U.S. & Kashmir

Published : Jan 01, 2010 00:00 IST

THERE is no country whose policies on the Kashmir dispute mattered to the parties, India and Pakistan, as much as did those of the United States, and no one is better equipped to provide an objective analysis of its policies than Howard B. Schaffer, who served in the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. He received his baptism as a Kashmir expert when he was deputed in March 1964 to pay an official visit to the State by Ambassador Chester Bowles. Schaffer has written biographies of Bowles and Ellsworth Bunker, who headed the Embassy later and was Ambassador to Bangladesh.

When this writer met Schaffer in New Delhi in December 1964, he found that Schaffer did not revel in certitude but relished scepticism. He has kept up his interest in the subcontinent and stands head and shoulders above the crop of obstreperous and bogus experts on India who have sprouted in the U.S. and hold forth to ignorant audiences in New Delhi. T.N. Kauls visa policy did a lot to deter American scholars from visiting India in the 1970s. Interest shifted to China. Indias rise and the eruption of militancy in Kashmir inspired studies on both, mostly of poor quality.

Schaffer has laboured hard in the archives and drawn extensively on the recollections of important diplomats. Ever willing to listen, he is not afraid to change his hypotheses. This is a work that deserves the widest readership in India and Pakistan and certainly in Kashmir.

India is prone to throw a fit at the very mention of mediation though it has never hesitated to seek American help to pressure Pakistan, which, in turn, has always relied on American help despite past experience. Mirwaiz Maulvi Umar Farooq, in particular, should read this book carefully. It will, one hopes, inject realism into his plea for American mediation. As the weaker, irredentist one, Pakistan has sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue. The primacy that the Clinton and Bush administrations have given to stability in Kashmir and hence to preserving the status quo on the ground makes these positions outdated.

The author explains that the book focusses on the activities, recommendations, and policy decisions of three generations of often frustrated U.S. officials as they dealt with the problem in Washington, the United Nations, and the subcontinent. The book also refers more briefly to the efforts of private American citizens and organisations to develop formulas that they hoped could contribute to progress toward a settlement. I have written it from an American perspective. I have reviewed Indian, Pakistani, and British material and exchanged ideas with South Asians in government and outside who are familiar with the Kashmir problem. But I have deliberately focussed primarily on official and non-official U.S. sources to craft my account and reach my conclusions. I have also drawn on my own Kashmir experiences as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer stationed in India and Pakistan in the 1960s and 1970s as well as my work in those years and later in State Department offices responsible for making American policy in the region. In the final chapter, I have recommended approaches to the problem in the context of broader U.S. policies on India and Pakistan and such pressing global issues as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and counterterrorism.

In the early years, both India and Pakistan solicited the United Kingdoms intercession in the conflict. The U.S. also deferred to the U.K. Before long, the sorcerers apprentice upstaged his mentor, to the latters dismay.

Only if India sheds its archaic policy on archives will we know the whole truth about the reference to the U.N. The original idea was a joint reference by both parties. It fell through. Had India not rushed in first, Pakistan would have and so might have Britain as a friend of both. Curzon did so on the Aalands issue on June 12, 1920. He moved the League of Nations Council. Although the United Nations preferred that the Indians and Pakistanis resolve the problem by direct negotiations and was at best lukewarm to internationalising the issue, it eventually decided to support the idea of a resolution requesting the United Nations to supervise a referendum in Kashmir if the draft of such a resolution was introduced by India or Pakistan and supported by Britain. Concern that the problem might be dumped on the United States if the United Nations did not intervene helped prompt Washington to adopt this approach. But U.S. policymakers worried that Indian recourse to the United Nations without a prearranged plan in place might lead to unnecessary complications and crystallise a pattern of India-Pakistan hostility. Events would prove this concern amply justified. Did India have a plan or policy beyond the reference to the U.N.? It was badly handled there.

The Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Affairs, Girija Shankar Bajpai, admitted to the British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations Patrick Gordon-Walker in New Delhi on February 21, 1948: The Indian delegation have been tactless and has [sic] unnecessarily alienated or failed to win over people. Two of the most egregious pomposities led the team N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar and M.C. Setalvad.

At a meeting with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Gopalaswami Ayyangar, Setalvad pointed out that the U.N. Security Council was not a court of law unlike the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague and that the whole scheme of the Charter was that the Security Council should try and bring about a solution of the disputes between nations by mediation and other measures. That body was very unlike a court of law and the dominant consideration which would weigh with its members would not be the rights and the wrongs of the dispute but its settlement by political means (My Life; page 124).

This puts paid to the falsehood that India was let down. The reference was made advisedly under Charter VI of the U.N. Charter on Pacific Settlement of Disputes and not under Charter VII on Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace; Breaches of the Peace; and Acts of Aggression.

Nehru could not have been ignorant of the difference. In a private communication, he himself emphasised it.

Nehru wanted some way out of the mess. The U.S. State Departments Guidance to its Permanent Representative to the Council, Warren R. Austin, said the only solution acceptable to all parties concerned in the Kashmir problem will eventually be a determination, probably by plebiscite, of the wishes of the inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir taking into account the possibility that some form of partition may be proposed. The possibility became an inevitability when Nehru soon discarded plebiscite and sought partition as Indian troops gained victories.

The legality of Kashmirs accession to India was considered. A memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs, George McGhee, and the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs, John Hickerson, to the Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, on February 6, 1950, recorded: In the opinion of the Office of the Legal Adviser, execution of an Instrument of Accession by the Maharajah in October, 1947, could not finally accomplish the accession of Kashmir to either Dominion, in view of the circumstances prevailing at that time; the question of the future of Kashmir remained to be settled in some orderly fashion under relatively stable conditions; this question is an important element in the dispute; and in proceedings before the Security Council neither party is entitled to assert that rights were finally determined by the Maharajahs execution of an Instrument of Accession.

It is the view of the United Kingdom Attorney General and Foreign Office legal advisers that the Maharajahs execution of the Instrument of Accession to India was inconsistent with Kashmirs obligations to Pakistan, and for that reason perhaps invalid.

Since the agreed and fair solution is to restore peaceful conditions so that the question of Kashmirs future may be decided by the freely expressed will of the people, efforts to deal with the Kashmir question on the basis of legal considerations alone or to assess original responsibilities for the difficulties that have arisen in Kashmir would not be fruitful. The Security Council should not permit this question to divert it from its basic task of bringing about a political solution of the Kashmir problem.

The Secretary of State wrote to the Embassy in Britain on February 11, 1950: Debate on legality of accession or blame for origin is irrelevant to common purpose of peaceful solution. In U.S. view Maharajahs act did not definitively settle rights of parties and offers India no basis for superior moral position. U.S. will make this view known in SC, only if necessary. A proposal to seek the World Courts ruling was dropped.

There were, indeed, some interventions that were improper; for instance, the Truman-Attlee messages to Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan in 1949 urging acceptance of arbitration if the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan so proposed it, as it did. Nehru justifiably resented this. It also showed the UNCIP in a poor light.

Nehrus volte-face on plebiscite could not possibly have escaped notice. By mid-1948, he had no qualms about proposing partition to the UNCIP, to Liaquat Ali Khan and to all who probed him closely. The pro-Indian Ambassador Henry F. Grady questioned his sincerity. His successor, Loy Henderson, a confirmed cold warrior, as Schaffer calls him, was more critical. In 1950, he became the first U.S. Ambassador to visit Kashmir. He found the military officers of the U.N. monitoring group and other foreigners in Kashmir almost unanimous in holding that the people of the Valley would prefer Pakistan to India if they had the opportunity to vote freely. Most thought that a majority prefer independence if offered that option.

The U.S. military alliance with Pakistan in 1954 predictably fortified Nehru in the hard line he had already taken. The author takes us through the sterile debates of that phase. John F. Kennedy and his friend and Ambassador to India Professor. J.K. Galbraith thought of an active role for the U.S. The details are most interesting.

Sitting in on the White House discussion, Ambassador Galbraith offered a different nonterritorial approach to a Kashmir settlement. India and Pakistan, he said, should retain the territory they currently held but permit greater movement between the two sides of the State. In his view, this concept offered the only way to resolve the dispute given competing and irreconcilable Indian and Pakistani demands for the Valley. Galbraith had floated the idea earlier with Nehru and had received a non-committal response. At the White House, the Prime Minister was more positive. He said that if territorial claims were dropped, all other questions could be resolved without difficulty. It was easy enough for him to take this position since Galbraiths formula let India retain the Kashmir Valley. Residents of the Valley in perhaps a larger area would move freely between the designated territory, India and Pakistan. The ceasefire line would no longer inhibit family, cultural, economic, and religious ties. Military forces would be reduced and eventually withdrawn along the line itself. Fundamentally, this is not different from Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs non-territorial approach, which former President Pervez Musharraf also espoused.

In 1963, the U.S. also toyed with plans for the partition of Kashmir a precisely drawn line that transferred to Pakistan substantial territory in the northwestern part of the Valley and the western portion of Jammu Province. India would receive a sliver of Pakistani-held territory above Kargil to provide it with a buffer area north of the vital road connecting the Valley with Ladakh. Provisions designed to soften the newly delineated international border were also included. There was to be free movement of people and goods between the Indian and Pakistani-held portions of the Valley, and Indian and Pakistani citizens from outside the Valley would have access to the other side. A joint Indian-Pakistani board would be organised to promote the Valleys economic development.

The author has in a footnote (51, on page 237) helpfully provided the details, which are quoted in extenso: The proposed division was spelled out in Department of State telegram 1093 to Karachi, January 21, 1963. (1) Indian authorities to retain control over the eastern and southern parts of the Kashmir Valley and enjoy unimpeded transit through it to Ladakh. (2) In order to protect its interests in Gilgit and Hunza, Pakistan must have improved access to these areas. Accordingly, the international border would enter the Valley just south of the Jhelum River and run to the outlet of Wular Lake so that the entire Muzaffarabad-Sopore road and a two-mile strip of territory to its southeast would be within Pakistans control, thence along the main course of the Mash Matti River, thence northward to a trijunction northeast of Burzil Pass where the Astor district line and the Skardu and Kargil tehsil lines intersect. The territory to the north and west of this line would be assigned to Pakistan, the balance of the Valley remaining with India. (In a subsequent message, Department of State telegram 3004 to New Delhi, January 28, 1965, the Department mentioned that it had told the British that Pakistan would get Bara.) (3) Outside the Valley, Punch, Mirpur and Muzaffarabad districts would come under Pakistans control. (4) The international border would divide Riasi district along the Chenab River northward to the point where the river turns east, then northward to the Riasi district, then westward along the district line between Punch and Anantnag, between Punch and Baramulla, and between Muzaffarabad and Baramulla. District lines would be followed to a point just south of where the Jhelum River and the Baramulla-Muzaffarabad road cross-exiting the Valley. (5) Northeast of the Burzil Pass the international border would follow the tehsil line separating Skardu from Kargil and Ladakh tehsils up to the Chinese border.

Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, asked Galbraith on February 5, 1963, as the Swaran Singh-Z.A. Bhutto talks were under way, whether Kashmir leaders should not be consulted. Galbraith feared, rightly, that they would oppose partition. The proposal was never repeated. Sheikh Abdullah was in prison until April 1964.

The U.S. and the U.K. jointly submitted in April 1963 a document entitled Elements of a Statement. It read thus:

1. Neither India nor Pakistan can entirely give up its claim to the Kashmir Valley. Each must have a substantial position in the Vale.

2. India and Pakistan must both have assured access to and through the Vale for the defence of their positions to the north and east. These defence arrangements must be such as not to impede a disengagement of Indian and Pakistan forces.

3. Outside the Valley, the economic and strategic interests of the two countries should be recognised, e.g. Indias position in Ladakh and Pakistans interest in the development of water storage facilities on the Chenab.

4. The position of the two countries in the Valley must be such as to permit (a) clearly defined arrangements for sovereignty and for the maintenance of law and order; (b) political freedom and some measure of local self-rule for the inhabitants; (c) free movement of the people of the Valley throughout the Vale, and their relatively free movement to other parts of Kashmir and to India and Pakistan; (d) the rapid development by India and Pakistan of tourism to the Kashmir area with its important foreign exchange potential for both countries; (e) the effective use in Kashmir of development funds, available from external sources, for such purposes as improving water and forestry resources, the development of communications and small industries, and improving the health and welfare of the people.

The proposal went far beyond Nehrus line, which envisaged cession of the Handwara area alone. According to Anthony Mann of the Daily Telegraph, Pakistan might have got as far as the Wular Lake, leaving Srinagar and areas to the east to India. Nehru rejected this obscene idea. So did Ayub Khan.

Nehru was angry at Galbraith for the proposals he made. Galbraith explained that reaction accurately. He had simply translated his vague talk of wanting of settlement into firm concessions he didnt want to make.

The situation within Kashmir belied Nehrus assessment. When Schaffer visited Kashmir in March 1964, he was struck by the widespread opposition among all classes of Muslims in the Valley to Kashmirs remaining a part of India. He wrote in his report, The most fundamental cause for this acute dissatisfaction is the Kashmiri Muslims feeling of separateness. They do not consider themselves Indians. D.P. Mishra said the same thing to T.C.A. Srinivasavaradan.

The reader will find his record of internal debates in the U.S. administration useful. The documents were not drawn up for public consumption or for posturing. There was not a trace of malice. Politics affected decisions that were inherently political, but it would be dishonest to assert that the world was set against India.

One upright civil servant, one of the best and brightest, had the courage to tell New Delhi off on this point. As Ambassador to the U.S., B.K. Nehru was not amused by the baby talk on Kashmir so beloved of the Ministry and the media, no less. A letter he wrote on September 24, 1963, to Commonwealth Secretary Y. D. Gundevia, a man as upright and courageous, exposes the establishments refuge in falsehood. It read thus:

1. Thank you for preparing and circulating to us the Report on the Conference of the Heads of Missions in South East Asia. It is a document which I have read with much interest and profit.

2. On page 21 of this booklet is the statement that the United States did not bother about the rights or wrongs of the case in regard to Kashmir, nor did they believe that Pakistan had a good case on Kashmir; they only support Pakistan as an ally.

3. It is my duty to point out, as I have done before, that this Embassy does not accept this assessment of the American view on Kashmir as correct. The Americans do believe that Pakistan has a good case on Kashmir though the administration is very careful not to say so and the sympathy with Pakistan is not only because Pakistan is an ally but because it is regarded as the wronged party.

A year later, in September 1964, when this writer called on B. K. Nehru at the Embassy in Washington, he described Krishna Menons panic not joy when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics vetoed a resolution in the Security Council. Will Adlai Stevenson move for referral of the matter to the General Assembly? he asked the Ambassador.

B.K. Nehru replied he could not tell. His candid assessment, which he shared with the writer, was that had the matter reached the Assembly our plight would have been no different from that of South Africa, the traditional accused.

In 1990, in the wake of the outbreak of the militancy, the U.S. dropped its support to plebiscite or the UN resolutions. Its stand has been that Jammu and Kashmir is disputed territory and the dispute is to be resolved by the parties to it, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Schaffer kept up his interest in the Kashmir issue. I and others who visited the Valley in the mid-1990s reported that it seemed like an occupied country. I recall that perhaps the most prominent (and depressing) aspect of the Srinagar scene was the sight of security forces bunkered down in heavily sandbagged bunkers keeping close watch on a sullen local population. These Kashmiri civilians, who had undergone years of trauma, found themselves trapped in the continuing political and military crossfire between the government and the insurgents and between competing militant groups. The human rights situation, an ongoing source of American concern, showed no real signs of improvement as the decade of the 1990s wore on.

Successive American ambassadors have been sensitive to Indias concerns. Frank Wisner pressed for holding elections even though the situation in 1996 was not conducive to a fair election. Robert Blackwill was a solitary black mark. L.K. Advani was misled by the bonhomie between the two to imagine the U.S. full support to Operation Parakram. By then 9/11 had altered the situation. Eventually the U.S. interceded to send the travel advisories, which did the trick. India wound up the operation, which had been undertaken at considerable expense and produced no result. The U.S. had, however, fairly indicated to Pakistan that it would not countenance its adventures either; witness Kargil.

India has been utterly inconsistent on U.S. mediation. Jaswant Singh proposed partition of Kashmir not to Pakistan, but to Strobe Talbott for transmission to Pakistan on July 9 or 10, 1998, at Frankfurt, 11 days after a public denial; at the State Department in August; and to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Manila.

Schaffer is completely wrong in claiming that the Kashmir Study Groups (KSG) exertions had any impact on India-Pakistan deliberations. The first set of proposals in 2000 were wildly unrealistic Jammu and Kashmir to be a sovereign entity without an international personality. The KSG instantly counted itself out of reckoning.

The second set of proposals (2005) for five self-governing entities was cumbrous. Neither the American specialists nor its NGOs (non-governmental organisations) nor the seminars he lists contributed. The former were unrealistic, and Indians and Pakistanis spoke at the seminars like patriots, as a Pakistani participant revealed. The writers impression was no different. In extended talks with this writer on August 1, 2006, and later, on and off the record, President Pervez Musharraf did not even once make the slightest reference to the KSGs venture, though many a model was cited. Nor did he mention it when speaking pointedly of models in a TV interview on May 12, 2007.

Convergence of ideas began with Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs interview to Jonathan Power (The Statesman, May 20, 2004). He was prepared to go beyond the stated positions. In speeches, subsequently, he articulated several concepts. Musharraf had been at the same exercise. The latter revealed on May 18, 2007, that a broad outline of a solution to the Kashmir dispute had been worked out but we have yet to reach a conclusion. Manmohan Singh said on May 2, 2009: General Musharraf and I had nearly reached an agreement. One thing after another prevented a summit the train blasts in Mumbai in July 2006, the crisis in Pakistans judiciary in March 2007, and the Mumbai attack on November 26, 2008.

Schaffer is altogether wrong in asserting that there was no movement in the formal talks nor has the Manmohan Singh government offered any further ideas about terms of settlement and that like other governments in New Delhi, it saw no urgency in taking serious initiatives to resolve the Kashmir issue save for the confidence-building measures (CBMs).

Evidently, he has not consulted the record since 2004. No previous government articulated concepts as this Prime Minister did. That and the total omission of any mention of the Satish Lamba-Tariq Aziz back channel set up by both the governments form an unfortunate and serious omission. Its narrative ends as on January 2009.

The India-Pakistan accord owes nothing to foreign inputs. It is a product of a purely indigenous process spread over months (see the writers survey A step closer to consensus, Frontline, December 15, 2006). The author is not the only member of the Kashmir Study Group to detect affinities between its recommendations and the agreed framework. One has heard this from a couple of other members, too; like beauty, the affinities lie in the eyes of the beholders.

That said, media aspersions must be repelled. The KSG was not a State Department-sponsored exercise but one initiated by a sincere American of Kashmiri origin, Farooq Kathwani, who is respected on both sides of the Line of Control. He set up the group. Some of its members, like Schaffer, were highly competent, some were not. One, the geographer Joseph E. Schwartzaerg, came across as a hare-brained enthusiast who fancied that Kashmir was a cake to be sliced neatly on the lines he confidently propounded.

Belying the mass of material in the book, whose lesson is well stated in its subtitle, Schaffer opines that several developments in recent years argue for a more active American approach and proceeds to suggest in detail, with equal unrealism, how President Barack Obama should set about it.

American mediation is not necessary at all. It would only wreck what India and Pakistan have achieved by themselves without foreign aid. That is not to say that the U.S. is not a factor in India-Pakistan relations; its exertions have been helpful in crisis situations. Americans should contain their strong ardour for a role in South Asia for such situations. Indians and Pakistanis have only themselves to blame if third-party intervention becomes necessary in such situations. No government was more chauvinistic than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime. None relied more on American help; most notably after it foolishly massed troops on the LoC and the international border in 2001-2002. Whether Advani was misled by Blackwill into thinking that he wielded more clout than he did and Blackwills braggadocio was legendary or not, it was an adventure that invited foreign intervention. As Mao Zedong taunted Nikita Khrushchev after the Cuban Missile Crisis, adventurism was followed by capitulation.

Read the full text of a neglected document. The Joint Statement issued on March 27, 2003, by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reflected the views of their principals, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, respectively. Blair was only too happy to be allowed to feel important.

The statement said, inter alia: Both sides should consider immediately implementing a ceasefire and taking other active steps to reduce tension by moves within the SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] context. This was a novel formulation. They knew, of course, that a SAARC summit was due and that it was Pakistans turn to host it. Sure enough, a few months later Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee declared a ceasefire in Srinagar, with characteristic bombast, and went to Islamabad in January 2004. The Foreign Ministry went into mourning at some formulations which Musharraf accepted in the Joint Statement, little realising that he had little room for manoeuvre. But the aftermath owed not a bit to that intercession. The progress in 2005-2006 was due exclusively to sensible moves by Musharraf and Manmohan Singh.

There has been a sea change in India-U.S. relations in the last decade and more. The hyphen with Pakistan is all but gone, but Pakistan remains as vital to U.S. interests as before. Kashmir counts for little in India-U.S. relations.

The volume of archival documents edited by Praveen Chaudhry and Marta Vanduzer-Snow is most instructive. A Memorandum for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated January 23, 1957, predicted a possible military attack in Kashmir not with any hope of successful military conquest, but with a view towards forcing the U.N. to intervene in order to restore the ceasefire and bring about the plebiscite. In 1965, Pakistan did just that and failed ignominiously.

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