Kashmir Valley, to be precise, is once again in turmoil today as a result of external forces like Pakistan and China providing support and encouragement to the separatist Kashmir Valley leaders of the Hurriyet. While agonizingly trying to analyze the reasons for this unfortunate situation one comes to the sad conclusion that the original sin leading to the present Kashmir situation was committed by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He may have been a charismatic political leader of the freedom movement and a man who laid the foundations of democracy of the Indian Republic but he was a poor strategic visionary when it came to matters strategic. It is ironic that his two major political policy investments, namely Kashmir and China, have rebounded strategically against the Indian Republic today.
Nehru’s idealistic romanticism on both these counts has cost India heavily today and in particular on Kashmir where his flawed policies have provided fertile grounds to external powers to fish in troubled waters and use Kashmir as a pressure-point against India.
Nehru’s first blunder on Kashmir was prevaricating on Kashmir’s timely accession to India. Consequently, Pakistan was provided time and space to send in Pakistan Army into the Kashmir Valley in the guise of tribals from the NWFP. This delay was generated by his obsession at that time that the Kashmiri Muslim leader Sheikh Abdullah must be brought on board as a party to the Accession.
The blunder was that in the period August to December 1947, there was ample time to send in the Indian Army to pre-empt Pakistan’s military intervention in the Kashmir Valley. Nehru’s lack of strategic audacity and his giving primacy to political idealistic considerations over strategic and security considerations was in poor contrast to those of Jinnah across the border in Pakistan.
Jinnah listened to his British Pakistan Army Chief that for the security and safety of Pakistan, it was imperative that Kashmir should be part of Pakistan otherwise Pakistan’s jugular vein would be in Indian hands as all the rivers that flowed into Pakistan originated from that region. This was the major underlying reason for Pakistan’s past and present obsession with Kashmir. The remainders were all cosmetic add-ons like Kashmir being a Muslim majority state. Pakistan’s present primacy to water disputes as a core issue with India reinforces this fact.
The second major blunder that Nehru committed was to stop the Indian Amy drive to Muzaffarabad at Uri when the Indian Army in its offensive rolling momentum would have wrested the whole of Kashmir State including Gilgit and Skardu from Pakistani hands.
Nehru once again submitted to political considerations and ignored the sound military advice of the Indian Army Commanders. Besides other reasons, here again the Sheikh Abdullah factor came into play. It is little known that Sheikh Abdullah’s political base and support was confined to the Kashmir Valley only. If the Indian Army had wrested back the whole of what is Pakistan Occupied Kashmir territory then the non-Kashmiri Mirpuris who are Punjabi speaking would have been in ethnic majority and displaced Sheikh Abdullah as the Muslim majority leader of Kashmir. This fact stands documented.
The third major blunder that Nehru committed was to apply Article 370 to Kashmir even though in the Constitution it was not intended for Kashmir. It was supposed to be a temporary application only. But today the Congress Governments that followed and the BJP too have unwittingly allowed it to assume a centrality that in relation to Kashmir that was not intended.
The other blunders by Nehru on Kashmir like referring the issue to the United Nations and an offer for a plebiscite are publicly well known and are not being referred to.
One more blunder that needs to be pointed out is that for a number of years Nehru made the Ministry of External Affairs handle the Kashmir issue and not the Home Ministry because he knew that with Sardar Patel as the Home Minister the Kashmir problem would be handled firmly and squarely by Sardar Patel and not with kid gloves as Nehru was doing. Sardar Patel would have placed India’s security considerations over Nehru’s weakness for Sheikh Abdullah who some years later let down Nehru and forcing Nehru to place him in confinement for a number of years.
India’s political leaders have still not learnt the appropriate lessons from Nehru’s blunders on Kashmir and as the present Government approaches and pronouncements indicate that once again political considerations are being given primacy over Indian security considerations.