Following Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir which prolonged to become the First Kashmir War in 1947, India took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations on January 1, 1948. Thus, the “The India-Pakistan Question” was created at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). India termed Pakistan’s assisting tribal militia as a hostile act and accused it of committing atrocities in Kashmir. Pakistan denied India’s charges, questioned the accession, and charged India with committing genocide in the Valley. The UN immediately imposed a ceasefire, set up a Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to help resolve the dispute, and hammered out the following:

  1. Pakistan was to first withdraw from Jammu and Kashmir tribesmen and Pakistani nationals “not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting” (UNSC 1948) and had to also stop “furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State.”
  1. India would have to withdraw and gradually reduce its own forces to the minimum strength required to maintain law and order.
  1. Finally, when both of these conditions were met, Kashmir could hold a plebiscite under guidelines framed by the Commission.

India and Pakistan failed to agree citing the following:

  • The Indian government considered Jammu and Kashmir to be part of India following the accession.
  • The Pakistan government held that the Maharaja’s Standstill Agreement with Pakistan prevented it from entering into agreements with India and thus the accession was illegal; it asserted the “tribal invasion” and Azad Kashmir movement were indigenous in nature and not sponsored by Pakistan.

The decision of the UNSC to impose a ceasefire without first ensuring Pakistan’s withdrawal from the area it had captured was wrong. In allowing Pakistan to retain disputed territory even when a solution was being processed, derailed the very terms under which a plebiscite could be held.

The UNSC next sent four representatives to India and Pakistan in succession to find a solution that both nations could agree to — General McNaughton (1949), Sir Owen Dixon (1950), Loy Henderson (1951) and Dr Frank Graham (1951).

A.G.L. McNaughton: In December 1949, the Canadian president of the UNSC, General A.G.L. McNaughton, proposed that:

  1. Pakistan and India should withdraw their regular forces simultaneously (excluding those Indian forces needed to maintain law and order),
  1. Azad Kashmir forces, Kashmir State forces, and the militia had to be demobilized, and
  1. Administration of the Northern Areas would remain under local authorities but under UN supervision while the region demilitarised, after which a plebiscite could be held.

Pakistan accepted the suggestions, but India rejected them saying that:

a) Pakistani forces needed to first unconditionally withdraw from the region, and

b) Disbandment of Pakistan-administered Kashmir troops was needed before a plebiscite could be held.

Sir Owen Dixon:  The UNCIP next appointed Sir Owen Dixon, an Australian jurist and diplomat, to resolve the conflict. Sir Dixon suggested that while the plebiscite was being put in place, the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir should be governed by a:

  • Coalition government, or by a
  • Neutral administrative body, or by an
  • Executive formed of representatives from the United Nations.

When this was rejected, he went on to propose the trifurcation of the state:

  • Jammu and Ladakh would go to India,
  • Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas to Pakistan, and
  • A plebiscite would be held in the Kashmir Valley.

He proposed to redraw the boundaries of Kashmir on religious lines, where river Chenab would serve as the border. But the plan was flawed: Hindu-Muslim segregation along the Chenab would cause displacement of as many as 800,000 people and also lead to violence. The recommendations were rejected by India.

Sir Dixon next suggested a plebiscite be held only in the Kashmir Valley following its demilitarisation, to be conducted by a body of UN officials. This proposal was rejected by Pakistan. Sir Dixon’s last suggestion that the Prime Ministers of the two countries meet with him to hammer out a solution was again turned down. Having realized India and Pakistan would never reach an amicable solution, Sir Dixon left India in August 1950.

Frank Graham: Frank Graham was appointed as mediator in 1951. He proposed the following:

  •  Reaffirmation of the ceasefire line;
  • Mutual agreement between India and Pakistan against making provocative statements, and that Kashmir’s future would be decided by a plebiscite;
  • Steady demilitarisation in both regions.

But Graham was unable to secure a solution that both nations agreed to. Given the unviability of its proposals, the UN soon bowed out of the political quagmire, leaving an unhealed wound on the body-politic: the Security Council resolutions affirming that the future of the state should be decided by its denizens.”[1]

In 1951, India and Pakistan signed the Karachi Agreement and established a ceasefire line to be supervised by UN military observers. The UNCIP was terminated and the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was set up to report ceasefire violations.


The second war between India and Pakistan broke out in early 1965, when Pakistan sent regular and irregular troops disguised as indigenous fighters to Kashmir in hopes of igniting a civil war there. India retaliated and military hostilities broke out along the ceasefire line.

On September 4, 1965, the Security Council called for an “unconditional” ceasefire that came into effect from September 22. While India readily agreed, Pakistan was reluctant. Both countries then signed the Tashkent Agreement in 1966, presided over by the UN, the United States and the Soviet Union. Under the agreement, India and Pakistan agreed to surrender conquered territories and ‘retreat to the ceasefire line of 1949.”


Peace was short lived. In 1971, a third war broke out between Pakistan and India, this time over the liberation of East Pakistan, which later came to be called Bangladesh. The Security Council passed Resolution 307 on December 21, 1971, but by then a unilateral ceasefire had been declared. As per the UN resolution, both the nations’ armies had to retreat to the old ceasefire positions.

On July 2, 1972, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the historic Simla Agreement and the ceasefire line became the Line of Control (LoC). The agreement stated that the two nations would resolve their differences through bilateral negotiations or “by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.” India agreed to return 93,000 prisoners of war it had captured from Pakistan. In return, Bhutto “gave his word” that upon his return to Pakistan he would make the LoC, that cut Kashmir into half, into an international boundary. Bhutto never kept his word. If he had, the relationship between India and Pakistan would have been very different.

Post Simla

Following the 1971 war, India stopped turning to the UN on Kashmir. The Indian government announced that it would no longer report cross-border firings to UNMOGIP. It had become clear to India that the UN had decided to overlook Pakistan’s repeated transgressions since 1947. India has not reported any ceasefire violations since 1972. Pakistan, however, continues to do so.

[1] War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations The Independent International Political Research Center


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