Joint Indo-Pak patrolling of LoC?
Why should UNMOGIP be replaced by an Indo-Pakistan joint patrol in the first place? Second, would the proposed arrangement effectively deal with “cross-border terrorism”
The leader of a 12-member delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians that recently visited India on a goodwill mission proposed the idea of joint patrolling of the LoC (Line of Control) by the two sides. The proposal was made with the view that it would satisfy India that Pakistan was not allowing insurgents to cross over into Indian-held Kashmir.
This is not the first time that the idea of joint patrols has been mooted. India’s Prime Minister AB Vajpayee proposed it in 2002 at a press conference in Almaty during the CICA Conference. The basic purpose of the proposal, then as now, is to replace UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group on India and Pakistan), which has been in place on the LoC (earlier the cease-fire line). Pakistan rejected the idea when it was floated the first time, as it has done now. The proposal by the parliamentary peace mission raises a number of questions the present article proposes to address. To begin with, why should UNMOGIP be replaced by an India-Pakistan joint patrol in the first place? Second, would the proposed arrangement effectively deal with “cross-border terrorism”? Finally, if the two countries cannot mutually work out the idea of joint patrolling, what other options might be available to them?
Before taking up these questions, a word on the origins, evolution and the status of UNMOGIP is in order. It came into existence in 1949 following the Karachi Agreement as a result of which the CFL (cease-fire line) was established in Kashmir. Following the replacement of the CFL by the LoC in the wake of the 1972 Simla Agreement, India began questioning the rationale for UNMOGIP’s continued existence. The first salvo in this direction was fired by then Indian Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi. Immediately after the conclusion of the Simla Agreement, she stated that UNMOGIP had “no role to play” and that India would soon be asking for its withdrawal. India justified its objection on the grounds that UNMOGIP was redundant in light of article II of the Simla Agreement whereby Kashmir had become a bilateral issue between the two countries. Consequently, India did not allow the Observer Group to play any role on the question of delineation of the LoC or any further action.
However, despite claiming that UNMOGIP had become redundant, India did not request its immediate termination. The Indian Foreign Minister, Swaran Singh, on 7th July 1972 repeated New Delhi’s line that the UNMOGIP was redundant since CFL did not exist any more. He wanted it to “fade out” rather than terminate immediately. On 20th July the Indian Chief of Army Staff, then General (later, Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw, repeating the foregoing position of the Indian government added that the Simla Agreement stipulated the bilateral settlement of all matters without the intervention of any third party. He however did not raise any objection to UNMOGIP continuing to function on the Pakistan side of the LoC. At the same time, he hoped that Pakistan would accept the transformation of the LoC into an international border.
Pakistan did not accept this Indian position. It argued that the Simla Agreement did not prejudice its position on the status of Kashmir and the CFL. It wanted the Observer Group to stay and investigate violations along the LoC on the ground that neither the Simla Agreement nor India was entitled to overrule the United Nations Security Council. The Pakistani Chief of Army Staff assured the then Chief Military Observer, Gen. Tassara, that observers would be welcome and would enjoy complete freedom of movement on the Pakistani side of the LoC. The UN Secretariat, in the meantime, was of the view that the text on which India relied did not permit such an interpretation and hence did not rule out third party methods.
Caught in the crossfire between India and Pakistan, the UN Secretary-General took legal advice on the matter. According to it, since UNMOGIP was established by virtue of the Security Council Resolutions, particularly Resolution 70 and the Karachi Agreement, the Secretary-General was under legal obligation to maintain the Observer Group until both the parties agreed to request a change, and which was formally acceded to by the Security Council.
In other words, the UN Secretary-General was forbidden to derogate from the responsibility vested in him by the Council resolutions and by the parties. In light of the foregoing, he was neither amenable to the idea of shutting down field stations on one side of the LoC nor of reducing the number of observers on that side to a skeleton staff. In his opinion, this would amount to accommodating the position of one of the parties to the detriment of the other and would affect his overall responsibility under the Council resolutions. Besides, he rejected it for the reason that it would result in a change of the politico-juridical situation which he was not entitled to undertake. It is noteworthy that the Secretary-General has not deviated from the legal opinion to date, despite considerable pressure exerted on him from time to time by India.
Contrary to the legal advice, the Indians continued to argue in favour of the redundancy of UNMOGIP. Consequently, observers were hampered from undertaking field work such as investigations of Pakistani complaints or checking on the Order of Battle on the Indian side, though the availability of transport and accommodation or the access to field stations was not hampered and the Headquarters in Srinagar continued to function. Driven by their desire to get rid of the Observer Group, the Indians at times have not hesitated to use undesirable methods such as levelling baseless allegations of misconduct against it.
For example, the National Herald the mouthpiece of the Congress Party, the ruling party in the 1980s, accused the UN observers in September 1981 of spying and maintaining contacts with disgruntled political elements. The evidence adduced in favour of this allegation was that they were using the LoC route too often to commute between Srinagar and Rawalpindi. The story was subsequently picked up by Blitz, a sensation-prone newspaper owned by the Communist Party of India which has been rabidly opposed to the presence of UNMOGIP in Kashmir.
The last UNMOGIP report to the Security Council was made in 1972. Since then the Council has not taken cognisance of the restrictions on the UNMOGIP’s functioning. Neither its members nor the Secretary General, still less the directly affected party, Pakistan, has deemed fit to bring to the Council’s notice the failure of UNMOGIP to fulfil its mandate because of the continuing restrictions put on its functioning by India.
In this perspective, a question arises about the continued utility of UNMOGIP. The former CMOs like Gens. Waldenstrom and Johnsen found them useful and a factor of stability in the area. Sir Brian Urquhart, former Under Secretary for Political Affairs and responsible for UNMOGIP from 1971 to 1986 was of the view that on balance it has done more good than harm as it has been a valuable source of direct information in an emergency and that it could continue to play a crucial role in any future emergency as well.
This is the first of a two-part series. The writer is Professor Department of International Relations, Dean of Social Sciences Quaid-e-Azam University, and author of several books