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Kashmir Fact File
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
How long will our empty, self-serving and self-deceiving views on the Kashmir situation continue to befuddle us? The latest statement has come from CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat during his recent visit to Srinagar.
Mr Karat told the press:
This is sound advice. But what precisely is the Kashmir issue? To recognize that recall some facts.
The Kashmir dispute is not the real issue. It is the symptom of the real issue. The real issue is the Partition of the subcontinent. During the last six decades an estimated 60,000 people died in the Kashmir violence. We continue to beat our breasts about it. In much less than six months just before and after Independence over one million people were slaughtered in deliberately engineered riots by the departing British rulers to ensure that a transfer of populations took place. Over 10 million people were rendered homeless and became refugees. There is not a whimper of protest or a tear shed over that. The Partition was avoidable. The riots were deliberately encouraged by Authority. Our rulers, including India’s first Home Minister Sardar Patel, rendered impotent by Lord Mountbatten remained helpless spectators. These facts can be authenticated by records of that time. References to them were written about earlier. These do not bear repetition.
The Partition was avoidable. This was implicitly confirmed by both Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. It has been pointed out repeatedly how both leaders erred grievously and were manipulated by Lord Mountbatten to accept the Partition. Had Partition not been avoidable why would both leaders have unsuccessfully sought to undo their own earlier policies before they died? On February 14, 1948 just a fortnight after his assassination Gandhi was to travel by foot to Lahore accompanied by 50 Punjabi refugee families to undo the spirit of Partition. Dr Sushila Nayar had already visited Lahore to complete all arrangements for the camp to house Gandhi and the refugees. Historians seldom dwell on this hard fact. Ever wondered why?
Pandit Nehru in 1964 sent Sheikh Abdullah to Pakistan to negotiate a confederation with Pakistan using Kashmir as the bridge. Five years earlier in 1959 he had airily refused an offer of joint defence by President Ayub Khan. Before Independence he had sabotaged the Cabinet Mission Plan to create a united, federal India. Nehru’s effort to undo his earlier mistakes came too late. He died while the Sheikh was in Pakistan. In any event the effort was too late. After India’s humiliating defeat by China in 1962 American perceptions had basically altered. America’s goal to divide the Communist block took precedence over creation of India-Pakistan cooperation. China was covertly interacting with America long before Kissinger’s visit to Beijing. Otherwise how could Ayub in 1963 after China humiliated India in 1962 have ceded part of Kashmir to China without America’s blessing? How could the West have helped China detonate its first nuclear test in 1964? To rope in China Pakistan became an indispensable instrument for Washington. Pro-Soviet India became expendable. The same Ayub who at US bidding sought joint defence with India in 1959 could in 1964 snub Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru.
Maharaja Hari Singh who ruled Kashmir in 1947 sought independence for his princely state when the British were departing. Most likely he had the full support of Sheikh Abdullah who was the strongest influence among his Muslim majority subjects. In a recent article well known columnist Mr MJ Akbar drew an analogy between the Nizam of Hyderabad who also sought independence for his princely state and Maharaja Hari Singh. The two in fact were not analogous. Unlike Hyderabad, Kashmir had borders with both India and Pakistan. Had the Pakistani “raiders” encouraged by the Pakistan army led then by British General Gracy not invaded Kashmir to abort Maharaja Hari Singh’s plan and compelled him to cede to India, an independent Kashmir would have been quite feasible. Perhaps that is why Pandit Nehru while accepting Kashmir’s accession to India introduced the caveat that it should be subject to the approval of the people.
However, had Kashmir become independent there would have been no permanent Kashmir dispute to ensure that India and Pakistan remained hostile and divided not only by boundary but also by spirit. Such a division suited Britain’s global strategy of that time. The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was an artificially contrived entity bequeathed by quirks of history to include disparate Ladakh, Jammu, the Valley and the northern areas of Gilgit. Six decades later the situation has changed and regional identities within Kashmir have sharpened. But even now, according to the recent opinion poll in Kashmir conducted by Britain’s Chatham House, the Valley alone unlike the rest of undivided Kashmir seeks independence.
India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir are parties to the Kashmir dispute. For sixty years India and Pakistan have not softened their respective claims to the whole of Kashmir. For sixty years there has been bickering, wars, subversion and cross border terrorism.
The above facts lead one to following conclusions: No lasting solution is feasible without concurrence of all three parties to the dispute. No lasting Kashmir solution will emerge unless the spirit of the Partition is undone. This cannot be accomplished unless India and Pakistan acquire institutionally a special relationship that renders them closer to each other than to any third power – whether America, China, Russia or Europe. Neither India nor Pakistan can ever realize its full potential unless stability is assured through such an institutional arrangement. In the worst case scenario the very survival of India and Pakistan can be threatened as long as the current relationship endures.
This was forecast by this scribe two decades ago. That forecast has not changed. Given the state of awareness and the conditions prevalent then, neither Mir Jaffar nor Jaichand were more blameworthy than modern leaders of India and Pakistan. And that includes Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan.
Even the British, architects of the Partition, owned a long term constructive view of the subcontinent. After the Kashmir hostilities ceased Sheikh Abdullah told Mountbatten: "I have been thinking Lord Mountbatten about the suggestion you made to me when I had dinner with you in October, that Kashmir should stand independent but have close relations with both India and Pakistan. Do you still think independence is feasible?"
Mountbatten replied: "I am afraid true independence is not feasible. But I am trying to expand the Joint Defence Council and through it Kashmir can be dealt with as a state acceding to both dominions rather than to only one."
So, even Mountbatten visualized Kashmir as the eventual bridge between India and Pakistan. Now, only the Valley can act as that bridge. And only earthquakes and floods remind both nations how close they really are!
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