Government should not overspend effort to undo the political damage inflicted by the recent leaked allegations by the Ministry of Defence and General VK Singh. The damage to India’s case in Kashmir cannot be undone. Just days after the recent disclosure terrorists have struck in Jammu to kill army and police personnel. More attacks should be expected by terrorists emboldened by the disclosures vindicating their allegations. Politics is about perception of facts and not about facts themselves. The recent disclosures have confirmed in the public mind all the perceived truths about India’s relationship with Kashmir repeatedly articulated by separatists and many other foreign powers. The government should instead seize the moment to convert a setback into opportunity and settle once and for all the Kashmir dispute that has bedeviled the subcontinent’s peace since Independence.
However, in order to attempt that the government must be honest enough to confront the truth and bold enough to dare an initiative.
What is the truth?
One need no iterate the oft repeated facts relating to the Kashmir dispute. Kashmir is not the problem but the symptom of the problem. The problem is the Partition. Kashmir was a state with contiguous borders with both India and Pakistan. The Hindu ruler of this Muslim majority state wanted independence and good relations with both nations. The attack by Pakistani raiders backed by its army to forcibly seize Kashmir forced the ruler’s hands. He acceded to India in order to obtain the Indian army’s help to repulse the enemy.
As Kashmir Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah pointed out recently, Kashmir unlike other princely states of the Indian Union did not merge with India but stopped short after accession. That is why it has a special status and Article 370. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the time of accepting Kashmir’s instrument of accession stated that it was “subject to the will of the people of Kashmir”. This was followed by India’s acceptance of the UN Resolution regarding Plebiscite in Kashmir. For over six decades stupid policies pursued by the governments of India and Pakistan, both acting like foreign pawns, has denied the region peace and stability. The distorted approach of both governments that have behaved like Raja Jaichand and Mir Jafar to ally with foreigners against their own flesh and blood has its roots in the Partition.
Britain offered the opportunity to keep India united by presenting the Cabinet Mission Plan that would have created a federation. Jinnah accepted the proposal. Nehru rejected it because the Plan allowed the Muslim dominated units to secede after 10 years if they so wished. Like pathetic colonial minions the leaders of India and Pakistan accepted Independence and Partition without the borders of the new nations determined. Immediately after Independence, accompanied by Partition, riots engineered by interested foreign powers to perpetuate the division cost a million lives within a few months. Similarly the engineered Kashmir dispute led to the partition of the state in order to create a permanent bone of contention that would prevent reunification. Nehru, who had rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan and a confederation when these were offered, attempted before his death to undo the spirit of the Partition by creating an Indo-Pakistan confederation.
In 1959 President Ayub Khan offered joint defence that would have automatically led to a confederation. But the same President Ayub Khan rejected Nehru’s proposal of a confederation presented by Sheikh Abdullah which Jinnah had accepted at the time of the Cabinet Mission Plan. In other words, both India and Pakistan had wanted confederation. But they had wanted it at different times. Therefore they cannot agree. Is this not shocking diplomacy? The absence of statesmanship displayed by leaders of both governments and their readiness to serve foreign interests could not be more glaring.
The latest revelations by the Indian government and General VK Singh have made prospects of reconciliation ever more remote. Peace will come only if the leaders of India and Pakistan are bold enough to cut the Gordian knot and make a dramatic breakthrough. Critics have opposed the proposed meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan scheduled for September 29 in New York. BJP leader and former foreign minister Mr. Yashwant Sinha has stated that such a meeting is premature as long as terrorism continues. He suggested that lower officials should first meet. One begs to differ. Even if lower officials meet and people to people contacts continue for a hundred years there will be no progress.
The problem is the trust deficit. That exists between governments and not between peoples. That exists because the armies of both nations are in contention. Only joint defence and operations to wipe out terrorism from the region will remove the trust deficit. There are more victims of terrorism in Pakistan than in India.
Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh should bluntly tell Mr. Nawaz Sharif on September 29 that enough is enough. Unless the armies of both nations cooperate there cannot be peace and stability in the region. If even now, when both nations are besieged by terrorism and instability, their governments cannot act rationally, they never will. Without joint defence the trust deficit cannot be removed. If there is joint defence it must inevitably lead to some form of confederation. Both leaders should read the writing on the wall. They should forget what their critics might say today. They should focus on what historians will say tomorrow.