Balochistan vs Kashmir

Print edition : December 09, 2016

In his Independence Day speech from ther Red Fort in 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of India's ties with Baloch leaders. Photo: Money Sharma/AFP

The Hindu Sena staging a demonstration in support of the "freedom struggle" in Balochistan in August at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. "You may do one Mumbai, you may lose Balochistan," he said at a lecture in 2014. Photo: Kamal Narang

Brahamdagh Bugti, founder of the Baloch Republican Party. He applied for political asylum in India in September.

Naela Quadri Baloch addressing a press conference in Mumbai on November 1. She has asked for a government-in-exile and demanded India's support. Photo: Indranil Mukherjee

A January 2006 photograph showing rebel tribesmen guarding Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti (centre) in the remote mountainous area of Dera Bugti in Balochistan province. The Indian External Affair Ministry's paid a glowing tribute to him in its condolence message after he was killed by Pakistani forces in his cave hideout in August 2006. Photo: Banaras Khan/AFP

Letter from the Nizam of Hyderabad to the Governor General of India, C. Rajagopalachari.

The pursuit of a tit-for-tat diplomacy will not get India anywhere because Balochistan and Kashmir are not on a par, legally and politically. The time has come for India to drop the Baloch card and work for the settlement of Kashmir.

“PAKISTAN’s vulnerabilities are many times higher than us [ sic]. Once they know that India has shifted gear from defensive mode to defensive-offence, they will find that it is unaffordable for them. You may do one Mumbai, you may lose Balochistan,” Ajit Doval, now Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Security Adviser, said at the 10th Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture at Sastra University, Thanjavur, on February 21, 2014. This was three months before he became NSA and the Manmohan Singh government was still in power.

The shock this Doval Doctrine of “defensive-offence” induced precluded any cool analysis of its implications (see the writer’s “The Doval doctrine”, Frontline, November 13, 2015). Doval was advocating a diplomacy of tit for tat with full knowledge of the perils it entailed, not least among them being the risk of matters getting out of hand in the retaliatory ladder of escalation. This becomes apparent when one moves from the doctrine to the specific, Balochistan.

Whoever perpetrated the Mumbai attacks committed a dastardly crime. But at no time did India ever allege that Pakistan’s top leaders were complicit in it. Is it not a wholly disproportionate retaliation to secure the detachment of one of Pakistan’s four provinces? Would its leaders, civil and military, sit back with folded hands when this is being attempted? And the Great Powers in the “Security Council”, especially China, which now has a stake in Balolchistan? And, pray, how does Doval propose to detach Balochistan? By military invasion? Far from it. Our “intelligence commando” has other plans whose elements are no secret. He proposes to do this by fomenting subversion through covert action. He could not possibly have made the claim (“you may lose Balochistan”) unless India had acquired significant “assets” there—as they are called in the idiom of covert operations—over the years. They cannot be acquired instantly. It is these existing assets, acquired, trained and funded over the years, which emboldened Doval to speak as confidently as he did.

An extremely well-documented book by acknowledged scholars has made a timely appearance now. It is Not War, Not Peace by George Perkovich and Toby Dalton (Oxford University Press, 2016). It is based on interviews with persons in the know. It has a whole chapter on covert operations in which they write: “The American scholar Christine Fair reported that in 2009 she visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, and concluded that it was an element of a broader covert action programme against Pakistan. ‘I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar-i-Sharif (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Kandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Balochistan.’

“Reports and allegations of Indian covert involvement in Balochistan and elsewhere invite distinctions to be made and debated. India, like other states and sympathetic outsiders, could draw a line between providing funds, logistical support, and political encouragement to dissident groups in Pakistan and, alternatively, providing equipment, training, and operational support for violent action. Pakistan naturally would oppose both categories of interference. …

“In Karachi it is likely that India has provided funds to some leaders of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). Like major regional and global powers, India could perceive an interest in covertly funding relatively friendly political movements and parties in another country. The MQM in Karachi has provided an opportunity to do so. …

“From this brief survey, it is safe to say that India has not been purely abstemious in the use of covert agents and actions against Pakistan. This is especially evident when Afghanistan is included along with Pakistani territory as the area of operations for Indian agents” (pages 147-149).

Yet, all hell broke loose when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allowed this one sentence to find a place in the famous Joint Statement he issued with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh on July 16, 2009: “Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.” Given the realities, could the unilateral mention have been any milder? Congress president Sonia Gandhi got her party spokesman to disassociate himself from the statement with the dishonest assertion that this was the government’s business not the party’s.

By then both India and Pakistan knew what each was doing to the other. What General (retired) Pervez Musharraf told former Foreign Secretary Maharaj Krishna Rasgotra at Islamabad on August 7, 2000, is highly significant. Rasgotra records: “I added: ‘You sure have some problems in your part of Kashmir, we are not adding to your difficulties. (He did not cavil at or contest this.) We have problems on our side, which Pakistan-sponsored violence has aggravated. Political wisdom demands that you handle your problems peacefully and leave us alone to handle ours peacefully. When the situation is calmed, India and Pakistan, as sovereign entities, should sit together and address the issue and amicably resolve it to mutual satisfaction or mutual dissatisfaction. The key lies in stopping violence and creating a proper environment for the dialogue.’

C.E. ‘Rasgotra Sahib, as for violence I know what we are doing; and I also know what you are doing. I’ll say no more.’ I tried to draw him out a bit, but he simply repeated the sentence and asked me not to press him, for elaboration.

This was the most enigmatic (and pregnant) sentence of this conversion. We should carefully consider its implications. Are we doing anything in Pakistan similar to what Pak[istan] is doing in the Valley?” (Rasgotra, A Life in Diplomacy, Penguin, page 407, emphasis here as in the original, elsewhere, added.)

Under UPA and earlier

On August 28, 2006, when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power, the Ministry of External Affairs felt itself emboldened enough to say: “The unfortunate killing of the veteran Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, is a tragic loss to the people of Balochistan and Pakistan. This military attack, in which reportedly two of his grandsons were also killed, and the heavy casualties in the continuing military operations in Balochistan underline the need for peaceful dialogue to address the grievances and aspirations of people of Balochistan. Military force can never solve political problems. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti played a prominent role in Pakistani politics for over four decades. His death leaves a vacuum that will be difficult to fill.” This went beyond a message of condolence. One wonders how India would react if any foreign state were to comment thus on the death of a Kashmiri separatist.

By 2000, the game was on. It had begun in the early 1950s when the Afghan Ambassador to India, Najibullah, flouting the “third country” rule, regularly attacked Pakistan. It was India’s riposte to Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. After 1979, India supported the Soviet-installed regimes in Afghanistan. Later, as Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan deteriorated, India developed close relations with President Hamid Karzai and his successor, Ashraf Ghani. India would, of course, fiercely object to Pakistan’s tit for tat in Nepal. This policy had begun well before the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir.

This is the situation Prime Minister Narendra Modi inherited. He acquired the services of one whom even the intelligence community dubbed a “hardliner”—Ajit Doval, former Chief of the Intelligence Bureau and, after his retirement, director of the Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi. Retirees from the armed services who found a berth there revealed their stripes in the articles they wrote in the press. Modi found Doval a man after his heart. His son Shaurya is now director.

Recent posturings

Burhan Wani’s murder on July 8, 2016, set Kashmir aflame. New Delhi did not know how to react. Modi is adamantly opposed to any concessions on Kashmir; whether to the people or to Pakistan. Days after the crisis erupted, New Delhi took the familiar route—blame Pakistan. By common consent, infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) was at an all-time low. There were 200 militants in Kashmir, mostly local. When the Pakistan front seemed to be unpromising, Modi, on Doval’s advice, opened the Balochistan front which, as Christine Fair revealed, had long been simmering.

On August 12, 2016, Modi said: “Time has come that [ sic] Pakistan will have to answer to the world about the atrocities being committed on people in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir [PoK].” Will the world shut its eyes to the Indian part of Kashmir? A fine invitation to the “internationalisation” that India dreads.

The real opening salvo was fired on Independence Day, August 15, 2016. Modi threw Gilgit as well into the bargain: “Today, from the ramparts of Red Fort, I want to greet and express my thanks to some people. In the last few days, people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me and expressed gratitude and expressed good wishes for me. The people who are living far away, whom I have never seen, never met—such people have expressed appreciation for the Prime Minister of India.” One wonders what the hard-boiled foreign envoys assembled there thought of this achievement.

One astute correspondent noted that Modi made no reference to his descent at Raiwind, at four hours’ notice, to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday in December 2015. The situation in the territories he mentioned could not have been different then. Concern for their people is a recent acquisition. Foreign Secretary Shyama Saran chipped in: “Although we made those references to Balochistan in 2005-2006, and even asked our High Commissioner to visit Gilgit-Balochistan, we never followed it up at the time, as the government was divided on the issue” ( The Hindu, August 16). None doubts the line of the divide. The principled and sensible Manmohan Singh would have none of such ventures, no matter what NSA, M.K. Narayanan, said.

Already by then, “Baloch separatists” in exile were enjoying Indian hospitality in New Delhi. They belonged to the Free Balochistan Movement. Their leader was one Balaach Pardili Baloch. Described as “the representative of the Free Balochistan Movement in India”, he “has been a resident in India for some years”. He first addressed a public event in Delhi in October 2015—when the Valley was quiescent. His leader, based in London, was Hyrbyair Marri. They immediately upped the ante, to the embarrassment of their hosts—“support a Baloch government in exile”. As a bait, Marri rejected both “Pakistan’s origins and its claims on Kashmir” ( The Hindu, August 16).

Pakistan has good company, China. For, New Delhi also put out feelers to the Tibetan Prime Minister in exile, Loksang Sangey, and to Taiwan and the Uighurs ( The Telegraph, August 16). The Hindustan Times correspondent reported that Modi’s remarks were also aimed at China. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passed through all the three areas that Modi mentioned (August 18). China reacted to Modi’s speech with a warning that it would “have to get involved” if the Corridor was disturbed ( The Times of India, August 29).

On September 22, New Delhi received Brahamdagh Bugti’s application for political asylum. He had applied at the Indian Consulate in Geneva three days earlier. He is the founder of the Baloch Republican Party. Soon enough, his cousin Shahzain Bugti voiced a different view. He said at the annual convention of his Jamhoori Watan Party in Karachi that the Bugti tribe would fight for Pakistan in the event of war with India. “Brahamdagh can stay in India or Geneva; that is his personal decision. But as far as I or the party is concerned, we will always follow the dictates of Nawab Akbar Bugti.” He said that his grandfather, Nawab Akbar Bugti, “was always with Pakistan” ( The Hindu, September 26).

There now descended on New Delhi yet another guest, one Tarek Fateh, a Pakistani settled in Canada. He parked himself in New Delhi for days and performed with gusto on TV channels. He participated in a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) seminar in New Delhi on “Baloch Nationality”. Another participant was Mazdak Dilshad Baloch ( The Telegraph, October 2). The group acquired another member on October 11—the Kabul-based Naela Quadri Baloch. Soon a fierce competition began for New Delhi’s favours. No sooner had Naela Quadri set foot at the Palam airport than Brahamdagh Bugti attacked her: “Naela Quadri is not representing the Baloch people. Rather than supporting, they are damaging the Baloch cause with their insane actions. Government-in-exile is a national issue and national issues cannot be announced without national consensus.” He had stopped at seeking political asylum; she had gone further and asked for a government-in-exile (The Hindu, October 14).

The issues are daunting. Who will fund that rump? New Delhi, of course. But on whom will its bounty be showered? That depends on the ones who become its President, Prime Minister and Ministers. Can you trust this squabbling lot to agree on its composition even if the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) offers its mediatory services? For, on that depends which “patriot” gets the bigger slice of the cake.

Second front

This is not all. The Free Balochistan Movement in London opened a Second Front. It was against China’s presence in Balochistan ( Sunday Guardian, October 16). The government-in-exile will, doubtless, have an active and very imaginative foreign policy from its base in India. Shweta Desai reported in DNA on October 16: “Weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s August 15 Red Fort speech, when he mentioned human rights atrocities by Pakistan Balochistan, prominent separatist leader Naela Quadri Baloch had been quietly meeting policymakers, retired military generals, intellectuals and rights groups, making a case for Indian intervention in Balochistan. The feisty leader, in her second visit to India, is laying the groundwork for a ‘government in exile’ by building public consensus. In a conversation with DNA’s Shweta Desai, Quadri talks about how helping Balochistan will help India kill two birds with one stone—weaken Pakistan and its sponsoring of terrorism, and give a safe passage to India in Eurasia.”

She said: “Independent Balochistan will benefit India first in security. Weakening Pakistan will weaken the terrorism being sponsored from there. It will also help in containing China, which is developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and prevent it from setting up a base in Indian Ocean. Thirdly, it will provide a safe and short passage to India in Eurasia, which it can get in Balochistan through the sea route. This is beneficial for India to get its resources, gas, and oil from the region as its energy requirement will double by 2030.

“India is a developing the Chabahar port in Iran, which is in occupied Sistan Baloch province. We welcome India. Why is China so insecure and not able to move freely in the province for its CPEC project? (Armed Baloch insurgents attack Chinese employees in Balochistan as it opposes Pakistan’s occupation and Chinese involvement.) We don’t want the same to happen to Indian nationals in Chabahar as we love and respect India. We want India to emphasise to Iran and Afghanistan to protect the human rights of Baloch nationals living in their region. Iranian forces have already started killing Baloch people and displacing villages for the development of ports, like the ones in Kumb-Moradabad and Roshanabad. Pakistan’s development of Gwadar port for China has resulted in the genocide of our people and now Iranians are doing the same in Chabahar. India can’t criticise human rights atrocities against Balochs in Pakistan and ignore those being committed in Iran. It needs to take a stand.” She was asked: “You are here to form a government in exile. What is its mechanism?” She replied: “This will be a representative government for 40 million Baloch nationals all over the world. Our liberation movement has trained us in creating democratic political structures like the Baloch Students Organisation, which has numerous units. We will ask the Baloch people to follow this pattern and elect representatives/councillors and send them to India. They will be facilitated in India for a National Council Session here. They will create a constitution, adopt a flag and national anthem, which will be recognised by the council. There will be elections among councillors, after which a cabinet will be formed. We want this process to be autonomous by the Balochs, for the Balochs and of the Balochs, and no interference from India. We want India to provide moral, logistical support and resources to create this government.” She had, to be sure, received the RSS’ invaluable support.

Cold feet

The signs are that New Delhi has begun to develop cold feet. These squabbling Baloch leaders will ruin India’s relations with China as well as Iran. Baloch separatists will any time cut a deal with Pakistan, leaving India high and dry. Brahamdagh Khan Bugti said in Washington, D.C. that he was prepared to talk to Pakistan. “We are practical people. We will talk” ( Dawn, August 2016).

The United States State Department spokesman John-Kirby said on September 15 that the U.S. “respects the unity and territorial integrity of Pakistan and we do not support independence for Balochistan” ( The Telegraph, September 16).

However, while accepting that Balochistan is Pakistan’s territory, the U.S., increasingly India’s “natural ally”, also holds that Jammu AND Kashmir is very much a disputed territory. This was stated unequivocally, in so many words, as late as on August 20, 2015, by none other than the Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, Peter R. Lavoy: “Jammu and Kashmir is disputed territory.” There was no change in the U.S. position, he explained. “We do acknowledge that this is a contested territory; or contested border between India and Pakistan” ( The Asian Age ,August 21, 2015). To this day, United Nations maps carry the legend “The Final Status of Jammu and Kashmir has not yet been agreed upon by the parties”. Kashmir cannot be put on a par with Balochistan. Such a policy is doomed to failure.

The timing suggests two things. The “infrastructure” of intervention was long in place. Failure to tackle the revolt in Kashmir led to desperation. The Baloch card was used in the foolish belief that Pakistan was behind the revolt. It was not, as even Omar Abdullah said. In the three months since Modi spoke on August 15, the revolt has not subsided.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley let the cat out of the bag on August 12. “Asked why the Prime Minister had raised the question of Balochistan and PoK, Jaitley said Modi’s remarks were in the context of Pakistan’s interference in the internal affairs of India” ( Indian Express, August 13). But Kashmir is not on a par with Balochistan, legally and politically.

The episode illustrates the knee-jerk, impetuous character of the Modi-Doval decision-making process. It calls for a close study by itself. It is reflected in other policies as well. Evidently, no thought was given to Balochis within Balochistan. The pliable exiles were all that mattered. Exiles are a notoriously embittered lot. Undoubtedly, though, over the years Pakistan’s policies in Balochistan have been disgraceful.

Earlier meddlings

It has happened twice before. Pakistanis were angered by Indian intervention. On March 28, 1948, the Khan of Kalat issued a communique that said: “On the night of 27 March, 1948, All India Radio, Delhi, announced that two months ago Kalat State had approached the Indian Union to accept its accession to India and that the Indian Union had rejected the request… It had never been my intention to accede to India… It is, therefore, declared that on 9 pm on 27 March 1948, the time when I heard the false news over the air, I forthwith decided to accede to Pakistan, and that whatever differences now exist between Kalat and Pakistan be placed in writing before Mr Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan, whose decision I shall accept.”

The United Kingdom High Commissioner, Lawrence-Graftey Smith, commenting on the Khan’s denials, wrote: “Khan’s public denials of rumours about offers made to him by India and Afghanistan conflict with his own statements in earlier discussion with Pakistan representatives, when he used these offers as a blackmailing argument. There was good reason to believe that he has been flirting with both India and Afghanistan.”

While the Instrument of Accession was signed by the Khan of Kalat on March 27, it was placed before Jinnah on March 31, 1948; Jinnah accepted it. “There was no kind of resistance to the accession till the middle of July 1948, when the brother of the Khan returned from Afghanistan, where he had fled with a body of armed followers. The Pakistan Army engaged this band and the majority of his followers arrested.” (Dushka H. Saiyid, The Accession of Kalat: Myth and Reality, Strategic Studies, page 43.)

The second such instance was in 1984 when the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was making headway against Zia. Indira Gandhi’s statements in its support harmed the movement.

Chastening perspective

Hamid Mir has been a fearless critic of the establishment in Pakistan. His comments on Modi’s performance should open people’s eyes: “Maybe Modi is not aware that many Baloch militant outfits want to unite Pakistani Balochistan with parts of Sistan-o-Balochistan province of Iran where India is building Chabahar port. Maybe he was trying to divert attention from Kashmir by playing the Balochistan card, but some Baloch people think he actually helped the Pakistan establishment … most separatist Balochis who are thanking Modi are in the West. They are not present on the ground because they lack public support. …

“Many in India claim that Pakistan forcefully occupied Balochistan in 1948. But facts are different from fiction. There were four princely states ruled by Baloch leaders in 1947. The Baloch tribal areas and Quetta Municipality were separate entities. On 29 June 1947, the Tribal Jirga (54 members) and Quetta Municipality (100 members, including Hindus and Sikhs) voted for Pakistan, including Nawab Akbar Bugti, grandfather of Brahamdagh Bugti, who thanked Modi for his 15 August statement. Akbar Bugti not only voted for Pakistan but also helped Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League financially. …

“Sorry to say, Modi actually strengthened the Pakistan establishment in Balochistan. Time will prove the speech was one of Modi’s biggest mistakes. … The Indian PM tried to internationalise Balochistan but, in fact, he internationalised hatred between India and Pakistan and helped the hate-mongers” ( Outlook, September 5).

Mirror images

Kalat’s case was a mirror image of Hyderabad. India and Pakistan could not have permitted them to survive and weaken the new nation states. Hyderabad wanted return of Berar; Kalat asked for return of Quetta and much else. India took over first the feudatories of Junagadh and then Junagadh itself. Pakistan did the same to Kalat.

As always, V.P. Menon spoke realistically and honestly. In a brief for the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, his Reforms Commissioner wrote: “The States with which the Dominion of Pakistan is concerned are Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Kalat and the States in the N.W.F.P [North West Frontier Province]. All these States have Muhammadan Rulers with a predominant Muslim population. The principle which both India and Pakistan ought to follow is ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s’. If some sort of an understanding is not reached on this matter between the two Dominions, there is bound to be serious trouble ahead. Kalat is a frontier State and ought really to go into Pakistan. …

“Kashmir presents some difficulty. It is claimed by both the Dominions, and at the present moment my feeling is that the issue should not be forced by either party. It is possible that a predominantly Muslim State like Kashmir cannot be kept away from Pakistan for long and we may leave this matter to find its natural solution.”

The districts of Kalat that were directly administered by the Khan were Makran, Jhalawan, Sarawan, Kachhi and Dombki and Kaheri. The status of Kharan and Las Bela was disputed as the rulers claimed not to be under the suzerainty of the Khan of Kalat. Balochistan was a playground for its many Sirdars.

1947 Accord ripped apart

India has not only waded into a marsh but ripped apart the India-Pakistan Accord of 1947, an aspect which is not noticed. An Experts Committee comprising members from both sides was set up then to consider the effect of Partition “on the existing treaties and engagements between India and other countries and tribes”. Annexure V contained a list of 627 treaties and engagements. Treaties Nos. 109-124 between the British Crown and Kalat were listed as ones “of exclusive interest to Pakistan”. More relevant to our times, item No.143 concerned “The Indo-Tibetan Boundary Agreement of 1914 regarding fixation of Assam-Tibet boundary”, that is, the McMahon Line. Item Nos. 149 to 158 covered treaties with Afghanistan, including the ones on the Durand Line. The Steering Committee accepted this. So, did the Partition Council. On August 14, 1947, the Governor General made an Order, under Section 9 of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, endorsing the India-Pakistan Agreement, based on the Experts Report, which was set out in a Schedule. The result is that India cannot question Kalat’s status nor the Durand Line, and Pakistan cannot question the McMahon Line, either ( Partition Proceedings, Vol. III, Experts Committees, Nos. III-IX, Government of India Press, 1948, pages 226-230).

Tenuous title to J&K

The map attached to The White Paper on Indian States, published by the Government of India after the Constitution came into force in 1950, shows Balochistan as a part of Pakistan. Its depiction of Jammu and Kashmir as Indian territory runs counter to the depiction in the U.N.’s maps.

What is the root of India’s title to the State of Jammu and Kashmir? It cannot be the popular will, for that will was never ascertained by a plebiscite. A plebiscite was held in Junagadh on February 20, 1948, after the administration of the State was taken over by the Government of India in November 1947. It was called a “referendum” ( White Paper on Indian State 1950: 114) and was conducted by the Indian Civil Service officer C.B. Nagarkar. Out of an electorate of 201,457, a total of 190,870 cast their votes. Only 91 voted for Pakistan. Of the 31,434 votes cast in Junagadh’s five princeling areas, only 39 voted for accession to Pakistan (V.P. Menon, Integration of Indian States, 1956, page 142).

A referendum was also held in Sikkim. The Election Commission of India conducted it on April 14, 1975, “to confirm the resolution” passed in the Sikkim Assembly on the State’s merger with India in 1973-74. Nari Rustomji, ICS, whose services were placed with the Chogyal in 1954 for appointments as his Prime Minister, opined that “it would be injudicious to assess, however, that the resolution respecting Sikkim’s merger with India … necessarily represented the wishes of the people”. He recorded the demand for a “completely impartial authority” to conduct the poll and added that “the Army and the heavy Indian presence in Sikkim were also factors that inevitably weighed in influencing the vote”.

The democratic principle was formally applied only because the result was a forgone conclusion. In the case of Kashmir, a plebiscite was never held also because the result was a foregone conclusion. Indira Gandhi warned Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter from Srinagar on May 14, 1948, while the war was on, that “they say that only Sheikh Saheb is confident of winning the plebiscite”. On August 13, 1947, Kashmir’s Prime Minister Janak Singh—no friend of Pakistan—opined “the bulk of Muslims will not accept [a] decision to accede to India”. On October 26, 1947, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar advised his colleagues that “immediate accession might create further opposition”. Hence the condition in Mountbatten’s letter, collateral to the Maharaja’s Instrument of Accession, on a reference to the people. Nearly 70 years later, that reference is yet to be made.

Fig leaves of legality

The signatures of the autocratic Maharajas, propped up by the British, which appeared on the various Instruments of Accession were just so many fig leaves of legality. Neither Junagadh nor Sikkim nor even Hyderabad signed any Instrument of Accession. What the Nizam of Hyderabad did accept was a “virtual accession” by his “letter dated the 18th November 1948” (see illustration on page 57).

It is utterly devoid of any legal efficacy. Accessions were not governed by the Indian Independence Act, 1947, as V.K. Krishna Menon dishonestly asserted, but by the Government of India Act, 1935, which was adapted to serve as India’s interim Constitution. Section 6 of the Act prescribed a precise procedure for the accession. There must be a formal declaration of accession by the ruler in regard to the three federal subjects—defence, foreign affairs and communication—and also an explicit adherence to the federal framework under the Act. This must be coupled with the Governor General’s formal acceptance. The Nizam’s letter did nothing of the kind. It was like a “power of attorney” to the Centre. A plebiscite was promised to the people of Hyderabad. It was not held.

The fact that like the Nizam, the ruler of Kashmir accepted the Constitution of India on November 25, 1949, is irrelevant. It provides for Kashmir’s secession from India. The post-Constitution White Paper on Indian States itself says that “the accession of this State is subject to confirmation by the people of the State” (paragraph 221, page 111). These are strong words.

Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary General of the Ministry of External Afairs, in a letter to the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan on November 21, 1949, spoke of “the Government of India’s determination to abide, in the matter of accession, by the freely declared will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Should that will be against the State continuing to be part of India, if and when it comes to be expressed in a constitutional way under conditions of peace and impartiality, the representation of the State in Indian Parliament would automatically cease and the provisions of the Constitution of India that govern the relations of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India will also cease to operate”.

The proviso to Article 254 says: “Provided that after the commencement of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, no decision affecting the disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be made by the Government of India without the consent of the Government of that State.” The issue is therefore open still. We have a later text: the Shimla Agreement of July 2, 1972. It pledges the parties to respect each other’s “territorial integrity” [paragraph 1(v)]. In contrast, it binds them to strive for “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”.

Kashmir is not on a par with Balochistan. The time has come to drop the Balochistan card and work for a settlement of Kashmir in both its dimensions, external and internal. In 2016, plebiscite is dead; not so the solemn and repeated pledges to the people of Kashmir.

There is a dispute to be settled

As a first step we must accept what the world acknowledges— there is a dispute to be settled. It is no use talking of Kashmir as an atoot ang of India or as a jugular vein of Pakistan. “In the opinion of the Office of the Legal Adviser [of the U.S. State Department], the execution 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” (Foreign Relations of the U.S., South Asia, Vol V; page 1,379). Britain’s Attorney-General and Foreign Office questioned the validity of the Instrument.

The cowardly Maharaja had fled, deserting his people and thus relinquishing his title as ruler. Of what avail the fig leaf when the tree itself is gone? Kashmir cannot be settled by legal debates, only by political conciliation.

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