The Narendra Modi government’s stand in asking the UN military mission to vacate its government accommodation in New Delhi clearly signals a hardening of India’s position on the Kashmir issue. The small UN mission has its main offices in Srinagar on the Indian side and in Pakistani capital Islamabad as part of a UN Security Council resolution to supervise the ceasefire in the region. But India has consistently maintained since 1972 that the UN had little role to play after India and Pakistan signed the Simla Pact in 1972 under which the two nations agreed to resolve all disputes including Kashmir bilaterally. India’s military authorities have lodged no complaint 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.
While separatists have opposed the Centre’s move, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has backed it. Pakistan, on the other hand, has chosen to react predictably, asserting Kashmir remains disputed territory. The government must step up efforts to integrate the people of Jammu and Kashmir through inclusive development, as Modi has committed himself to.
Security and development must remain India’s primary focus and we should continue to oppose third party interference in the bilateral dispute with Pakistan. To that purpose, asking the military observers to vacate the premises in Delhi is welcome. It is indeed time that the government insisted on some code of conduct for Pakistan to follow in future dialogue. It should cease the ongoing verbal fire which destroys the atmosphere for dialogue. At the political level there is increased realisation in both countries that they must move towards greater economic links. The Pakistani military is a stumbling block in the process of normalisation and must be impressed upon that there are huge opportunities to be harnessed.