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Valley victory at the UN

New York, Sept. 27: In a diplomatic windfall for India at the 61st UN General Assembly, Kashmir has been taken off the list of festering disputes in the secretary-generals’ latest annual report.

This is the first time in 13 years Kashmir has been omitted.

Simultaneously, there are rumblings in the Security Council for ending the mandate of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which has monitored the ceasefire between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir since 1949.

A few days ago, the General Assembly’s Committee on Programme and Coordination (CPC) decided not to mention UNMOGIP’s “deployment in field and headquarters” for the first time.

Pakistan was the only country to object to the change, but was forced to give in to near unanimity.

India had vehemently objected in private meetings with then secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the UN secretariat in 1993 when Kashmir was mentioned as a dispute in the annual report. Since then, the references have often got worse, with Kashmir being bracketed with such crisis spots as Palestine.

Sources at the UN said that in the last two years, New Delhi had gone all out to ensure that there was no reference to its baggage with Islamabad in the report.

Those efforts have been crowned with success this year.

That success is a reflection of India’s emerging profile in the UN and the world and a reflection of the international community’s willingness to see the country as much more than a source of perennial trouble.

India’s willingness to take the reins of international polity into its hands by nominating one of its nationals — Shashi Tharoor — to head the UN and New Delhi’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council have also helped change the country’s profile.

Conversely, the omission of Kashmir in the report will go some way in New Delhi’s bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council. Its problems with Pakistan were seen by many at the UN as an impediment.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with General Pervez Musharraf in Havana also appears to have encouraged Kofi Annan’s decision to omit referring to Kashmir.

The omission does not, however, mean Kashmir is off the UN agenda. Technically, the dispute is still on the table of the Security Council, whose resolutions are in force.

But the report could be a step towards eliminating Kashmir from the UN’s agenda altogether.

The decision not to mention UNMOGIP’s deployment in field and in headquarters is similarly a step towards ending the group’s mandate.

India does not approve of UNMOGIP’s activities although it has extended due courtesies to the group.

Ending the UNMOGIP mandate will reinforce New Delhi’s view that Kashmir is a problem to be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan and that the world body has no role there.

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