UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Military Observers Group on Kashmir has received a notice from the Indian government to vacate its premises in New Delhi, a UN spokesman said Tuesday, while making it clear that the group will continue to discharge its mandate.
“The Mission is currently conducting a market survey to assess costs and identify possible alternative locations,” Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the regular noon briefing.
“UNMOGIP is in contact with the Indian authorities and will continue its cooperation on this matter,” he added. The UN Military Observers Group on India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was set up in 1949 to monitor the Kashmir ceasefire line.
According to news reports, the Indian foreign ministry said on Tuesday the government had asked UNMOGIP to hand over the Delhi premises from where it was running a liaison office for more than four decades for free as part of efforts to rationalise the mission’s presence in India.
The small UN mission has its main offices in the Srinagar, the capital of Indian-occupied Kashmir.
“We have said that as far as we are concerned the UNMOGIP has outlived its relevance. This is a consistent stance that we have articulated on several occasions,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin was quoted as telling reporters in New Delhi.
New Delhi claims that Kashmir is an integral part of India, while Pakistan maintains that the decades-old dispute must be resolved in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, which call for a plebiscite to determine the state’s future.
UNMOGIP said it had received the request in May when India was in the midst of an election that the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi eventually won.
No reasons were given for vacating the office, Major Nicolas Diaz, in charge of the Delhi office, said, according to reports. He said the observers group would continue to operate in line with the UN mandate and that it was looking at alternative accommodation.
Reuters adds: The small UN mission has its main offices in the Kashmir capital Srinagar on the Indian side and in the Pakistani capital Islamabad as part of a UN Security Council resolution to supervise the ceasefire in the divided region.
The military authorities of Pakistan have continued to lodge complaints with UNMOGIP about ceasefire violations in Kashmir. The military authorities of India have lodged no complaints since January 1972 and have restricted the activities of the UN observers on the Indian side of the Line of Control. They have, however, continued to provide accommodation, transport and other facilities to the observers.
According to the Indian media, the bungalow “was allotted to the UNMOGIP as part of a gentleman’s agreement between Indian officials and the UN mission over 40 years ago. It was meant to be a short-term arrangement, and the UNMOGIP officials were supposed to move to a private hired accommodation. But that never happened.”