The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bintou Keita, has defended the continued deployment of the nearly 70-year-old UN Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP) and other missions in “frozen conflicts”. The question that should be asked is “if they are not there, what would happen”, she said on Wednesday answering a reporter who said the long-tenured missions like UNMOGIP were “sitting there doing nothing” and questioned their continuation.
Keita said that in reply to “the rhetoric that because there is no peace process moving they are doing nothing, I would say that we would need to reframe this because all the reduction of violence,… which can escalate actually, they are dealt with by the peacekeepers, by the mission”.She said that the missions are sometimes used as a “scapegoat” for the failures of the stakeholders — those involved in the conflict and those who should be resolving them.
“They are frozen because of the dynamics that are going on at the local, regional, sub-regional levels, which have to do with politics” and “the mission is a tool at one point to support the political process,” she said. Ways would have to be found to right the underlying causes of the conflict and “not what I will call sometime using the mission as a scapegoat”, she said, “because it is a shared responsibility so the performance of the mission has to be looked at with the performance of all the stakeholders.”
Besides the UNMOGIP, the reporter’s question referred to several other missions including the UNTSO in the Middle East set up in 1948, the UNFICYP in Cyprus in 1964, UDOF in the Golaan Heights in 1974 and the UNIFIL in Lebanon in 1978. In all those places the underlying conflicts have been “frozen”, persisting for decades with no resolution in sight. UNMOGIP was created out of 1948 Security Council resolutions and deployed in January 1949.
India considers the the UNMOGIP no longer relevant because of the 1972 Simla Agreement between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the then-President of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, recognising that the disputes between the two countries should be dealt with bilaterally. In 2014, India took back the rent-free offices it had provided the UNMOGIP. The UN maintains that UNMOGIP could be ended only by the Security Council.