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How effective is the UN in Kashmir?
By Wajahat Qazi
The chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mr Omar Abdullah, has asserted that the United Nations has failed to maintain the sanctity of the Line of Control (LoC). This remark follows the ugly and gory skirmish on the LoC couple of weeks ago. The chief minister cites examples- the incursions of militants into the state and the Kargil war-as examples of the what could be called impotence of the United Nations. The question is: Is the chief minister correct in drawing this inference and making this assertion? If so, why?

Answering this question necessarily warrants an exegesis into the nature, functioning, performance review and appraisal of the United Nations. The world body was a follow up and improvisation on the League of Nations which was conceived and devised by President Wilson of the United States. It was conceived after the horrors of World War I and the intent behind this was to preclude and prevent recurrence of global conflict and war. The architects of the League of Nations analysed the roots and nature of the World War I and drew the conclusion that it was the balance of power and the power games related to this that was the cause of war. This is a very rough and reductive explanation.

To prevent global conflict, it was held that a world body consisting of important nation states should be constituted that would supplant the balance of power. Hence the creation of the League of Nations. The intent was noble and the goal visionary. This, however, did not prevent global conflict: the world, once again descended into an orgy of violence. This came to be known as World War II. After the end of this Great War, the idea behind the league was not given up. It was improvised upon and led to the creation of the United Nations. This new body included great powers of the day and structural changes like the veto and other changes were introduced.

Soon after the end of World War II, the world became divided into blocs-the Soviet bloc and the Western bloc. This came to be known as the Cold War and the geopolitical condition that obtained in the world was called structural bipolarity. This essentially froze world politics and all in all global politics was determined by the twists and turns of the Cold War. The UN became the forum in which the rhetorical aspects of the Cold War were played out and also for checking or more accurately check mating the moves of one super power by the other. The power of veto became the weapon of choice in this exercise.

No advances, no movement was made on issues of great import, conflicts or conflict resolution. The only 'feat' or achievement of the UN was that of the Korean War and the 38th parallel. The UN contributed somewhat in the fields of peacekeeping but this too was a very tenuous and contingent matter as the Bosnian tragedy revealed. The limits and limitations of the United Nations became clear.

It was only in the domain of low politics-health, nutrition, prevention of disease and development-that the UN made some headway. In the field of high, politics, it was and continues to be a failure. Even the end of the Cold War did not render UN activism and efficiency possible. The Gulf War II, the spread of nuclear weapons, and other salient issues made the impotence of the UN eloquently clear and vivid. What mattered in world politics was the orientation and attitude of great powers. In a unipolar world, this meant the United States.

In short, it was power politics that mattered. Or it was the triumph of realism over idealism. The United Nations was and continues to be a failure. Its presence on areas like the Line of Control was not only symbolic but also shambolic corresponding and conforming to its failure as a whole. So Mr Abdullah's assertion and remark is correct. Should the Observer Group (UNMOGIP) be abolished then. Perhaps. It serves as a reminder of the conflict between arch rivals, India and Pakistan. It should be removed when India and Pakistan disentangle themselves from the tentacle of conflict. This will be contingent of prudent and farsighted leadership and statecraft. It is the normalization of the tenor and tone of relations between the India and Pakistan that will be the ultimate arbiter of the UNMOGIP. Let us gird our loins and work toward this end and eliminate the conflict between India and Pakistan substantively and let the metaphoric symbols of the conflict give way to substantive, real and comprehensive peace.
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News Updated at : Friday, February 1, 2013
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