Hypocrisy on Kashmir

Print edition : February 17, 2017

July 1950: Liaquat Ali Khan (left), Prime Minister of Pakistan, with Sir Owen Dixon, United Nations Mediator on Kashmir, and Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi. Photo: The Hindu Archives

July 1972: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signing the Simla Agreement in Shimla. The agreement helped preserve the status quo on Jammu & Kashmir. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Seventy years after the Kashmir issue erupted, it is time to go beyond the deliberately untenable positions that the governments of India and Pakistan have adopted and find a way out that involves the Kashmiris too.

ON October 26, 2017, it will be exactly 70 years since the dispute between India and Pakistan on the State of Jammu and Kashmir erupted. It remains unresolved to this day. But there is a solid agreement between the two states to maintain positions which each knows to be untenable and, while doing so, to deceive their respective peoples, especially the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is an accord on hypocrisy which bids fair to last long. Neither country cares one bit for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Both covet its beautiful territory.

Now nuclear-weapon states, both India and Pakistan know that the status quo cannot be altered by force. But the status quo is inherently unstable and oppressive. The revolt in Kashmir, which lasted most of 2016, provides additional proof of that. Time has proved that it cannot provide a solution as India fondly imagines. India calculates that use of force and recourse to bribery, and the services of the likes of Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, an appropriate successor to the arch stooge Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, will help in crushing the people. They are unlikely to succeed where Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, G.M. Sadiq and Mir Qasim failed. One of India’s biggest assets is the division in the ranks of the separatists and the incubus that is the extremist and ambitious Syed Ali Shah Geelani with his demand for “All or nothing”. If neither India nor Pakistan can evict the other by force, the separatists cannot overthrow Indian rule either.

The Kashmir dispute cannot possibly be resolved except by an honest acceptance of four stark realities: (a) there does exist a dispute on the “disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir”, to use the words in the proviso to Article 253 of the Constitution of India which implicitly recognises its disputed status; (b) there are three parties to the dispute—India, Pakistan and the people of the State; (c) the dispute can be resolved only by a compromise which necessarily means concession by all parties; and (d) there are, however, clear limits to any compromise which the three parties can make: 1. India cannot allow the State to secede from the Indian Union; 2. Pakistan cannot accept the Line of Control as an international border; 3. The people of Kashmir cannot accept its partition, or denial of democracy and human rights.

Any compromise must reckon with these realities if it is to be acceptable to all the three parties and be workable. It will have to be endorsed by the parliaments of the two countries and the legislature of Jammu and Kashmir, elected after the parties agree on the rules of an honest and free election. There are politicians in all three sides who play on their people’s emotions; Geelani being the foremost among them in his bid for the supreme leadership of the secessionist movement. He revealed his ambitions to be the sole leader openly in 2008 at a public meeting but was forced to retract it in the face of the ensuing outcry.

It is Kashmiris who should devise a realistic via media and press India and Pakistan for its acceptance. Geelani’s demagogy has ensured that such an exercise cannot even begin. The hope lies in the Joint Resistance League’s plea on December 14, 2016, for the formulation of a sustainable campaign of peaceful agitation. That done, it must proceed further and reflect on a viable final solution as well.

Meanwhile, the least India and Pakistan can do is shed their vituperative references to the lands in Jammu and Kashmir which each administers. Pakistan speaks of India-held Kashmir; India talks of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The BBC opts for Indian or Pakistan “administered” Kashmir. Why not settle on East and West Kashmir? Both states practise hypocrisy on Kashmir on an industrial scale. This is not merely a matter of nomenclature; it is reflective of a certain diplomatic stance which denies totally any legitimacy to the other side’s position.

To begin with Pakistan, it swears by the two resolutions of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), which both sides had accepted; the ones of August 13, 1948 (or a ceasefire and a truce agreement), and of January 5, 1949 (containing a detailed procedure for a plebiscite in Kashmir). The ceasefire resolution (1948) envisages total withdrawal of Pakistan’s troops but only “the bulk” of Indian troops. Under the plebiscite resolution (January 5, 1949), the Plebiscite Administrator was to “be formally appointed to office by the Government of Jammu & Kashmir. The Plebiscite Administrator shall derive from the State of Jammu & Kashmir the powers he considers necessary for organising and conducting the plebiscite and for ensuring the freedom and impartiality of the plebiscite” [Paragraph 3 (b)]. Nor is that all. Paragraph 9 says: “At the conclusion of the plebiscite, the Plebiscite Administrator shall report the result thereof to the Commission and to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The Commission shall then certify to the Security Council whether the plebiscite has or has not been free and impartial” (emphasis added throughout). Having accepted these resolutions, with what face does Pakistan talk about Indian-held Kashmir?

On India’s part, its route to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has been as dishonest but far more tortuous. For over a decade, India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Affairs, Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai, and others had no inhibitions about speaking of the Azad Kashmir government and “the Azad territory”. To be sure, neither accorded legitimacy to its regime. India made that clear consistently, adding, sometimes, by way of caution the caveat “so-called”. When and how did the expression “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” crop up? Obviously by an official fiat. On Kashmir and some other issues, the media as well as the academia faithfully abide by New Delhi’s wishes and hints. As will be pointed out, the UNCIP unfailingly referred to Azad Kashmir.

What is conveniently overlooked is the historical truth that the regime there came into existence with Indian acquiesce, if not approval. This is fully established by the official history of the war in Kashmir in 1947-48. Operations in Jammu Kashmir 1947-1948 was published in 1987 by the History Division of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India. It was written by Dr S.N. Prasad and Dr Dharam Pal.

The Azad Kashmir question

They squarely answer the question, often asked later, as to why Indian forces did not clear the entire state of Pakistan’s troops right up to its borders with Pakistan. Had they done so, there would have been no Azad Kashmir. The question is answered in the last chapter, “Conclusion and Review”. Pakistan had organised the tribal raid into Kashmir on October 22, 1947. In May 1948, three brigades of its regular forces joined them. A ceasefire was declared by both sides on January 1, 1949. A ceasefire line was drawn up at Karachi on July 27, 1949.

The two authors, writing around 30 years after the events, respond to the criticism voiced by some with hindsight. Their views are set out in extenso. “There is a feeling among some service officers, as well as a section of the civilian population, that India should not have accepted the Cease Fire or any Cease Fire Line, and should have pressed on to liberate the rest of the territories of J&K State. It is argued that the liberation of the remaining areas of J&K was only a matter of a few weeks, and the political decision to have a Cease Fire robbed the Indian Army and the Royal Indian Air Force of a quick and decisive victory in J&K. These opinions are widespread enough to demand notice, and some senior army officers who took part in these operations have also urged a discussion of this matter in this detailed history of the operations in J&K. The question being essentially hypothetical, no definitive answer is possible. However, the facts brought out in the following paragraphs might throw some light on the answer.

“As already described, the Indian Army, supported by the Air Force, won several major victories in the last few months of operations before the Cease Fire.… These defeats, however, did not break the back of enemy resistance. The enemy suffered casualties, as did the Indian forces, but there were no—there could not be any—large enveloping movements, leading to considerable bodies of enemy troops being captured and enemy strength decimated… .

“The enemy had in December 1948 two infantry divisions of the regular Pakistan Army, and one infantry division of the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir Army’ fighting in the theatre. These comprised 14 infantry brigades; or 23 infantry battalions of the Pakistan Army and 40 infantry battalions of ‘Azad Kashmir’, besides 19,000 scouts and irregulars. Against this, the Indian Army had in J&K only two infantry divisions, comprising 12 infantry brigades; a total of some 50 infantry battalions of the regular army and the Indian States Forces, plus 12 battalions of the J&K Militia (some with only two companies) and two battalions of the East Punjab Militia….

“Indian forces were definitely outnumbered by the enemy in J&K, and only the superior valour and skill, and perhaps fire-power, together with the invaluable help from the tiny Air Force, enabled the Indian Army to maintain its superiority on the battlefields. There can be no doubt, however, that any major offensive required more Indian troops in J&K.

“The position regarding further Indian reinforcement for J&K was none too comfortable. Infantry was the basic requirement in the mountainous terrain, and infantry units of the Indian Army were fairly fully occupied elsewhere. About the end of 1948, there were 127 infantry battalions of the Indian Army, including Parachute and Gorkha battalions and State Forces units serving with the Indian Army, but excluding Garrison battalions and companies. Of these 127, some fifty battalions were already in J&K. Twenty-nine battalions were in the East Punjab, guarding the vital sector of the Indo-Pakistan frontier. Nineteen battalions were stationed in the Hyderabad area, where the Razakars still posed a potential threat to law and order and the Military Governor required strong forces at hand to complete his task of pacifying the area. There were thus only 29 battalions available for internal security, to guard the thousands of kilometres of frontier, and to act as the general reserve.

“By scrapping the barrel, more forces could certainly be despatched to J&K. But this would have accentuated the supply problem, as the entire force in J&K had to be maintained by a single railhead, and a single road. This road was long and weak, and had numerous narrow bridges with which few liberties could be taken.

“While logistics put a definite limit to the size of the forces that India could maintain in J&K, Pakistan suffered from no such limitation. There were numerous roads from Pakistan bases to the J&K border, and from there the actual frontline was generally accessible by short tracks or roads. So there was no maintenance problem for whatever reinforcements Pakistan could send to her forces in J&K to block any Indian advance.

“For decisive victory, it was necessary to bring Pakistan to battle on the broad plains of the Punjab itself; the battle of J&K, in the last analysis, had to be fought and won at Lahore and Sialkot, as events brought home in 1965. So, if the whole of J&K had to be liberated from the enemy, a general war against Pakistan was necessary. There can be hardly any doubt that Pakistan could be decisively defeated in a general war in 1948-49, although both the Indian and the Pakistan armies were in the throes of partition and reorganisation then. But that was a much wider question, and rightly or wrongly, the government did not decide to have a general war with Pakistan” (pages 372-375). What they omit to mention is that India had already secured “the prize” as Nehru called it—the Valley. A wider war would have invited great power intervention in the name of the United Nations.

Nehru’s Partition offer

The UNCIP’s two resolutions, accepted by both sides, treated the two parts of the State separately. By 1948, India had written off Azad Kashmir. Nehru offered partition of the State to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in Paris in October 1948. Nehru went public at a rally in New Delhi on April 13, 1956: “I am willing to accept that the question of the part of Kashmir which is under you should be settled by demarcating the border on the basis of the present ceasefire line. We have no desire to take it by fighting” ( The Times of India, April 14, 1956).

On July 2, 1972, the Simla Agreement put a seal of approval on the status quo. Paragraph 1(ii) says: “Pending the final settlement of any problems (sic) between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation.” India flagrantly violated this in February 1984 by its Operation Meghdoot in Siachen; Pakistan, by its misadventure in Kargil in 1999. Paragraph 4 (ii) binds the parties to respect “the Line of Control resulting from the ceasefire of 17 December 1971… neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally”. The words “final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries” find an echo in paragraph 6. It envisages “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”. How can you settle a State, pray? All this because India would not admit the existence of a dispute on the status of Jammu and Kashmir although it was used in the Nehru-Mohammed Ali Joint Communiqué on August 21, 1953, and the Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto joint statement in Islamabad in 1989. Such quibbles are a regular feature of the discourse of Indian diplomacy on all matters.

The net result of the ceasefire of 1949 and the Simla Agreement of 1972 is that Pakistan does not administer the western part of Jammu and Kashmir as India’s licensee or tenant. Its presence was established by its armed forces, in which India acquiesced in its own self-interest—and received formal acceptance in the Simla Agreement of 1972. India cannot serve a quit notice to Pakistan to “vacate its aggression”. How a legal concept (“aggression”) can be vacated Krishna Menon, who coined the expression, alone could have explained. He never did. The Ministry of External Affairs loves those words.

UNCIP reports

The absurdity of the belated use of the words, “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” emerges from the record (Pakistan uses the same puerile lingo in the Urdu phrase “ makbooza Kashmir”). The UNCIP submitted three reports; the U.N.’s mediators submitted eight, of which the two later ones (in 1957 and 1958) were perfunctory. They contain minutes of talks with Jawaharlal Nehru and Girija Shankar Bajpai, which The Hindu published in full. I respect The Hindu of today. I miss The Hindu of old which provided me, a schoolboy, with the prized texts.

The UNCIP’s first interim report was submitted on November 9, 1948. India made it plain that its acceptance of the UNCIP’s resolutions did not imply recognition of the Azad Kashmir regime. The UNCIP accepted that and reminded Pakistan that it had itself not recognised its protégé while admitting that the Azad Kashmir forces were under the control of Pakistan’s army. None of this clear position affected nomenclature. Nehru met members of the UNCIP on December 20, 1948. He explicitly referred to “the Azad Kashmir forces which had been armed and equipped by Pakistan”. He repeatedly spoke of “the Azad Kashmir forces”, the minutes reveal.

In the U.N. Security Council on November 25, 1948, Bajpai also mentioned “the forces of Azad Kashmir which are under the operational control of the Pakistan High Command”. This was factually true as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Sir M. Zafrullah Khan admitted on August 4, 1948: “The Pakistan Army is at present responsible for the over-all command… of Azad Kashmir forces.” On August 9, 1948, Pakistan further recognised that they (Azad Kashmir forces) “were operationally controlled by the Pakistan Army”.

The UNCIP’s first report mentions that its members informally met “representatives of the Azad Kashmir Movement Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas and Sardar Mohammed Ibrahim” (Paragraph 96). It opined that the movement “controls a considerable part” of the State, especially in Poonch, Muzaffarabad and Mirpur (Paragraph 125). It cited “temporary administration by local authorities (Azad Kashmir) of territory evacuated by Pakistan” as one of the principles underlying its resolution of August 13, 1948.

The third report of December 9, 1949, had a section on “The ‘Azad’ Kashmir Forces”. It includes a memorandum by India dated March 29, 1949, which repeatedly referred to “the so-called Azad Kashmir territory” (italics here as in the original). On March 23, 1949, Bajpai reminded the UNCIP: “We have not asked, at any time, that a representative of ours should go to the territory held by ‘Azad Kashmir’.”

The minutes of the conference of the commanders-in-chief, held at Army Headquarters in New Delhi on February 11, 1949, mention “the Azad Kashmir Forces” and record that “the Indian Army agreed to permit the maintenance of the Azad element in the Kishenganga Valley (Gur’s sector) by air because of the detachments being cut off by snow” (page 172).

It is unnecessary to carry this narrative tediously any further. In sum, even formal proposals by U.N. mediators—Canada’s General A.G.L. McNaughton (December 17, 1949, paragraph 2(a)); Sir Owen Dixon’s report; and Dr. Frank P. Graham’s five reports—used the same words in the most explicit terms (“Azad Kashmir territory”). India’s proposal of December 14, 1951, mentioned “the Azad Kashmir Armed Forces”. Graham’s approach was fair. “Without recognition of the Azad Kashmir Government and without prejudice to the sovereignty of the State, it also appears obvious, by the nature of the ceasefire line and the temporary exercise of the necessary and useful functions of the local authorities, that (with the withdrawal of the tribesmen and of the Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and with the withdrawal of the Pakistan army and authority and the large-scale disarming and disbanding of the Azad Kashmir forces) there should be in the evacuated territory effective local authorities and effective armed forces. In the ‘Azad Kashmir’ territory these armed forces would be organised out of the remainder of the Azad Kashmir forces without armour or artillery, and thereafter would be commanded by local officers under the local authorities, under the surveillance of the United Nations.”

False claim

Pakistan enacted the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1974, to replace the one of 1970, avowedly “in the discharge of its responsibilities under the UNCIP resolutions”. The claim is false. It makes Azad Kashmir a virtual colony of Pakistan. It set up an “Azad J&K Council” consisting of the Prime Minister of Pakistan as its Chairman and the territory’s “President” as its Vice Chairman. It has legislative as well as executive powers over 52 matters. The Assembly can legislate only on the remainder, such as it may be. Azad Kashmir has less autonomy than the State of Jammu and Kashmir has even under the fraudulently hollowed out Article 370. More, the cry of plebiscite is effectively barred because all—from “the President”, the Prime Minister, down to the legislators—have to take an oath of office which pledges them to “remain loyal to the country and the cause of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan”. The “country” clearly refers to Pakistan.

There is another piece of fraud. Pakistan broke up the part of Jammu and Kashmir under its administration, dishonestly severed the erstwhile Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), and annexed them. On March 8, 1993, the High Court of Azad Kashmir ruled unanimously in a 228-page judgment that Northern Areas were part of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir as on August 15, 1947. On May 3, 1949, M.A. Gummani, Pakistan’s Minister for Kashmir Affairs, told the UNCIP that Northern Areas did form a part of Azad Kashmir. He suppressed from it the fact that he had, only a few days earlier on April 28, 1949, pressured its leaders to cede to Pakistan “all affairs of the Gilgit and Ladakh areas under the control of the Political Agent at Gilgit”.

How does it help India to pretend that it is Indian territory? Calling it Azad no more implies acceptance of its azadi (independence), of which there is no pretence, than calling an authoritarian state “democratic” or a “people’s republic” implies acceptance of its claims to democratic governance. In fact, nothing turns on the nomenclature. It only warps thinking, and Indian thinking on Azad Kashmir is unrealistic and warped, which is why New Delhi gets into high dudgeon because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through it, a territory we very well know will never be ours. In fact, that territory was never ours. There was a revolt in Poonch even before the tribal raid. Sheikh Abdullah was a leader of the Valley. In Jammu and the present West Kashmir, the Muslim Conference held sway. Overruling the three Service Chiefs, Lord Mountbatten strongly supported the despatch of Indian troops to Kashmir to beat back the raiders so that the plebiscite could be held, a proviso Jawaharlal Nehru accepted only in name. A letter he wrote to Nehru on December 28, 1947, set out their positions. He had returned from London only to discover Nehru’s plans, which disturbed him. He wrote: “During my absence in London this object changed. It then evidently became the purpose of the Government of India to attempt to impose their military will on the Poonch and Mirpur areas. No one can say for certain what proportion of the hostile element in the Poonch areas consists of persons who have come in from outside the state, and what proportion represents the local inhabitants. But I think that none will deny that the latter are in a large majority. I agree with you that it would be morally unjustifiable to try by force of arms to inflict our will on a predominantly Muslim population and I know that you feel that the plebiscite will ultimately settle the issue. But in the meanwhile how can we escape the charge of using military force against the people who do not want to link their fortune with India?”

By October 26, 1947, when Kashmir acceded to India, the Maharajah had fled from Kashmir; more so in the west before the accession. No Indian official has ever set foot in Azad Kashmir. It is preposterous to call it Indian territory and ask China to “consult” us about it and then make it one more issue in Sino-Indian relations as one of India’s “core concerns”. This, after the Pakistan-China boundary agreement of March 2, 1963, which pertained to that region. Scholars the world over agree that Pakistan, far from ceding, acquired territory—750 square miles of administered territory. Thinking Pakistanis, diplomats included, are as realistic about East Kashmir.

The time has come to hearken to the repeated references to “alternatives” to plebiscite in the UNCIP’s First Interim Report (S/1100). It left “open the possibility for the consideration of alternative solutions mutually agreeable to both parties with the provision that the will of the people should be assured” (Paragraph 113, page 57).

This is more relevant now in 2017 than it was in 1948; with one difference. In 2006-07, India and Pakistan had virtually concluded an accord on the famous Four Points. It was in the Kashmiris’ interest to press for its finalisation and for its clarification; especially on points like reducing the LoC to irrelevance. Mirwaiz Maulvi Umar Farooq endorsed it initially. Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s propaganda gave the formula a bad name. Never has this man put forth a viable alternative. That responsibility devolves not only on the political leaders of Kashmir but also on its intellectuals and civil society. India will not vacate Kashmir, but it can be persuaded to an accord which brings self rule, azadi, as the Four Points envisaged.

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