• Says investigation is under way
• FO summons Indian diplomat to lodge protest

UNITED NATIONS/ISLAMABAD: The United Nations has confirmed that a vehicle of the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was damaged after it was hit by an “unidentified object” near Rawalakot on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.

“At this stage, yes, I believe that the details we have are, in fact, that there was no one hurt, but there has been a vehicle damaged in an incident,” said the UN secretary general’s deputy spokesman Farhan Haq while responding to a question at a Friday afternoon briefing in New York. “And the Mission is currently investigating the incident, and that is what I have for you for now,” he added.

To register its protest over the “deliberate targeting” of the UN vehicle by Indian troops, Pakistan summoned the Indian chargé d’affaires and condemned the stunt that represented “new coercive and reckless Indian ploy” to hinder the observers’ work.

Responding to an Indian journalist’s question on whether the UN was aware of the Indian government’s denial, Mr Haq said: “We’re aware what both sides have been saying. At this stage, we are simply aware that a vehicle was hit by an unidentified object. Like I said, no one was harmed in this incident, but a vehicle sustained some damage, and we are investigating the incident.”

While talking to Dawn, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram said: “The UN is indeed investigating. The forensic will tell the tale.

“The pictures of the UNMOGIP vehicle clearly show bullet holes. So, Indian denials are not credible.”

On Friday morning, two UN observers were on their way to Polas village in Chirikot sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to meet the victims of unrelenting ceasefire violations when their vehicle carrying UN insignia was targeted in an attack by Indian troops.

Images shared by the ISPR showed that bullets had pierced through two of the windows of the UN vehicle. Both officials remained unhurt in the firing.

Meanwhile in Islamabad, the Indian Chargé d’Affaires after being summoned to the Foreign Office was told that the “deliberate targeting of a UN vehicle, engaged in discharging the mandate of the UN Security Council, constitutes a grave violation of India’s obligations, under the Council’s resolutions and the UN Charter, which includes the obligation to ensure the safety and security of the UNMOGIP Observers”.

The Indian CdA was told that the brazen act of attacking a UN vehicle constituted a flagrant violation of established international norms and represented a complete disregard for principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

“It was also conveyed that the reprehensible act also represented a new low in the conduct of Indian occupation forces which target not only innocent civilians residing along the Line of Control but United Nations Observers as well,” FO said in a statement.

The Indian side was called upon to desist from such blatant violations of international law; respect the 2003 ceasefire understanding between India and Pakistan; and let the UNMOGIP perform its role mandated by the UN Security Council, it added.

Ceasefire violations by India has intensified since 2014 when Narendara Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, despite a 2003 understanding between the two countries about maintaining ceasefire in the region.

This year there have been 2,992 ceasefire violations by India in which 27 people were martyred while another 249 injured, but this was the first incident of a UN vehicle being directly targeted by Indian troops.

The UN confirmation contradicts the Indian claim that there was no firing from the Indian side in this sector, as movements of UN vehicles were known to troops in advance.

UNMOGIP mandate

According to the Security Council mandate given in Resolution 307 of 1971, UNMOGIP observes and reports on ceasefire violations along and across the Line of Control and the working boundary between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as reports developments that could lead to ceasefire violations.

India claims that UNMOGIP has outlived its utility and is irrelevant after the Simla Agreement and after the establishment of the LoC, it has “no role to play whatsoever”.

Pakistan rejects the Indian position and continues to facilitate UN observers.

The Secretary-General’s office also disagrees with the Indian position, saying that UNMOGIP could be terminated only by a decision of the Security Council. “In the absence of such an agreement, UNMOGIP has been maintained with the same arrangements as established following the December 1971 ceasefire,” says a statement posted on the UNMOGIP site.

The military authorities of India have lodged no complaints since January 1972. Pakistan continues to lodge its complaints with the group.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2020

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