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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 38 New Delhi September 7, 2019

Kashmir Issue and India-Pakistan Relations

Saturday 7 September 2019

by B. Vivekanandan

As the Kashmir issue has been made a flash-point of India-Pakistan relationship, which has stimulated a voluntary offer from the US President Donald Trump to become a mediator of it, and in the context of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s threat that Pakistan would go to any extent for Kashmir, including raising the issue in the UN General Assembly and other international fora, it is imperative to go back to the basics of the Kashmir issue to understand it in the correct perspective.

The Genesis

It may be recalled that when India and Pakistan began their odyssey as two independent nations, on August 15, 1947, the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) chose to remain independent. But, two months later, that choice became untenable, as a large number of armed tribesmen from the North-West Frontier of Pakistan invaded Kashmir, on October 20, 1947, and looted the State, with the help of some Pakistani Army irregulars. It created an alarming situation in J&K, as the King of the State did not have the strength to stop the invaders, nor to beat them back and drive them out. In the circumstances, the King of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, requested the help of the Indian Army to drive out the invaders. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was the Home Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of India at that time, informed Maharaja Hari Singh that India would not be able to send the Indian Army to J&K, unless the State joined the Indian Union, as the other princely States had done.

The methodology India followed for the merger of Princely States in India with the Indian Union was that, if the King of the State, and the leader of the largest political party in the State, agreed to join the Indian Union, that merger would be final. That was how all other Princely States in India joined the Indian Union. In J&K, the largest political party of the State was the National Conference, headed by Sheikh Abdullah. In conformity with the methodology followed hitherto, the King of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, and Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of National Conference, agreed to accede the State with the Indian Union, and the Accession Document was signed on October 26, 1947. Therefore, the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India was unconditional, complete, and final. And, the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir up to the International Border of Pakistan became legally the territory of the Indian Union. Therefore, clearly, Pakistan has no legal right over any part of Jammu and Kashmir. Hence, the presence of the Pakistan Army in any part of Jammu and Kashmir is an illegal occupation, which has to end peacefully, to make Pakistan prosperous, with India’s co-operation.

Following the State’s merger, the Indian Army was sent to Jammu and Kashmir and the Army operations against the ‘tribal invaders’ began in right earnest. When the invading tribesmen learnt about the Indian Army operations against them, they fled the Kashmir Valley, and crossed over to the other side of Pakistan’s international boundary. They were careful not to be caught inside the Indian territory of J&K. When all these developments were taking place in J&K, from October 1947, Pakistan did not make any territorial claim over the State. Significantly, when India took up the matter with the UN, and requested the UN Security Council, on January 1, 1948, to direct Pakistan, not to assist nor participate in the invasion of Kashmir, in its reply at the UN Security Council, on January 15, 1948, Pakistan denied any role in the tribesmen’s invasion of Kashmir.

Nehru’s Three Mistakes

Meanwhile, Jawaharlal Nehru voluntarily made an impractical offer of a ‘plebiscite’ in J&K, which he did not offer to the people of other Princely States, like Travancore for example, which joined the Indian Union earlier. The ‘plebiscite’ offer remained infructuous, despite a UN resolution on it, for two reasons: (1) it was not part of the merger document; and (2) in J&K itself, there was no consensus on it among socio-political groups in the State; Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits, Gujjars, Bakkarwals, and Ladakhi Buddhists were opposed to this ‘plebiscite’ proposal; a Kashmir Valley-focused approach in it was not acceptable to them. However, the only purpose which this unsolicited voluntary offer of plebiscite served was that it gave a good tool to Pakistan to talk about Kashmir in international fora, and to embarrass India. Another grave mistake Jawaharlal Nehru made, in this context, was that he prematurely took up this domestic matter of India to the United Nations, with an apparent trivial objective of implicating Pakistan in the “tribesmen’s” invasion of J&K.

But, the gravest mistake Jawaharlal Nehru made, in this context, was his thoughtless personal intervention, during the course of the Indian Army’s operations in J&K. He made that mistake in May 1948, at a critical stage of the Indian Army’s operations, to clear off all Pakistani intruders from the J&K territory. When the Indian Army was successfully engaged in driving out the invaders from the whole of Kashmir, including from the present ‘Azad Kashmir’, before the completion of that task, Nehru ordered the Indian Army to stop its operation and created a ceasefire line inside the Indian territory of Kashmir. It is worth noting that Nehru insisted on stopping the Army’s operations, when Major General Kalwant Singh, the Commander of the Indian Army in Kashmir, was pleading “endlessly” with Nehru, to allow him to advance, and give him five more days to complete the task and to bring the entire territory of J&K under India’s possession and control. Kalwant Singh explained to Nehru that, “There is no resistance anywhere. But the terrain is difficult. We have to climb it up to reach the Pakistan border”, for which he requested for five more days’ operations. But Nehru said, “No”, and asked Kalwant Singh to stop the operations and “stay where you are”.

A dejected Kalwant Singh obeyed the Prime Minister’s orders and made the Indian Army to line-up at the point, where they had reached at that time, inside Kashmir. When the Pakistani intruders and the Pakistan Army saw the Indian Army voluntarily stopped its operations, and lined up inside Kashmir, the Pakistan Army personnel, who ran out from Kashmir to the other side earlier, re-entered Kashmir, and formed a parallel line inside Kashmir. That is the present Ceasefire Line or Line of Control in Kashmir. It was only after this development that in August 1948, Pakistan confirmed, for the first time, its Army’s presence in Kashmir.

In a graphic account of the operation of the Indian Army at that time, on the ground, Russel Brines records:

“The Indians launched an offensive in the Spring of 1948 ...... The Indian Army sent one column to Uri with a flanking movement over the mountains of the north. The flank attach under the colourful General Thimmayya was so successful that he captured Tithwal on May 23 (1948) and looked down on Muzaffarabad, only eighteen miles away. Muzaffarabad, now the capital of Azad Kashmir, was the political key of the campaign. The threat to Muzaffarabad forced a Pakistani withdrawal from the entire northern sector, but the Indians stopped, apparently on their own volition, and a Pakistan Brigade stabilised the situation.” (Russel Brines, The Indo-Pakistani Conflict, London, 1968, p. 75)

This account of Russel Brines obliquely confirms that the Indian Army’s advance in Kashmir was stopped on Nehru’s orders. If Nehru had allowed the Army operations for five more days, we would not have had this trouble with Pakistan over Kashmir. With the capture of Muzaffarabad, India could have gone on to reclaim and possess the whole of Kashmir.

In brief, through a series of follies, the Kashmir issue, which was primarily an issue of the security of an Indian State acceded to the Indian Union, was transformed into an Indo-Pakistani problem; and, by bringing the United Nations into the picture, it was made an international issue, with all its accompanying ill-effects for India and Pakistan. It marked the beginning of India’s problems with Pakistan.

The Special Status

When independent India made its Constitution in 1950, Jammu and Kashmir was temporarily granted a special status under Article 370. In the Indian Constitution, Article 370 has been marked as a “temporary provision with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir”. It has provided for some additional formalities for the application of certain Central laws in the State, and imposed restrictions on persons outside the State for purchasing land from the State. It has also made Article 238 (regarding a Special Officer for SC/ST communities) inapplicable in Jammu and Kashmir. These special features in it notwithstanding, Article 370 of the Constitution remained a temporary one. In the right perspective, there is nothing extraordinary in rescinding a temporary Article of the Indian Constitution, if it is found that it is perpetuating an unnecessary lacuna in the system, or that its negative impact outweighed its positive impact. Equally important is to consider whether the rescinding of an Article is harmful or beneficial to the people of the concerned State. On both these counts, the rescinding of Article 370 of our Constitution, at this point of time, is not unjustifiable. Of course, opinion would differ on the question whether the time has come to abrogate Article 370 from the Statute Book, and end the special status it has temporarily granted to J&K. However, it seems that the largest beneficiaries of the present action, would be the Kashmiri youth, who would be looking around for new opportunities in the rest of India.

India is a secular democracy, which upholds equality as a fundamental principle. In that vein, equality of all States and equal right of all citizens in the country are fundamental. Keeping these factors in view, it is time for India to re-examine all discriminatory provisions in our Constitution, including various provisions for reservations, and weed out discriminations at all levels, to usher in real democracy in the country. Article 370 had created a hiatus in the working of States in the country which needed to be removed. Therefore, the act of the ending of the special status for J&K, and bringing it on a par with other States in the country need not cause much heartburn.

The Authoritarian Way

But, I strongly disapprove the way in which the Narendra Modi Government has done it. It smacks of authoritarianism. The rashness of the government measures on the eve of scrapping Article 370, and the subsequent harsh measures which followed, might have caused alienation of more people in J&K. To place respectable, and responsible State leaders, like Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under arrest, and house arrest, and the sending of a large contingent of the Army to the State, as a prelude to the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, is not befitting Indian democracy. On the occasion of Id, all major mosques in J&K were kept out of bounds. After 18 days of the present crackdown in the State, when a group of opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, D. Raja, Sharad Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, went to J&K to see the prevalent situation in the State, they were not allowed even to step out of the Srinagar Airport, and were forced to return, without meeting any local people or the local mediapersons. These are not good signals. The proper way of doing it would have been, to proceed for scrapping Article 370 after holding serious discussions on the proposed course of action, with all responsible political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, in an effort to reach a consensus on the proposal. Instead of doing it in this manner, to roughshod the process was a flawed method.

Pakistan has raised a hew and cry over the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and has threatened to approach the international community in the matter. As part of its unilateral measures, Pakistan has downgraded its diplomatic relations with India, expelled the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, decided not to send Pakistan’s High Commissioner-designate to India, and suspended its trade with India. These are short-sighted and unsustainable measures, which Pakistan will have to rescind, one after the other, sooner than later, in its own interest. Pakistan is unlikely to get much international support, except possibly, from China, to its stand on the issue, since the matter is of India’s domestic jurisdiction, and Pakistan has no locus standi to raise objection on the matter. However, there is no scope for a third party mediation in the matter, as the issue has to be settled peacefully, and bilaterally, by giving due respect for the legal right of the State concerned, if necessary, by forging a higher frame of political relationship between India and Pakistan which would make the Kashmir issue no issue at all.

II

India-Pakistan Wars

Coming to India-Pakistan relations, ever since India and Pakistan started off their journey in 1947 as two new nations, their relationship has been put under a deterrence doctrine-based, confrontationist mode. The Kashmir issue has provided an impetus to it all these years. During a span of the last seven decades, India and Pakistan have fought four futile wars, which did not end in the resolution of any bilateral problem. The war between India and Pakistan in 1948 created the Kashmir problem. The war between the two countries in 1965 ended without any tangible benefit. The Tashkent Agreement, between Lal Bahadur Shastri and General Ayub Khan in 1966 after the 1965 war, ended up in the restoration of the status quo ante prior to the start of that war. The Indo-Pak war of 1971 ended with the birth of Bangladesh. Though that war presented a golden opportunity to India to solve the Kashmir issue peacefully, Indira Gandhi wasted it. At the time of signing of Shimla Agreement, after that war, she allowed herself to be carried away by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s bluff, and agreed to release 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War from Indian custody, without settling the Kashmir issue. The Kargil War between India and Pakistan in 1999 was a futile war, planned and executed by Pakistan’s Army Chief, Pervez Musharraf, without the knowledge of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The lesson these Indo-Pak wars conveys is that war and confrontation are not the right method to solve any problem between India and Pakistan. Co-operation, dialogue and discussion between the two countries, in a spirit of their common future, are the right methods. Both countries will have to find ways and means to insulate the Kashmir issue from bedeviling India-Pakistan relations in future.

Civilian-Military Relationship in Pakistan

Unlike in India, in Pakistan, democracy has been reduced to a sham by the dominance of the military machine in the state. In Islamabad, the Army has established its supremacy over the civilian administration, as a result of which the Army often acts on its own, without the knowledge or consent of the civilian authority in government. A notable example of this is the Kargil War. The fact that the Kargil War was planned and executed by the Pakistan Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, without the knowledge of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was revealed by Nawaz Sharif himself when he visited New Delhi after the Kargil War. At a one-to-one meeting between him and India’s Defence Minister, George Fernandes, he told Fernandes that: “I never knew anything about the Kargil War. If I knew it, I would not have allowed it.” This was told to me by George Fernandes later. He told me: “I trust Nawaz Sharif. He is a good man.”

We must keep this bizarre feature of the working of Pakistan democracy in mind, when we deal with Pakistan. I believe that Imran Khan’s position, as the Prime Minister of Pakistan today is no different. But, keeping this in view, India should help the political leadership in Pakistan to regain its primacy in decision-making. That is important in finding peaceful political solutions to all bilateral issues between India and Pakistan. The political leaderships of both countries must realise that preservation of an adversarial, confrontationist relationship between India and Pakistan, and maintenance of a war-like situation all along in the border regions, is a vested interest of the Pakistani military leadership, to preserve its primacy in decision-making in Pakistan.

Therefore, in order to help the Pakistani political leadership to gain its primacy, it is imperative, as a first step, to take Indo-Pak relationship out from the present, deterrence doctrine-based, confrontationist mode, and place it in a cooperation-based, mutuality-based, common security-based, and a common future-based mode. Once that is done, we would see a flurry of peaceful solutions to all unresolved bilateral problems, including the Kashmir problem, between India and Pakistan.

India-Pakistan Confederation

In order to build up a new solidarity-based relationship between India and Pakistan, serious efforts should be made, with a vision, to create a new higher political framework of a Confede-ration between the two countries, which would formally pool their destinies together, by strengthening the bonds which unite them. It will enable both the countries to pay more attention, with more resources, to better the living standards of all their peoples. Experts from both countries would vouch for the immense mutual benefits, or what may be called ‘peace dividends’, which they can derive politically, economically and socially, from such a consummation. Their history, geography, tradition, resources, habits and culture and their other symbiotic features are all in favour of bringing the two countries into a single larger political framework. In fact, their complementarities overwhelm other factors. Of course, the establishment of a Confederation between the two countries requires a great vision, and high statesmanship on the part of the political leaderships of both countries.

Needs a Caring Approach

I have no doubt that, if India makes a caring move, in the right spirit, towards Pakistan, there will be a reciprocal matching response from Islamabad. This I say on the basis of knowledge I have gained from a secret conversation, which took place between Prime Minister Morarji Desai and President General Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, when Morarji Desai was India’s Prime Minister between 1977 and 1979. At that time, President Zia-ul-Haq took a decision to increase the size of the Pakistan Army. India’s intelligence sources immediately informed Prime Minister Morarji Desai about the decision of the Pakistan President.

Morarji Desai-Zia-ul-Haq Interactions

Generally such matters are handled first through the diplomatic channels. But in this case, Morarji Desai decided to handle it by himself. Shri Desai immediately, picked up his red telephone, meant only for making direct calls to heads of government, and dialled President Zia-Ul-Haq, and asked him straight, without any prelims: “General, why do you need a big Army for Pakistan? If Pakistan is in trouble, tell me. My Army will be at your disposal.” Those three sentences from the Indian Prime Minister, assuring the Indian Army’s assistance to defend Pakistan, made Zia-ul-Haq dumbfounded. Zia could not visualise such a generous, reassuring expression from the Indian Prime Minister. He was so overwhelmed and thrilled that he became speechless. He trusted the words of Morarji Desai and abandoned his plan to expand the size of the Pakistan Army. From that day, General Zia-ul-Haq became an ardent admirer of Morarji Deasi. As a mark of his deep admiration and respect for the towering statesmanship of Morarji Desai, President Zia-ul-Haq conferred ‘Nishan-e-Pakistan’, the highest civilian honour of Pakistan, equivalent to India’s Bharat Ratna, on Morarji Desai.

The content of this toplevel secret conver-sation between Morarji Desai and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, was revealed to me by Morarji Desai himself, during a meeting between us a little later. I do not know whether the Prime Minister’s Office has kept any record of this secret conversation between Morarji and Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. However, it is my conviction that if Morarji Desai remained the Prime Minister till the end of his five-year term, the Kashmir issue also would have been solved in the most peaceful way. The pulling down of his government, when it was only half-way through, was a great loss for the country.

One People in Two Nations

That apart, the message, the record of Morarji Desai-Zia-ul-Haq interaction, conveys is that if India adopts a caring attitude to Pakistan’s security, stability and welfare, there would be a matching reciprocal response from Pakistan. After all, in the ultimate analysis, Indians and Pakistanis are ‘One People in Two Nations’. The Wagah border, which I visited many years ago, does not indicate any physical or cultural divide between the people who live on both sides of the border line. During my visits abroad, I had innumerable opportunities to interact with many Pakistanis. My experience is that when we go abroad, Pakistanis have been found to be our warm friends. They show their affinity and brotherly affection to us spontaneously, just due to the fact that we come from India.

At the peoples’ level this warm feeling for one another remains in the hearts of millions of ordinary people in both countries, though it has seldom been reflected at the establishment levels, except during the Prime Ministership of Morarji Desai. During my travels abroad, I have experienced the generous and affectionate hospitality of our Pakistani brotheren, without any expectation in return. Indeed, helping Indians is a passion for Pakistanis abroad. Similarly, it is on record that whenever Imran Khan came to India to play cricket, or whenever Pakistani singers like Noor Jahan came to India for performance, people of India enthusiastically celebrated the occasions.

Therefore, when there exists such a feeling of warmth in the inner recess of the peoples of India and Pakistan, it would be easy for political leaderships of both countries to pool their destinies together for achieving peace and common prosperity. It would free the sub-continent from the ill-conceived and ill-motivated meddling of big powers to exploit and draw huge benefits, like arms trade, for example, from the confrontationist relationship between India and Pakistan.

I am an optimist. I am sure that in the coming decades, India and Pakistan would follow the path which two Germanys have shown, on November 9, 1989, to peacefully come together and prosper together.

Prof Dr B. Vivekanandan is a former Chairman, Centre for American and West European Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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