called for cessation of hostilities between India and Pakistan, withdrawal of all Pakistani troops and tribesmen and bulk of Indian troops(except for a minimal number required for maintaining law order),allowing return of refugees, release of political prisoners and holding of a U.N supervised Plebiscite in the (Princely)State of Jammu and Kashmir to determine the aspirations of her people. The Plebiscite was to be held by a U.N appointed Plebiscite administrator. The U.N Security Council passed another resolution on June3, 1948, which reaffirmed the previous resolutions and asked the UNCIP to proceed to the “disputed areas” to carry out its mission as stated under Resolution 47 of April 21, 1948.
The UNCIP reached the Indian sub-continent in July 1948 and after deliberations with Indian and Pakistani leadership, produced a proposal, which called for an immediate ceasefire and a truce agreement between India and Pakistan, withdrawal of all Pakistani tribals and nationals and bulk of India’s troops. India rejected the proposals on the basis of the argument that the proposal did not opportune any blame on Pakistan-which India considered as the aggressor in Kashmir- whereas Pakistan rejected the plan as the Interim administration of Valley of Kashmir and the territories that had fallen under Indian control had been assigned to Sheikh Abdullah’s control. Sheikh Abdullah, who had become the Prime Minister of the autonomous J&K State on March 5, 1948, was considered by Pakistan as India’s ally and by implication could influence the plebiscite in India’s favour. Pakistan also rejected the agreement on the ground that it was supposed to withdraw all its forces from the State whereas India was allowed to retain some of its troops to maintain order, which could potentially lead to coercion or intimidation of voters by Indian forces to influence the outcome of the proposed plebiscite.
On August 14, 1948, the UNCIP submitted proposals to the Indian and Pakistani governments, which for the first time contained an acknowledgment from Pakistan about the presence of its troops in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The proposal envisioned the withdrawal of Pakistani troops and nationals and bulk of Indian troops from the State, subsequent to their withdrawal the administration of the territory was to be run by the Commission.
On December 11, 1948, the UNCIP laid out a new set of proposals that elaborated on the question of Plebiscite in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the proposals “The question of accession to India or Pakistan was to be decided by a free and impartial plebiscite, which was contingent upon having a cease-fire”.
The two countries accepted the cease-fire plan and allowed the U.N to observe the ceasefire from January 1, 1949.The ceasefire-line “went through the western part of Jammu and the eastern part of Poonch, leaving the capital city of Poonch on the Indian side of the line, then crossed the Jhelum River at a point west of Uri and made a large sweep following the valley of the Kishinganga River. From there, it proceeded to Kargil, which also remained on the Indian side, and then north-west to the Chinese border. Hunza, Gilgit, Baltistan, Chilas, the great part of Poonch, and the smaller part of Jammu remained in control of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir”.
On January 5, 1949, the United Nations came up with a new plan for a plebiscite. To address Pakistan’s fears that the Plebiscite outcome may be influenced in India’s favor by Sheikh Abdullah-who was seen as close to Indian P.M. Nehru and had been appointed as the interim head of J& K administration-and the limited Indian troops which were meant to maintain law and order during the plebiscite, the U.N proposed that the State of Jammu and Kashmir should be under the full control of the Plebiscite Administrator. The Plebiscite administrator was to enjoy quasi-sovereign powers over the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The proposal was rejected by the Indian side, which maintained that the State had become a part of the Indian Union.
In December 1949, UNSC President General A. G. L McNaughton tried to mediate between Indian and Pakistan at the U.N but failed to manage an agreement between the two sides. McNaughton submitted a series of proposals, suggesting demilitarization of Kashmir to ensure an impartial Plebiscite in Kashmir. These proposals were rejected by India.
After the failure of Mc Naughton proposals, the United Nations replaced the UNCIP by a single U.N representative Owen Dixon in 1950.Owen Dixon after meeting the officials of India and Pakistan soon concluded that there was little or no hope regarding an Indo-Pak agreement on demilitarization proposals. Dixon came up with a set of proposals, which envisioned holding of ‘regional plebiscites’ in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The proposals submitted to the U.N Security Council in 1950, suggested (a) holding a Plebiscite in the whole State of Jammu & Kashmir, region by region (b)holding a Plebiscite only in regions which were ‘doubtful’, the rest would constitute those regions that were expected to vote definitely either for an accession with either India or Pakistan. The doubtful region was meant to be the Valley of Kashmir. However India and Pakistan could not come to an agreement on the Dixon proposals. After the failure of Dixon, the U.N appointed Frank Graham as a U.N representative to mediate between Indian and Pakistan to get them to agree on holding a Plebiscite in Kashmir. Graham worked from 1951-53 without meeting any success. Frank Graham was followed by Gunnar Jarring in 1957 who also failed to make any headway on Kashmir.
In the wake of the termination of the mandate of UNCIP, The U.N Security Council passed Resolution 91 on 30 March, 1951, which established the United Nations Military Observer Group in India & Pakistan to monitor the ceasefire line (now called Line of Control, the border that divides Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of Kashmir) in Kashmir. The UNMOGIP still maintains its presence in both Indian-administered-Kashmir and Pakistan-administered-Kashmir.
On 23 January 1957, India’s client regime in ‘Jammu & Kashmir’, led by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad adopted a constitution for the State and a resolution ratifying the State’s accession with India. Pakistan raised the issue in the U.N Security Council and a day after, the UNSC passed a resolution which reiterated the earlier U.N resolutions on Kashmir that called for a final settlement of the dispute “in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the mdemocratic method of free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the U.N.” Thus the 1957 U.N resolution deemed any constitutional change undertaken by India within Indian-administered-Kashmir as irrelevant to the resolution of Kashmir Conflict.
The Dixon Plan seemed to be the last serious endeavor on part of the U.N to solve the Kashmir conundrum. Although Pakistan kept raising the Kashmir issue in the United Nations in the 60s, U.N involvement in Kashmir was considerably reduced after Indo-Pak war of 1965. In 1962 the Kashmir Question was again debated in the U.N Security Council. However, the UNSC failed to pass a resolution on Kashmir in view of a Soviet veto, which discouraged the UNSC from pursuing the Kashmir question afterwards.
The U.N was virtually elbowed out of the Kashmir dispute by Russia after the Indo-Pak war of 1965 when Russian negotiated the Tashkent Peace Agreement between the two rival nations on 10 January 1965.During the Indo-Pak 1965 war the U.N passed a strongly worded resolution, calling on India and Pakistan to agree on a ceasefire. However it was only after intense pressure applied by the two superpowers, U.S and the Soviet Union that India and Pakistan agreed to observe a U.N sponsored ceasefire on September 29, 1965.
The last UNSC resolution (307) that dealt with Kashmir was passed in the wake of the India Pakistan war of 1971, where Kashmir was not at the centre of the conflict between the two countries. The resolution could be passed only after Indian had declared a unilateral ceasefire. UNSC’s attempts to pass resolutions during the 1971 war were blocked by a Soviet veto and with the signing of the Simla peace accord between India and Pakistan in 1972, which laid stress on bilateral solutions to the Kashmir issue, the U.N involvement in Kashmir was in reality dead.
The failure of the U.N in mediating a solution to the Kashmir dispute can be largely ascribed to Indian refusal to heed to the resolutions. India had taken the issue to the U.N, with the hope that the international body would declare Pakistan as an aggressor in the 1947-48 war and would help her to gain control over Pakistan-administered-Kashmir as India claimed the whole of Kashmir by virtue of the accession treaty signed by the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir with her. Contrary to India’s expectations, the U.N called for a Plebiscite in Kashmir. Consequently India was to shy away from implementation of U.N resolutions.
The fresh delineation of the “cease- fire line” — which was originally established in 1949 after the Indo-Pakistan cease-fire in Jammu& Kashmir — in Kashmir by India and Pakistan in 1972 converted the “cease-fire line” into “Line of Control” (LOC), which from an Indian perspective turned the temporary border in the disputed territory of Kashmir into a de facto ‘permanent border between’ India and Pakistan. Pakistan was forced to accept the change in the wake of its defeat in the 1971 war. India contended that with the formation of Line of Control, the mandate of the UNMOGIP had expired. However Pakistan insisted that the “U.N Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan” (UNMOGIP) continue monitoring the LOC as it was a disputed border and that the “LOC” was in fact the original cease-fire line. India wanted the UNMOGIP to leave as it didn’t want to accept any sort of international intervention in the Kashmir conflict. Since 1972 India has not reported to the UNMOGIP whereas Pakistan has continued to report Indian violations of the LOC to the observer group.While the movement of the UNMOGIP is unrestricted in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, the observer group is no where in sight beyond their office premises at Sonawar locality of Srinagar. With its limited mandate, the group has played virtually no role in the conflict after 1972. Even during the popular Kashmir uprising in 1989-90, when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris marched in pro-freedom processions in Kashmir Valley and when thousands crossed the LOC to receive arms training, the UNMOGIP remained in hibernation in its Srinagar office.
In October 2001, the UNMOGIP Chief, Major-General Hermann Loidolt described Kashmir as a “tormented country” and blamed India and Pakistan for playing games with Kashmir. The observer also described the LOC as a ceasefire-line and a disputed border, which fell under UNMOGIP mandate. The statement evinced a sharp reaction from India, which called the U.N observer’s statement as ‘uncalled for’ and the Indian External Affairs Minister threatened to lodge a complaint in the U.N against the observer. Not surprisingly, Loidolt’s statement was welcomed by Kashmiri separatist leaders.
The most recent U.N effort to engage with Kashmir came during the Indo-Pak border confrontation of 2002, when India mobilized half a million troops along its border with Pakistan to pressurize Pakistan to stop aiding insurgents in Kashmir.U.N Secretary General Kofi Anan’s efforts to mediate during the crisis were snubbed by India. Kofi Annan was not allowed to visit India and to placate Indian fears, Annan stated that U.N resolutions on Kashmir were not “enforceable in a mandatory sweep”.
U.N and the politics of separatism in Kashmir
Though U.N involvement in Kashmir has been reduced to a naught, the existence of U.N resolutions on Kashmir has greatly shaped Kashmiri political identity vis-a vis the Kashmir Conflict. The disputed status of Kashmir as declared by the U.N played on the psyche of Kashmiri people and strengthened their distinct political identity. The U.N involvement in Kashmir has left a firm imprint on separatist politics and political mobilization in Kashmir. The Kashmiri separatist party, Plebiscite Front, alluded to and took its name from the U.N’s notion of Plebiscite. The party was established in 1955 in Indian-administered-Kashmir by Sheikh Abdullah’s close associate, Afzal Beigh and defined the Kashmiri self-determination movement for around two decades. In Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, a pro-independence party, also by the name of Plebiscite Front was formed by Kashmiri nationalists. Though not formally linked to the Kashmir Valley centered, Plebiscite Front, the Pak-administered- Kashmir based Plebiscite Front shared its political vision. Despite that the U.N resolutions on Kashmir gave Kashmiris only two choices to determine their political fate, viz., accession to India or to Pakistan, the Plebiscite movement in both parts of Kashmir, while calling for a U.N referendum in Kashmir wanted the inclusion of an independent Kashmir as a political option in the Plebiscite.
From 1955 to 1974, the words, Plebiscite Front and Plebiscite -known as Mahaz-e-Rai Shumari and Rai Shumari, respectively, in Kashmir- were to dominate the popular political discourse in Kashmir. ‘Hold the plebiscite now, holds it fast’, constituted the key slogans of the Plebiscite movement in Kashmir during the 1950s and 60s.
When a popular uprising broke out against Indian rule in Indian-administered-Kashmir in 1990, one of most shouted slogans during pro-independence processions was to be, ‘Until a plebiscite is held, our struggle will continue’. During the heady days of the 1990 uprising large pro-Independence processions of Kashmiris would often lead to the UNMOGIP headquarters in Srinagar to lodge protests and call on the U.N to implement its resolutions on Kashmir. In one such procession, more than a million Kashmiris marched upto the UNMOGIP headquarters in Srinagar on 1 March, 1990, shouting pro-freedom slogans and calling for a U.N supervised Plebiscite. The crowd also submitted memoranda to UN Secretary General urging him to intervene and push India into granting Kashmiris their ‘right to self-determination’.Even now it is a common practice among Kashmiri separatists to send memoranda to the UNMOGIP in Srinagar, demanding implementation of U.N resolutions in Kashmir or the fulfillment of the right of self-determination of Kashmiris.
In the ongoing wave of pro-independence mass protests in Kashmir, Kashmiris are again looking towards the U.N with a faint hope. On August 18, 2008, responding to the call of separatist leaders who had called for a mass march up to UNMOGIP office, hundreds of thousands of people from the length and breadth of the valley converged near the Tourist Reception Centre, close to the UNMOGIP office in Sonwar locality of Srinagar to urge on the U.N to intervene in Kashmir. The sea of people -comprising students from schools, colleges and universities, doctors, teachers, para medics, thousands of Kashmir government employees, professionals and peasant masses – carried placards which read, “Stop Genocide of Kashmiris, Intervene UNO”, ” Ban ki -moon, Come soon”, “We want Plebiscite” etc.
Representatives of the Kashmiri separatist leadership presented a memorandum (addressed to U.N Secretary General, Ban ki-moon) to the UNMOGIP observers, urging on the U.N to intervene in Kashmir. The memorandum, which was also published in the local press in Kashmir Valley stated, “ We the people of Jammu & Kashmir have firm faith in the institution of United Nations ,which has been working for the mitigation of the sufferings of the oppressed around the world, will actively engage/monitor and intervene in Jammu and Kashmir and ; A) Call upon India to end its forcible occupation of Jammu Kashmir and also desist from use of brute force against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. B) By itself take all effective measures in giving the people of the State ,the chance to exercise their right to self-determination for deciding their future as has been conceded to them by Pakistan and India and approved by the United Nations Organization ”
Some of the protestors carried copies of the memorandum which had been circulated by the “Coordination Committee” of the separatist leadership.
In Kashmir’s current media and popular discourses on Kashmir conflict, ‘U.N- Kashmir relationship’ has again come under focus. Kashmir Valley’s largest selling English daily, Greater Kashmir, recently cited Zafar Shah, an eminent Kashmiri lawyer, as saying ‘when armed resistance broke out in the valley in 1990,at least 600 memoranda were presented to the UN Observers stationed in Kashmir’. Shah, a Kashmiri nationalist, further said, “The U.N resolutions passed in 1948 are the backbone of the Kashmir struggle and give legitimacy to it”.
As the shadows of August 25 lengthen, I write in my house in Srinagar, a city besieged by thousands of Indian military and paramilitary forces and imprisoned by an indefinite curfew. I hear from some local journalist friends on phone that at least five Kashmiri protestors have been killed and more than 150 have been injured by Indian paramilitary forces trying to stamp down pro-independence processions. For the past two months or so, Indian troops trying to stop the new and massive wave of Kashmiri nationalist mobilization have shot and killed around 40 Kashmiris and injured more than half a thousand. As Kashmir groans under Indian military repression and as the U.N maintains its silence on the happenings in Kashmir, Kashmiris’ ‘wait for Ban-ki-Moon’ seems an unending and futile one.
Despite the U.N’s gross failure in Kashmir, the presence of UNMOGIP office in Kashmir continues to symbolically affirm the Kashmiri sentiment that their land is not yet another Indian State but an internationally recognized disputed territory and that their cause is a historical and just one.
The words United Nations, Self-determination and Plebiscite have become integral to the Kashmiri political lexicon. Though the U.N has failed in bringing about a solution to the Kashmir conundrum, its past involvement in Kashmir Conflict has undoubtedly provided legitimacy and strength to the separatist argument in Kashmir. Ironically, on the one hand Kashmiri separatism has drawn strength from the U.N resolutions but on the other hand the framing of the Kashmir Conflict as an India-Pakistan (Inter-State) Conflict in the U.N has prevented international recognition of the Kashmiri nationalist movement as the defining characteristic of the present day Kashmir Conflict.
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