SRINAGAR: The United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) Tuesday said it will continue its operations in Jammu and Kashmir even as its New Delhi office may be closed on government of India’s directions.
UNMOGIP’s Srinagar-based Military Observer, Major Tomas, told Kashmir Reader that New Delhi has only asked the group to vacate its office in the Indian capital and not its Srinagar office.
“We will continue to work from Srinagar like we have been. There aren’t any directions for us to close the Srinagar office,” Major Tomas said.
The UNMOGIP office has been located in Jammu and Kashmir since 1949 to supervise the ceasefire between India and Pakistan. Its headquarters are Srinagar and Rawalpindi, Islamabad from May-October and November-April each year.
In a sudden decision, the Modi government has asked UNMOGIP to vacate its New Delhi office, which is housed in a government bungalow on the city’s 1AB, Purana Qila Road. The bungalow has been serving as the office of UNMOGIP for the last four decades.
According to an ‘Indian Express’ report, the Modi government wants the group to own and operate from a private accommodation if at all it wants to maintain its presence in New Delhi.
“They should stay in Srinagar and do what they want. In case they want to be stationed in Delhi, they should hire premises in a private property and not occupy the government accommodation,” the daily quoted an unnamed official as saying.
Saying that it has been India’s “consistent and long-standing view that UNMOGIP has outlived its mandate,” India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said they have “monetized” various facilities extended to the organisation. UNMOGIP was given the bungalow free of charge 40 years ago.
“We have asked the UNMOGIP to vacate the government bungalow on Purana Qila Road which they have been occupying free of charge. This is in line with our effort to rationalise the UNMOGIP presence in India. As part of this exercise, we have also monetized some of the facilities that UNMOGIP had been availing free of cost till now,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
Major Tomas, however, didn’t spell out the reasons behind the government’s decision. “We have no knowledge about the reasons that led to the decision,” he said.
Over the years, UNMOGIP has been a passive witness to conflict in Kashmir. Quite often, the people and the pro-freedom leaders submit memorandums or protest letters at its office located at Sonwar here. And its presence is considered significant by the pro-freedom camp, which believes that the UN resolutions on Kashmir are an essential part of the 67-year old dispute.
The UNMOGIP has 40 military observers, 23 international civilian personnel and 45 local civilian staff. The group is financed by the United Nations regular budget, and appropriations for biennium 2014-2015 are USD 19.64 million.