Book Review

Book Review: Dinkar P. Srivastava's "Forgotten Kashmir: The Other Side of the Line of Control" sheds light on PoK

Print edition : November 19, 2021

Book cover of Forgotten Kashmir Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

June 7, 1947: Jawaharlal Nehru with Viceroy Mountbatten and Muhammad Ali Jinnah at a conference in New Delhi where Mountbatten disclosed Britain’s “partition” plan for India. Photo: THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

July 2, 1972: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan signing the Simla agreement. Photo: THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

This book fills an important gap in scholarship on the history and current state of the portion of Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan illegally occupied by Pakistan.

This book is timely, and, in a sense, was overdue. For decades, the question of Jammu and Kashmir has been viewed by the public, global as well as subcontinental, as a matter that Pakistan brings up from time to time at the United Nations or at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), where it blames India for not abiding by its commitments to U.N. resolutions. The state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir gets highlighted from time to time in the international media. However, what is happening in the portion of Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan hardly gets any mention. We do not know of any Indian scholar’s book on the state of affairs on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC).

Ambassador Dinkar Srivastava, eminently qualified by professional engagement with the whole question at the U.N. forum and elsewhere, has filled the gap by writing this book, which is fortified by his thorough research.

The illegally occupied territory consists of two parts: part of Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan acquired the first part by committing aggression and the second by manipulation in tandem with the British Indian government. The author has given a lucid account of all this. Often, the story of Gilgit-Baltistan is ignored or rendered inaccurately. One of the merits of this book is that little-known facts have been brought to light.

The author is to be commended for seeking out Pakistani writings on the subject. The Pakistani sources include the writings of two prominent actors: Major General Akbar Khan, who as Lieutenant Colonel led the ‘tribal invasion’, and Justice M.Y. Saraf, who was a Muslim Conference activist. The author has used Urdu sources too: for instance, Qudrat Ullah Shahab of the Indian Civil Service (ICS), who wrote on the formative years of Pakistan in his book Shahabnama.

The author points out that Pakistan took decisions on Kashmir without consulting the Kashmiris. He writes: “The Kashmiris were absent not only in the higher echelons of decision-making in Pakistan, but even within the Muslim Conference leadership…. Most of the Muslim Conference leaders were from Jammu, with little or no following in Kashmir.”

Pakistan’s violations

The book is well-structured with seven sections and 23 chapters. The first chapter is about the invasion. On August 12, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan. Even when that agreement was in force, in violation thereof, Pakistan started planning an invasion.

The original plan of transferring arms from the Pakistani military stores to the civilians to be sent to Jammu and Kashmir did not work out as the British Army chief refused to issue rifles. The way out was to use an existing approval to transfer 4,000 military rifles to the Punjab Police on the understanding that the latter would “transfer them for action in Kashmir”. With telling effect, the author quotes Pakistan’s written submission to the U.N., asserting: “The Pakistan government emphatically deny that they are giving aid and assistance to the so-called invaders…”

The author tells us about the little-known Karachi Agreement of April 1949 that made the so-called Azad Kashmir government an instrument at the disposal of Pakistan. It was an agreement secretly concluded between Pakistan on the one hand and the Muslim Conference and the president of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) government on the other.

The expression “PoK Government” is misleading. As the author says: “The PoK government was based neither on elections nor on a Constitution. It was a creation of Pakistan and run by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, based on the Rules of Business.” The text of the Karachi Agreement is given as annexure.

An entire chapter is devoted to how the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was dealt with at the U.N., in which the author with irrefutable logic demolishes Pakistan’s case. A plebiscite as proposed by the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was accepted by Pakistan in December 1948. If Pakistan were sure of winning the plebiscite, it could have withdrawn its forces and insisted on holding the plebiscite. The author states: “It did not want to relinquish the territory it had gained for the uncertain outcome of the plebiscite.” The account is a study in sound historical reasoning.

Sudhan revolt

The fourth chapter is on the Sudhan Revolt, once again a little-known page of history. Pakistan dismissed Sardar Ibrahim Khan as president of PoK in May 1950 and his tribe, the Sudhan, took to arms. The Pakistani military put down the rebellion.

The seventh chapter is about the Simla Agreement of 1972 and how Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then Pakistan Prime Minister, tightened Islamabad’s grip on PoK. We are given some little-known facts. A brief account of how Indira Gandhi was deceived by Bhutto would have been of interest to younger readers.

The 22nd chapter, titled “Wishes of the People”, robustly argues that Pakistan never cared for those wishes. The argument is detailed and solid.

There is a discussion on plebiscite and self-determination. The author says that it was [Governor General] Louis Mountbatten’s decision to insert the provision for a plebiscite while accepting the accession of Jammu and Kashmir. It needs to be pointed out, especially keeping younger readers in mind, that the matter is a little more complex.

The author writes: “Lord Mountbatten, while accepting the Maharaja of Kashmir’s unconditional offer to accede to the Indian Union, attached the condition that the State’s future should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people determined in a plebiscite.” This statement is historically inaccurate. There was no reference to any plebiscite in the Governor-General’s acceptance of the Instrument of Accession. Mountbatten, with the approval of the Cabinet, wrote a separate personal letter to the Maharaja saying: “As soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invaders, the question of State’s accession should be settled by reference to the people.”

The above is taken from Ambassador Narendra Singh Sarila’s well-researched book The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition. Obviously, the reader will be curious to know why Mountbatten did what he did and why the Cabinet let him do it. Mountbatten did it to keep the chances open for Kashmir to join Pakistan as Clement Attlee’s government in the United Kingdom wanted it. London saw Pakistan as an ally able and willing to support the West in the Cold War that was in the making.

However, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Cabinet had another reason. Strictly speaking, the Indian Independence Act did not make it obligatory for the princely states and statelets to join one of the two dominions. The Act stated that the ‘paramountcy’ ended, implying, without saying it in so many words, that the states were free to do what they wanted. London had, at one time, thought in terms of one or two states remaining independent.

For example, there was a thought that an independent Hyderabad would serve Britain’s strategic interests.

However, there was a change of policy on the part of London in 1947.

In his letter of instructions to Viceroy Mountbatten, Prime Minister Attlee had said: “It is of course important that the Indian States should adjust their relations with the authorities to whom it is intended to hand over power in British India…. but HMG [His Majesty’s Government] do not intend to hand over power and obligations under paramountcy to any successor State.”

Mountbatten, Sardar Patel, and V.P. Menon accomplished an exceptionally difficult task of the integration of the States.

We have to see the concurrence of the Nehru Cabinet to Mountbatten’s idea of plebiscite in Kashmir in the right historical context.

The Instrument of Accession, as drafted by V.P. Menon, made it clear that it was for the ruler to take the decision. Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah had already scored a point by accepting in September 1947 the accession of Junagadh, which had no land boundary with Pakistan.

Jinnah’s plans

The reader will note that Jinnah, who wanted partition on the basis of religion, was accepting of the accession of Junagadh, with 80 per cent Hindus. Nehru wrote to Jinnah proposing a referendum with both India and Pakistan agreeing to accept the result thereof. Jinnah did not agree. Eventually, the court in Junagadh requested India to take over. The Nawab of Junagadh had already fled to Pakistan with his collection of dogs. A referendum held later supported joining India by a huge margin.

It is also likely that Jinnah had wanted India to accept the principle that the ruler alone was competent to take the decision, keeping in mind the Nizam of Hyderabad who wanted independence. Jinnah wanted to prevent the accession of Hyderabad to India. An independent Hyderabad, in the heart of India and friendly to Pakistan, was an important objective for Jinnah.

Mountbatten insisted that the Nizam should disband the Razakars [a private militia] and hold a referendum and an election, for an eventual accession to India. The accession of Hyderabad was settled only in September 1948. In short, there was good reason for the Nehru Cabinet to agree with Mountbatten’s offer to conduct a plebiscite in Kashmir in October 1947.

Those who blame Nehru for the offer of plebiscite are on a weak wicket. It should be added that the author does not belong to that school of thought.

The last chapter, titled ‘Ideology, Strategy, and Future of PoK’, starts with a quotation from Gibran Peshimam, a Pakistani journalist, on the pathetic condition of the people there: “It is a land and a people with a past, and perhaps a future—but with no present.” The Constitution is “interim”, though with 13 amendments since 1973. The people have no representation in Pakistan’s National Assembly.

The book could have been edited better. A map or two, a few photographs, and a chronology can be considered for future editions.

This book will be of interest to the general public as well as to scholars. Let us hope that it will be read in Pakistan. Let us also hope to see a healthy academic debate between scholars across the LoC, a debate where the interlocutors have mastered the art of disagreeing agreeably.

Ambassador K.P. Fabian is Distinguished Fellow at Symbiosis University. His book The Arab Spring That Was And Wasn’t is about to be published.