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UN and the Kashmir Issue

By Madhav Grover


India removed the special status it gave to the disputed region of Kashmir on 5th August 2019. The move had wide-ranging implications on relations between India and Pakistan who have been bitter neighbors since their formations as independent states. It is important to understand the history of negotiations and conflict between these countries. The article also observes whether it’s possible for the dispute to be resolved multilaterally or bilaterally and how the united nations failed to prevent the conflict and provide a suitable resolution. 

The UN Intervention 

The United Nations Security Council assumed the responsibility of the Kashmir dispute formally on 20th September 1947.  India took the issue through exercising their right given in Article 35 of the UN Charter. The provision allows a member state to bring to the notice of the Security Council and the General Assembly of any issue which may result in an international conflict. India at the time argued invasion of Pakistan troops into Kashmir as the issue destabilizing the region. 

In January 1948, the Security Council took up the issue with the Indian and Pakistani Governments. Both the parties agreed upon the formulation of a UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to mediate and solve the issue. The major issue at the time was Pakistan requiring the withdrawal of Indian troops from the region for further mediation which was resisted by India. 

The UNCIP was agreed upon to have three members which then was expanded to consist of five members by a resolution moved by the United States, and the United Kingdom passed on April 18th, 1948. The members consisted of Belgium, Columbia, the United States of America and Czechoslovakia being nominated by India and Argentina being nominated by Pakistan (Nath 1954). The main agenda of the commission was to restore peace and stability in the valley and then hold a plebiscite. To ensure a peaceful plebiscite, it was necessary that there is the withdrawal of a large majority of Pakistani troops along with all Pakistani nationals to be removed from the areas along with the Indian troops. The negotiations for a ceasefire continued but had the obstacle of Pakistan’s demand for Azad Kashmir which dissatisfied India. On 31st December 1948 Karachi agreement was signed between the two nations declaring a ceasefire and determining the line of control between the nations. This was seen at the time a victory for the peacekeeping operation as it established some form of settlement between the two parties.  

The United Nations Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was formed on 21st March 1949. It was headed by US Naval Commander in Chief General Chester Nimitz, and the purpose of this group was to administer the withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani troops from the region. As the commission was failing to fulfill its purpose, the security council adopted a resolution moved by the US, UK, Cuba, and Norway for the appointment of a UN mediator on Kashmir (Nath 1954). 

On 12th April 1950, Owen Dixon, an Australian judge was appointed as the mediator. In his first report, Mr. Dixon concluded that the strategy of prevention of conflict should include withdrawal of a vast majority of Pakistani troops followed by withdrawal of all Indian troops in the region and the withdrawal of the left Pakistani troops after a few days. Pakistan approved this while India did not agree to this proposal or report. He also proposed a proposal for partition of the state which was also not agreed by both the parties. Then the UN representative to India and Pakistan was appointed namely Dr. Frank P Graham on 30th March 1951. He laid out four major proposals for the problem to be fixed which were reported to the security council after spending months going back and forth between the two countries. The first report highlighted the differences in the approaches of demilitarisation by the two countries. Pakistan wanted forces on either side of the cease-fire line to be reduced to four infantry battalions (4,000 men).  However, India wanted to be allowed to keep 16 infantry battalions in the Kashmir valley against Pakistani defence forces of 4,000 men. Dr. Graham submitted his second report on December 18, 1951, where he stated that while an agreement had been secured on some points, differences remained on the scope of demilitarisation, the date for completing demilitarisation and the size of forces to be left on either side after demilitarisation was still being mediated. He presented his Third report, stating that there was still no agreement on the size of forces to be left on either side after demilitarisation and suggested continuance of negotiations between the two states. Graham submitted his fourth report, once again reporting a lack of agreement on demilitarisation. 

Dr. Graham, however, proposed that India and Pakistan should negotiate and work to solve the issue by themselves and not through the channel of the United Nations by involving their representatives at the UN. This recommendation was made as all attempts were failing to ensure peace and end of the dispute.  

India and Pakistan fought another war on the issue of Kashmir in 1965 as Pakistan intervened in the region of Indian administered Kashmir (Balraj 1997). The war was declared on 9th April 1965, and a ceasefire was declared soon after. The Tashkent Agreement was signed between the two countries on 10th January 1966 which resolved by both parties agreeing to go back to the ceasefire line and also avoid other foreign powers from entering into the war. The conflict, therefore, was resolved without much intervention from the United Nations and the Soviet Union being the sole moderator. The nations fought another war in 1971 with regard to east Pakistan which became the independent nation of Bangladesh after the war ended. The countries then agreed upon another ceasefire line in the same year and that stands to date. 

Bilateral Issue

The Simla Pact was signed by India and Pakistan formulated the resolution method of the land dispute. The agreement stated, “the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them” (Stinson Centre 2019). It also formulated that the ceasefire line will be the line of actual control (LOC). The pact was taken by India to be a predicament of solving the dispute bilaterally which was not done by Pakistan. India too didn’t feel the need of UNMOGIP to be in the area as they claimed it was formed under the Karachi agreement which was now succeeded by the Simla Pact. Therefore, the mandate of the UNMOGIP was restricted to only observing whether the ceasefire of 1971 was maintained. It also had the job to report violations to the UN. Pakistani authorities have registered complaints about ceasefire violations periodically. Indian authorities have not made a complaint since 1972.  The Secretary-General of the United Nations formulated that the UNMOGIP was created by UNSC resolutions 39 and 47. Therefore given the disagreement, it can only be terminated by a UN Security Council Resolution (Chakravarty 2016).    

Due to the Simla pact, the UN observers on the Indian side have a limited role than the Pakistani Side. The Indian side, however, continues to give support and services such as security, transport, etc.

Current situation 

The Indian Government made amendments to the Indian constitution with the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A which had effects on the special status given to the disputed region of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. India claimed it to be internal, which is within their rights as given under the constitution of India. Pakistan claimed it to be an illegal act as it had implications on a disputed area which was claimed by three parties. Pakistan agreed on taking the matter in front of the UNSC with China backing its claim and holding closed-door consultations. This was instrumental as it was nearly after 48 years the UNSC had taken up Kashmir as a topic of discussion. The consultations didn’t give any conclusive decision or even any statement with Russia, France, and the US backing India’s claims of it being a bilateral issue. China-backed by the UK pushed for a statement to be issued but Poland (current president of the UNSC) seeing the overwhelming majority in India’s support on the issue didn’t pay heed to such requests (Singh 2019). There were various attempts made to resolve the matter multilaterally but as they failed it’s imperative that both countries made attempts to resolve the issue bilaterally through negotiations on the disputed region. Pakistan has started to take up the matter in front of the general assembly but it’s highly unlikely given the history of the issue that it can be solved without bilateral arrangement between India and Pakistan. 


The Author is a final year student of B.A. (Hons.) Global Affairs.


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Ganguly, Šumit. Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions since 1947. Columbia University Press, 2002.


Hashim, Asad. 2018. “Timeline: India-Pakistan Relations”. Aljazeera.Com.

“The Jammu And Kashmir Issue”. 2018. Mea.Gov.In.

Nath, S.K. 1965. “UN’s Failure in Kashmir”. Epw.In.

Noor, Sanam. “Pakistan-India Relations and Terrorism.” Pakistan Horizon 60, no. 2 (2007): 65-84.

Puri, Balraj. “Indo-Pakistan Relations: Time for a Breakthrough.” Economic and Political Weekly 32, no. 31 (1997): 1960-963.

Safi, Michael. 2018. “India Cancels Meeting with Pakistan At UN Because Of ‘Evil Agenda’”. The Guardian.

Singh, Yoshita. 2019. “Stop Terror To Start Talks: India To Pakistan After UNSC Meeting On Article 370”. Https://Www.Livemint.Com.

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