Once again, Pakistan's efforts to internationalize Kashmir issue by seeking UN intervention have yielded a naught as the world body reiterated that India and Pakistan need to resolve all differences through mutual dialogue in an endeavor to find a long-term solution to the dispute.
National Security Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister had recently written to UN Secretary General seeking UN intervention with their side of story on the recent border conflict with India. Deputy spokesperson of the Secretary General, when asked to comment on Pakistan’s letter seeking UN intervention, told media reporters that the UN chief has encouraged India and Pakistan to resolve all differences through dialogue and engage constructively to find a long-term solution for peace and stability in Kashmir.
Earlier towards the end of September, 2014, Prime Minister of Pakistan had raised the issue of plebiscite and need for the intervention of UN in Kashmir in the UN General Assembly. Prime Minister of India spoke next day about futility of raising bilateral issues in the august assembly. The war of words and diplomatic overtures have not stopped here, Pakistan has now gone to the extent of calling diplomats of various nations in Islamabad portraying the country as aggrieved and India as aggressor in a hope to internationalize the issue and muster support of the world community. Besides, almost every Pakistani leader, that matters, is engaged in anti-India rhetoric these days.
A Brief History of Kashmir
Leave aside the beliefs of Hindu Mythology, a careful perusal of the history of Kashmir would reveal that the land was inhabited by Hindus predominantly Brahmans (Kashmiri Pandits) for centuries under various kings and chieftains. The earliest recorded and credible history of Kashmir by Kalhan begins at the time of the Mahabharata war. During the 3rd century BC, emperor Ashoka spread Buddhism in the valley. Kashmir became a major hub of Hindu culture by the 9th century AD, known for the Hindu sect Kashmiri 'Shaivism', and some of the greatest Sanskrit scholars.
Northern India started experiencing attacks from Turkic and Arab invaders from eighth century onwards but mountainous region of Kashmir valley largely remained unaffected. It was in fourteenth century that Muslim rule was established in the valley during a weak and unpopular Lohara dynasty. One of the Muslim rulers, Sikandar Butshikan (1389-1413), often referred to as an iconoclast, reportedly took a drive for systematic destruction of religious structures (Hindu Shrines) and forced the population to convert to Islam or migrate from valley to other parts of India during his regime. The outcome of continuous persecution was gradual shift in population as well as religion leading to the Kashmir valley becoming predominantly Muslim region.
Emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1587 AD and Mughal rule lasted till 1752 A.D. He was a moderate Muslim and during his rule the, Hindus too enjoyed security of life and property. It is generally believed that he was one who, impressed with the learning and intellect of brahmans in valley, gave them surname Pandit. Mughul rule was followed by the Afghans (1752 – 1819) and during sustained reign of Muslim rulers more and more Kashmiris converted to Islam, leaving Kashmiri Pandits in minority. Despite being in minority, they remained a cohesive community of highly literate and socially elite in the valley through the British dominance of India.
The Muslim period, which lasted for about 500 years, ended in 1819 with the annexation of Kashmir to the Sikh kingdom of Punjab. Later, the Hindu Dogra kingdom was established in 1846 at the end of First Sikh War and their rule lasted till independence.
Till about 1947 under the Dogra (Rajput) rule, Kashmiri Pandits constituted about 15 percent of the population. A significant portion of this population left valley during Muslim riots in 1948 and slow exodus continued in the following years too because of the insecurity to their life and property prevailing in a volatile situation in valley. During the late eighties, with the upsurge of infiltration across the border, terrorist activities and their systematic targeting of Kashmiri Pandit families resulting in the death of thousands of people, a large scale exodus from valley occured for years.
Till around 2010, hardly around eight hundred families comprising of 3000-3500 were left in the valley. Certain financial and other incentives initiated by the Jammu and Kashmir Government to encourage people of Kashmiri origin to return to valley remained unsuccessful. Period from 1980s onwards, Kashmir experienced a massive infiltrations from Pakistan, compelling India to maintain a strong military presence in Jammu & Kashmir to counter insurgency along the Line of Control and protect life of the innocent civilians.
Partition and Plebiscite
At the time of partition, British India was divided into two states namely the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan largely on the basis of contiguous Muslim and non-Muslim population. There were about 562 Indian princely states left to choose either to join India or Pakistan or remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir was one of the largest princely states with the population predominantly Muslim and the ruler a Hindu Maharaja. Maharaja remained uncertain for some time and Pakistan expected the annexation of Kashmir following the partition.
Pakistan backed militant Muslims and tribesmen made rapid invasion and advances in the Kashmir valley with intention to forcibly occupy and overthrow the Dogra King. These developments led to Maharaja seeking military assistance from the Union of India and he signed an instrument of accession on 25 October, 1947 with the Government of India. Consequently, India dispatched armed forces to fight intruders and save Kashmir. The war between the Indian forces and invaders continued till 1948 and India sought intervention of United Nations Security Council for the resolution of the issue.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution on 21st April 1948 which inter alia provided for the immediate cease-fire of hostilities, the Government of Pakistan to secure the withdrawal from the state of Jammu and Kashmir of all tribesmen and Pakistani nationals who were not resident but entered the state for the purpose of fighting, and the Government of India to reduce its forces to the minimum that should pave the circumstances for holding a plebiscite in the state on the question of accession of the state to India or Pakistan.
However, due to mutual mistrust and differences over the implementation of these conditions, two sides could never implement their part of pre-requisites of plebiscite for long. In other words, Pakistan never vacated the occupied territory of Kashmir which they called ‘Ajad Kashmir’ and India never demilitarized fearing more adventures and surprises from the other side. Subsequent intervention of United Nations with revised formulae too could not resolve differences of two sides. The question of plebiscite gradually became impractical and irrelevant and United Nations stopped raising the issue of plebiscite after 1962 and, instead advising to settle dispute through bilateral talk.
Subsequent three wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999 and continued face-off and low-intensity border conflicts clubbed with insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir proved that India’s fears were indeed genuine and well founded.
Recent Peace Initiative and Conflict
On many occasions in the past, political leadership of the two countries made efforts to restore the peace process to negotiate settlement of pending issues including Kashmir. However, every such initiative was followed by misadventures, largely backed by Pakistan Army and ISI, in the form of Kargil war in 1999, terror attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, Mumbai terror attacks in 2011, and such incidents invariably derailed the peace process. The last initiative taken by the newly elected Indian Prime Minister in May, 2014 and responded well by the Pakistani counterpart, was thwarted when Pakistan preferred to hold consultations with a handful of separatist leaders of Kashmir immediately before the Foreign Secretary Level scheduled talks in august, 2014. After this, Pakistan has again chosen to rake up the issue in UN and other international forums while simultaneously escalating conflict and tension on the Jammu and Kashmir border.
Pakistan’s Take: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to revive the Kashmir issue in the United Nations towards the end of September, 2014, but this did not generate any favourable response except that the UN Secretary General reiterated two countries to settle their issues in a peaceful manner through bilateral dialogue. His effort to once again internationalize the issue also failed to draw any attention from the world nations. Here the author is only taking relevant statement and stand taken by prominent politicians who currently matter in the Pakistan’s politics .
Former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, currently under prosecution with plethora of charges of treason, murders and corruption, perhaps to hog limelight, recently indulged in an anti-India rant. He said, “ In Kashmir, we can fight with the (Indian) army from both the front and back…We are Muslims. We will not show the other cheek when we are slapped. We can respond tit for tat.” He further added, “We have source (in Kashmir) besides the (Pakistan) army…People in Kashmir are fighting against (India). We just need to incite them.” In an earlier statement too, he had stated that both Indian government and army had no consideration for the sufferings of the Kashmiri people and that the Indian Prime Minister (By name) was an anti-Muslim and an anti-Pakistan leader. Incidentally, his biting remarks coincide with increasing legal troubles back home where a court summoning him in the Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Rasheed Ghazi murder case in 2007 has threatened an arrest warrant if he fails to personally turn for the next hearing
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, successor of the Pakistan People’s Party of the famous Bhutto clan in his mid-twenties, while addressing his party workers at Multan (Punjab) said recently, "I will take back Kashmir, all of it, and I will not leave behind a single inch of it because, like the other provinces, it belongs to Pakistan." His statement has amused many politicians and political analysts, some suggesting him to take history lessons and others simply rubbishing him as an immature and amateurish politician.
Another cricketer turned politician perhaps driven by the usual domestic compulsions, Pakistan opposition leader and Tahreek-i-Insaf Party chairman Imran Khan last week, while urging the Indian Prime Minister to show big heart like a statesman on Kashmir issue, said, “"There has been not a word from Nawaz Sharif on Indian aggression at the LoC that resulted killing of many Pakistanis…I on behalf of Nawaz Sharif tell Modi that Pakistan is not afraid of its aggression. If you think Pakistanis will be intimidated by Indian firing at the LoC then you are seriously mistaken. Pakistan is united to face any aggression."
As is evident, the pitch and rhetoric may be different but every Pakistani politician invariably portrays India as an aggressor and Kashmir above all bilateral issues. It could be anybody’s guess or conclusion as to what is likely impact of such statements on Pakistani people in terms of creating tension and hatred for India.
India’s Take: Now let us see what Indian leaders said in the recent past on the Indo-Pakistan stand-off. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in response to his counterpart’s address in the UN General Assembly, stated that raising Kashmir issue repeatedly in UN will not solve the problem. India is committed to resolve all problems with Pakistan including Kashmir through bilateral talks but the talk cannot be held under the shadow of guns and terror.
This author does not find any rhetoric or offensive remarks against Pakistan during the recent stand-off from the responsible quarters. However, some reactions from the leaders who indeed matter in the current crisis, are briefly cited..
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on 16th October, 2014 questioned the statement of the former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, citing earlier claims of some Pakistani leaders that the separatist movement in the valley was indigenous, "So Pervez Musharaf believes Kashmir needs to be incited at regular intervals. What happened to this being an indigenous struggle for azadi (freedom)?"
Earlier under the intense firing across the Jammu and Kashmir border from both sides during early October, 2014, criticizing Pakistan over carrying out 'unprovoked attacks', Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said, "If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable."He further added. "Our forces have been doing a commendable job in the face of these unprovoked acts of aggression by Pakistan. Pakistan in these attacks has clearly been the aggressor but it must realize that our deterrence will be credible.”
While allowing free hand to the Border Security Force for retaliation under provocation, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, "Pakistan should stop ceasefire violations now and understand the reality that times have changed in India." He added that the Centre was monitoring the situation and Jammu and Kashmir government is taking steps to provide relief to the residents of border areas affected by Pakistani firing.
Former External Affairs Minister and prominent leader of the Indian National Congress Salman Khurshid too stated that it was despicable that such incidents have occurred on Eid and that there could not be anything worse than this.
Even while addressing senior Indian Armed Forces Commanders of three wings (Army, Navy and Air Force) for the first time on 17th October, Indian Prime Minister didn’t indulge in Pakistan rhetoric. Instead he said, “Beyond the immediate, we are facing a future where security challenges will be less predictable; situations will evolve and change swiftly; and, technological changes will make responses more difficult to keep pace with. Threat may be known, but the enemy may be invisible…Control of space may become as critical as that of land, air and sea. Full scale wars may be rare, but force will remain an instrument of deterrence.” Clearly he was laying long term future vision for the security of nation rather than spewing against any country singling out as enemy.
Nowhere in the above statements, is any rhetoric of hatred or war against Pakistan. Statements made by the Indian leaders only convey warning and resolve for appropriate retaliatory measures to be taken by the security forces against any kind of provocation or attack.
Who Fires First Bullet?
Both India and Pakistan are blaming each other for the current breakdown of peace talks and escalation of border conflict. The question is who is really responsible for aggression and deteriorating situation at the Jammu and Kashmir border.
Pakistan has over one-third of Kashmir under its occupation since ceasefire in 1948. It is internationally well known fact that Pakistan aggressively stakes claim on the entire Kashmir region on the ground of majority Muslim population (Two-Nation Theory), it has constantly raised the issue of plebiscite, fought at least three wars with India over Kashmir (besides continuing terror regime), calls it a Jugular Vein of Pakistan and insists the settlement of Kashmir issue before any other points of mutual concern are discussed or settled through any negotiation.
On the other hand, despite lawful accession of the state (including territory under PoK), considering the various demographical, geographical, political and social changes occured after partition during such a long period, India has never aggresively sought return of the occupied territory and, instead, always insists for a composite dialogue with Pakistan for settlement of all mutual issues including Kashmir. There is no known incident of aggression in the past or raising pitch nationally or internationally for return or capture of the lost land. In fact, land captured during 1965 and 1971 wars in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere by India was returned back to Pakistan as peace and goodwill gestures.
With the above facts, the author leaves it to readers to derive their own conclusions, rationally and logically, to conclude as to which country has reasons to be aggressive and start a conflict at the border. While Pakistan is repeatedly accusing India for unprovoked firing at the Pakistani posts and civilians on their side, India in unambiguous terms have now instructed its Border Security Force not to fire first bullet but if such aggression comes from the other side, Indian response should be massive and punitive.
Indian Stand on Plebiscite
Maharaja Hati Singh legally signed the Instrument of Accession in October 1947 under which he acceded the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India. Therefore, Kashmir is integral part of India like any other state or territory. The following chief points are given in support of the Indian claim over Kashmir.
The Instrument of Accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, erstwhile ruler, on 25 October 1947 and executed on 27 October 1947 between the ruler of Kashmir and the Governor General of India. This was a legal act and completely valid in terms of the Government of India Act (1935), Indian Independence Act (1947) and under international law. Hence the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir state was total and irrevocable.
The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had unanimously ratified the Instrument of Accession to India duly adopting a constitution for the state endorsing perpetual merger of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India. The Constituent assembly lawfully represented wish of Kashmiri people at that time.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172 (Resolution 47 is obsolete and a thing of past) accepts India's stand regarding outstanding issues between India and Pakistan and urges the need to resolve it through mutual dialogue without the need for a plebiscite.
The time has proved that the so-called two-nation theory was on wrong premises and has completely failed. Therefore, Kashmir, despite being a Muslim-majority state, is an integral part of the Secular and Democratic India.
All differences between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir, must be settled through bilateral negotiations as agreed to by the two countries under the Simla Agreement in July, 1972.
Pakistani Stand on Plebiscite
Pakistan does not accept the Instrument of Accession signed between the Maharaja of Kashmir and the Government of India in 1947 regarding the former as tyrant ruler not acceptable to the majority Muslim population of Kashmir. Pakistan in their propaganda accuses the Indian Armed Forces responsible for human rights violation and excesses causing death, rape etc. of numerous Kashmiris. Pakistan holds the following chief points in support of their claim over Kashmir while pressing for a plebiscite.
Two-nation theory on the basis of which Pakistan was partitioned from India holds good for Kashmir because it has a majority Muslim population.
The popular Kashmiri insurgency indicates the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain within India, meaning thereby that either Kashmir would want to stay with Pakistan or independent.
United Nations Security Council had passed a resolution for plebiscite in 1948 and India has constantly shown reluctance to implement the said resolution to determine the wishes of people of Kashmir.
Indian Forces Deployment in Kashmir
During 1980s, militancy and terrorism across the border grew manifold in Kashmir with consequent more deployment of Indian security forces to maintain peace, law and order. While Indian position is that these insurgents are from Islamic terrorist groups mainly Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan with active support in terms of training, ammunition and financial support from Pakistan army and ISI and they have provided proof to this effect on umpteen times, Pakistan maintains that these insurgents are "Kashmiri freedom fighters", and claim that they are providing them only moral and diplomatic support. In this context it needs to be remembered that freedom fighters do not slaughter indiscriminately innocent civilians, women and children. If they do it they should be treated like ‘satanic forces’. Data compiled over the years suggest that these elements have been engaged in unleashing a reign of terror and death in Kashmir valley, and elsewhere in Indian territory, particularly targeting Hindu families.
The Plebiscite Front, a political party, was created in Jammu and Kashmir in August, 1955 by Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg who was a protégé of Sheikh Abdullah, after the latter’s ouster from the post of prime minister and detention by police. This front acted as principal opposition to the state government till about 1971 under various pro-India regimes. The main mission of the Front was to press for plebiscite or referendum to decide the issue of sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir. Their continuous boycotting of elections led to easy election victories for the successive National Conference governments supported by the Government of India but their credibility was often questioned by critics for being not representative enough. By 1972, the stand taken by the Plebiscite Front was softened with decreasing popular base and they were willing to accept Indian sovereignty. This led to Indira-Sheikh accord in 1974 under which Sheikh Abdullah and the Plebiscite Front confirmed Indian Sovereignty over Kashmir and dropped the demand for plebiscite in return for considerable autonomy and self-government under Article 370 of the Constitution of India. The Plebiscite Front was dissolved into rejuvenated National Conference, which won democratic elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 1975 with Sheikh Abdullah as state Chief Minister. Successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir have been more representative and credible.
Does India have a case in Kashmir?
Indian view on the plebiscite is mainly based on the legality of the Instrument of Accession, later UN Resolutions and rejection of the flawed Two-Nation Theory. We are aware that despite lawful accession of the state to the Union of India, at one stage Indian leadership had agreed to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir but if it didn’t materialize, the primary onus falls on Pakistan who remained reluctant to withdraw from the occupied Kashmir in the pretext of some modalities with secondary onus on India who didn’t de-militarize for the given reason.
Now the question is whether after more than six decades of the event, the plebiscite still has any relevance and practical ground? Let us see what all has changed during this period.
Demographic changes: Consequent to years of persecution and threat to the life and property, a large number of Hindus, especially the Kashmiri Pundits and sikhs, have been forced to leave Kashmir and live in places like Delhi, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Despite deployment of security forces and some efforts of the state government to rehabilitate, conducive atmosphere for their safe return do not exist. It will be unfair if their existence and right to choose is ignored. Then fate and aspiration of a Buddhist Ladakhis tied to a dominant Sunni Muslims too cannot be overlooked who live with a completely different life and faith. After 60 years of independence, a lot of Kashmiris, who are legitimate stakeholders of the plebiscite, are living outside the region. Before any such plebiscite, they need to be identified and rehabilitated to their home land. In the event of any exchange or settlement of minority pockets across the region, the possibilities of what happened after Indian partition through slaughter and displacement too cannot be ruled out.
Besides, such a plebiscite should be done for the entire Kashmir, including the Pak-Occupid Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan has allowed non-Kashmiris to infiltrate and settle in PoK over the past sixty years causing a serious demographic change. It is well known that PoK has been the main source for Pakistan sponsored terrorists’ training camps and insurgents export to Indian territory across the border. There are large numbers of Punjabis and Pathans residing in PoK. Similarly, the Gilgit-Baltistan area too has seen a large scale migration of people from other provinces of Pakistan into this area.
Geographical Changes: Consequent to four Indo-Pakistan wars since partition, over one-third territory is under occupation of Pakistan. Besides, Aksai Chin area of Ladakh has been forcibly occupied by China and a part of the territory in that area has been illegally ceded by Pakistan to China. How the original geographic status of Kashmir will be restored? Pakistan did not vacate it in 1948 on various pretexts for a plebiscite. Will they do it now? It is obvious, politicizing the issue to score a point is a different game, but actually and practically doing it different matter.
Political and Other Changes:
Karan Singh, son of the last ruler of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu, as also legal experts maintain that the Instrument of Accession signed by his father was the same as signed during integration of other princely states. Hence Kashmir is lawfully an integral part of India. The special status granted under the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution stemmed from the fact that it had its own constitution.
In a country like India with so much diversity on account of ethnicity, religions, castes and languages, divergent views with disaffection and discontent are inevitable. But the Indian democracy is capable to accommodate and resolve genuine grievances including political demands of the people of Kashmir within the framework of India's sovereignty, unity, and integrity.
Pakistan has been waging a proxy war by encouraging and actively indulging with insurgents and terrorists by providing training, weapons and financial assistance in Kashmir for years. Besides, they are also indulging in false propaganda against India among Kashmiri people to create instability in the region. Pakistan based terrorist outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and many smaller terror organizations have been actively exporting terrorism across the border and have been directly involved in major terrorists attacks in India, which is also in contravention of UN Resolutions on the subject.
Under occupation, most of the parts of Kashmir administered by Pakistan lack political recognition, economic development, civil liberties and basic fundamental rights of citizens. On the other hand, Jammu and Kashmir has been given special status under the Indian constitution and the Government of India has rendered tremendous support to various democratically elected governments in state in terms of political, social and economic packages for all round development of the state over the years.
Does Pakistan have a case in Kashmir?
As is evident from the Pakistani view on Kashmir, its stake on plebiscite is mainly based on UN Resolutions during early years after partition, two nation theory and repeated propaganda of the excesses of Indian security forces in Kashmir.
As already analyzed in previous paragraphs, the primary reason why plebiscite could not be held in 1948 or thereafter was Pakistan’s reluctance for non-withdrawal from the occupied territory of Kashmir on various pretexts. After 1962, UN never raised the issue of plebiscite and encouraged both countries to resolve their issue through bilateral talks. With the change demographics, geography and other conditions, it is now practically impossible to revert back to original position on either side to create conditions of plebiscite.
Two-nation theory has clearly failed. Despite partition based on religious considerations, India continues to have almost as much of Muslim population as in Pakistan. There are cities like Moradabad, Malegaon and Bhiwandi in India in a range of 0.5 to 1 million people with a huge, perhaps in majority, Muslim population. Then there are several smaller cities / towns with Muslim majority, and India cannot afford to continue to succumb to such demands based on a faulty and failed theory.
Indian security forces have a history of being lawful, disciplined and professional while dealing with insurgency, law and order problems in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country. When they are dealing with hardcore terrorists, murderers and criminals who have no regard for law of the land and human life and property, some isolated instances of miscalculation or judgmental error leading to excess cannot be entirely ruled out in critical situations. Pakistan has disproportionately highlighted such occurrences under a vilified campaign and propaganda to tarnish image of the security personnel and India within and outside Kashmir.
In the above backdrop, the question of the plebiscite has become totally impracticable and irrelevant with the passage of time. Those who are still debating and raising the subject perhaps also know in their mind and heart that the issue is totally dead and futile in the present context. It is beyond comprehension that the leaders in Pakistan would be unaware of this fact. Notwithstanding above, Pakistan has made it a point to raise this (dead) issue time and again in United Nations and other international forums. Perhaps these are the compulsions of an unstable Pakistan, and fear and uncertainty of their own leaders that they keep the issue alive for own vested interest nationally and internationally portraying Pakistan as aggrieved and India aggressor. In the process, what suffers is the peace and prosperity of the people of the Indian sub-continent.
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