The ‘Blue Gate’ is central to political psyche of Kashmir

Blue Gate’s Strange Client

 

For over past sixty five years the blue gate, the white and blue building and blue flag, with white emblem showing world map surrounded by two olive branches hoisted on a long pole has been a symbol of hope and despair for people of the state. Hope, as it stands testimony to the promises held out to people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir by the comity of nations to decide their destiny. Despair, for the United Nations failure to live up to its promises of implementing ‘International Agreements’ on Kashmir signed by India and Pakistan. And its ‘inattentiveness’ towards peoples plight and allowing Kashmir to become a nuclear flashpoint threatening peace in South-Asia.   

Notwithstanding, disappointment with the United Nations Security Council, people of the State living on both the sides of the LoC have been looking at the UNMOGIP offices as temples of their cherished ‘Rights’.   And have been knocking at the blue gates of these offices in thousands as devotees tolling temple bells with petitions and memorandums, reminding the august body of its forgotten and forsaken role in ending uncertainties in the region and resolving the dispute. In 2010, about two million slogan raising people converged at the military observers’ office.  Since 1965 student movement people have been marching towards the blue-gate. In early nineties, highest number of memorandums  seeking UN intervention for preventing human rights violations and  demanding implementation of 1949 UN resolutions were presented at the Military Observers office.  

On Saturday, since its establishment, the military observers group at Srinagar got a different clientele. For the first time, the ruling National Conference, choose to knock at the blue gate for presenting a memorandum to UN Secretary General condemning Israeli. The officers of the group refused to accept the memorandum, explaining their jurisdiction was only Jammu and Kashmir, so could not entertain memorandums about Israel or Palestine. Instead of sending memorandum against killings in Gaza to United Nations Secretary General through India’s Foreign Office, the party in power   choose to present a memorandum to the military observers group.  The question arises, with what mind-set did the National Conference knock at the blue gate; it could be either share political nativity or a vain bid of the party to identify itself with the popular sentiment in Kashmir against Gaza killings or a rehearsal for joining “mainstream narrative” after 2014 elections.   

Nevertheless, the UNMOGIP officer’s argument against accepting the N.C. memorandum, has a subtle message that the military observer’s offices is dovetailed to the major political narrative of Kashmir, it has to be there till the final settlement of the dispute and cannot be arbitrarily closed down by India or Pakistan. This group came into being in the wake of the resolution adopted by United Nations Security Council. Immediately, after India knocked doors of the United Nations, the Security Council adopted resolution 39 (1948), establishing the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to ‘investigate and mediate the dispute’.  It was also allowed to adopt its own procedure. In April 1948, another resolution was adopted, “major portion of which was devoted for making the holding of plebiscite possible”, and it also decided to enlarge the membership of UNCIP and besides other measures recommended the use of Observers to stop firing.  

‘The UN Secretary-General, at the recommendation of UNCIP appointed the Military Adviser to support the Commission on military aspects and provided for a group of military observers to assist him. The first team of   military observers, which eventually formed the nucleus of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), arrived in  in January 1949 to supervise, in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the ceasefire between India and Pakistan and to assist the Military Adviser to UNCIP.’

Following ‘termination’ of UNCIP the Military Observers Group was given permanence by the Security Council. On 30 March 1951, it adopted resolution 91 (1951) continuing stationing of UNMOGIP in Jammu and Kashmir for supervising the ceasefire. Its functions is also to ‘observe and report, investigate complaints of ceasefire violations and submit its finding to each party and to the Secretary-General.’  

  The UN Military Observers group office in Jammu and Kashmir is a bold manifestation of Kashmir continuing to be an international dispute that calls for a resolution. New Delhi has been feeling uncomfortable about it and want its closure.  In July 1972, in Shimla Agreement, the Ceasefire Line was renamed as the Line of Control. Seen in right perspective minus some minor deviations, ‘it followed the same course as the Cease Fire Line established by the Karachi Agreement of 1949. India after Shimla Agreement took the position the mandate of UNMOGIP had lapsed after renaming of CFL as LOC. Neither, Pakistan nor UN agreed to it. The position of the UNSC continues to be that UNMOGIP could be ‘terminated’ only by a decision of the Security Council. That suggests, India will have to get a resolution introduced in the Security Council to close down the UNMOGIP office. 

Past week when GoI asked the UNMOGIP to vacate the government accommodation in New Delhi without assigning any reasons   foreign ministry resurrected 42 year old   debate by stating that after India and Pakistan agreed to resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally in the Shimla the role of the group in Jammu and Kashmir had ceased.  This calls for relooking at the deliberations, drafts exchanged between India-Pakistan, final the agreement that was signed at midnight on July 3, 1972, in Shimla that is not possible in one column. 

The change of nomenclature from CFL and LoC has not affected the status of the dispute, in the words of Victoria Schofield, “The cease fire line is line of control and line of control is ceasefire line. The two are interchangeable.” The no-prejudice clause and charter of United Nations incorporated in the Shimla Agreement’ at the insistence of Bhutto’ have maintained sanctity and relevance of Kashmir related UN resolutions.