The Narendra Modi government has asked the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to vacate the government bungalow housing its office in the heart of the Capital, in a sign of its toughening stand towards the UN mission.
The Indian Express has learnt that South Block has asked the UNMOGIP to vacate the bungalow — 1AB, Purana Qila Road — which has been serving as its office for the last four decades. The government accommodation — a Type VII bungalow, about 7,000 square feet — was allotted to the UN mission “free of charge”.
Sources said in its recent communication to the UN, the government has conveyed that the UNMOGIP’s role has been overtaken by the Simla Agreement and the consequent establishment of the Line of Control. New Delhi is of the view that the UNMOGIP has “no relevance or role to play whatsoever”.
The UNMOGIP, established under a UN Security Council Resolution, was meant to supervise the ceasefire line established under the Karachi Agreement of July 1949.
The government’s decision is being seen as a move to convey Delhi’s desire to not engage with the UN mission in Delhi. “They should stay in Srinagar and do what they want. In case they want to be stationed in Delhi, they should hire premises in a private property and not occupy the government accommodation,” said a senior official requesting anonymity.
When contacted, UNMOGIP’s Military Information Officer Major Tomas Malm, who is based in Srinagar, confirmed that the government has asked them to vacate the premises. “UNMOGIP’s response is to relocate to another location in Delhi,” he said. Asked if they have been told the reason for this directive, he said, “The Indian authorities’ reason is unknown to UNMOGIP.”
Asked if the move reflected New Delhi’s stand towards UNMOGIP, he said, “You have to ask the Indian government regarding their attitude towards us”.
According to a source familiar with the arrangement between South Block and UNMOGIP, the bunglow “was allotted to the UNMOGIP as part of a gentleman’s agreement between Indian officials and the UN mission over 40 years ago. It was meant to be a short-term arrangement, and the UNMOGIP officials were supposed to move to a private hired accommodation. But that never happened.”
Even as South Block officials are yet to get the property vacated, the Ministry of External Affairs’ finance department has told them that it will not be able to provide budgetary support for such “goodwill gestures”.