Kashmir is not for bartering terror

(all texts inside of {xxxx} were footnotes in the original text)

By K.N. Pandit

Towards the last phase of his term, former US president George Bush is said to have realized the mistake of his administration’s disreputable involvement in Iraq imbroglio. In the same strain, it is also reported that the US made more strategic errors in her strategy of conducting war on terror which plunged her troops into raging battles in Afghanistan.

For one year in the past Taliban revival and retaliation have caused much embarrassment to the US troops in their fight against Al Qaeda – Taliban combine as well as Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan and NWFP region of Pakistan.

Maulana Fazlu’r-Rahman, chief of the Jamaat-e-Ulemae-Islam had successfully brokered a truce between Pakistani security forces and the jihadis in 2005, which resulted in a ceasefire between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani security forces in April 2006. That controversial truce agreement, which the then President General Musharraf tried to sell to the Americans as an achievement of his administration, turned out to be a golden opportunity for the Taliban to bounce back with vengeance. Consequently, the Taliban made a successful comeback in Afghanistan in the spring of 2006 – their first powerful offensive since their regime was driven out of Kabul in 2001 {‘Pakistan’s shift alarms the US’, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times, Jan 20, 2009 Asia Times online}.

Pakistan based and supported terrorists outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s attacks on Mumbai industrial targets on 26 November 2008 caused commotion to regional strategic scenario in which we find the US and NATO troops engaging the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Pakistani troops engaged in fierce combats with Pakistani and Al-Qaeda Taliban in Bajaur Agency of NWFP and the Swat Valley.

As India mounted pressure on Pakistan to ensure that terrorist camps operating on her soil are shut down and the culprits who masterminded Mumbai carnage handed over to India for prosecuting them under the law, Islamabad, after vehement denials, found it difficult for her to repudiate the evidence India had produced. The US and UK, whose nationals, too, were among 187 victims of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba’s murderous attack, found that India had produced irrefutable evidence of involvement of Pakistani super intelligence agency ISI in the carnage. {Refer US Ambassador’s interview to the correspondent of NDTV of India.}

Finding itself in a wobbly situation, Islamabad whipped up war hysteria remonstrating that India was amassing her army along Indo-Pak international border and the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. This was despite India’s repeated assertion that she did not consider war an option of resolving Mumbai carnage incident nor did she deploy her troops along the border with any intention of a show of strength.

Under the pretext of being on the verge of an attack by India (surgical operation), Islamabad decided to work out reflex threat, and, after withdrawing her hundred thousand troops from operations in Bajaur Agency and Swat Valley, re-deployed them along Indo-Pak border. She said that the clouds of war were looming large; she even cancelled the leave of hr active soldiers and recalled the reserves to be prepared for a logjam with India.

This move sent alarm bells ringing in the Pentagon, which now anticipated sudden spurt in anti-American operations by the combined forces of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in the entire Pak-Afghan frontier region including the Northern regions of Swat.

General Petraeus, Chief of the US Central Command made furtive visits to Islamabad to dissuade Pakistani authorities from pulling back troops from their operational ground in the north-west to her borders with India in the east. He also conveyed Bush administration’s intention of a substantial hike in military aid to Pakistan.

However, this development came as a heaven-sent opportunity for Islamabad.  Bogged as it was with the fury of her civil society on joining the Americans in their war against the radical Taliban, Pakistani government found withdrawal from NWFP nothing short of good riddance and plausible excuse.

In the background of this situation, American Generals stumbled on the idea of tempering Pakistan’s sensitivities by raking up Kashmir issue and linking it to terrorism. The first instance of giving vent to this line of thinking came from no other person than General Petraeus himself. In a press conference, he said that in the context of new strategy of the US, not only Afghanistan but the entire South Asian region had to be brought under lens.{Commentary, General Petraeus on New Strategy in the Sub-Continent: www.bbc,com, }

In fact General Petraeus was reflecting the views of Bruce Riedel, President Barack Obama’s top adviser on South Asia. Riedel, who has also counselled three US presidents on South Asia and the Middle East, advocates the India-Pakistan normalization route to solving Afghanistan.

“The basic premise of this thinking is that normal relations with India, particularly resolving the Kashmir dispute, will let Pakistan focus more on the fight against al-Qaeda and Taliban along the western border,” says Riedel.{News.bbc.co.uk, 10 December 2008} Although not many South Asian experts seem to agree with this strategy, yet the view may have found favour with the hawks in Pentagon. Curiously, during his January 2009 visit to India, the British foreign secretary, David Miliband had commented that terrorism problem in India was linked to the resolution of the Kashmir issue. In an article in a British newspaper, Miliband wrote “the resolution of the Kashmir issue would deny extremists in the region one of the main reasons for taking up arms.” {The Pioneer, Jan. 22, 2009, p. 5, www.dailypioneer.com. It is amusing that Miliband  had no comment  on Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda organization arguing that the reason for  spreading Islamic terror world over especially the US and UK was unwanted and unpopular presence of Anglo-American establishments in the Saudi kingdom and the Gulf region.}

To counter India’s mounting pressure in the wake of Mumbai carnage, Pakistan has linked Kashmir dispute to US-Pak joint military strategy in Pak-Afghan border, Bajaur and Swat Valley regions where pro-Al-Qaeda Afghan and Pakistani Taliban activists are fighting Pakistani and NATO forces.

Reviving the rhetoric of Kashmir dispute may be the Anglo-American ploy to dissuade Pakistan from disengaging her troops in NWFP for re-deployment along the border with India. The fact of the matter is that the US has never accepted India’s position that the State of Jammu and Kashmir became legally and constitutionally an integral part of the Indian Union when the Maharaja of the State signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947.  Instead, Washington has been implicitly favouring undoing of status quo in Kashmir and restructuring the state along religious and ethnic lines, something which half a decade long Kashmiri peoples’ struggle for freedom from autocratic rule stubbornly rejected.

In October 1956 the Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution for Jammu and Kashmir which declared that the State “is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.” {Human Rights in Kashmir; Report of A Mission:  International Commission of Jurists, Geneva, 1995, p.19}

It is very likely that in offering olive branch to Pakistan in the shape of raking up Kashmir dispute and linking it to overall grandiose idea of “war on terror”, the US think-tanks will exert more pressure on New Delhi to translate into practice UN Security Council’s Resolutions on Kashmir namely the plebiscsite.  The process has already begun.

This means that once again a long-drawn legal battle among the stake holders on Kashmir issue is in the offing.  This necessitates refreshing our knowledge of a small part of the story of how the United Nations handled Kashmir dispute at the Security Council level over the years.

But before proceeding, we need to state that the US has been hinting at division of the original state along religious and ethnic lines. The first and a very strong attempt in this context were made when Owen Dixon Plan was introduced through the instrumentality of the Security Council way back in 1950-51. {Human Rights in Kashmir; Report of a mission, op.cit., p. 18.} Thereafter, Anglo-American lobbies pandering to Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession, of course more in pursuit of their global strategic and military aggrandisement than those of Pakistan, reproduced Dixon formula from time to time under various cliché like Kathwari Plan of mid 1990s and Musharraf Plan of late 2007. In order to lace these plans with an air of legitimacy, the originators took shelter behind the resolutions of the Security Council, which talked loud of the will of the people of the State  concretized in concepts like “plebiscite” of pro-Pak groups,  “self-determination” of All Party Hurriyat and “self- rule” of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s school.

We would like to recapitulate briefly the response of the parties concerned to the Security Councils Resolutions in question to show where the malaise lies. Kashmir researchers will need to keep vital turns of post-independence history in mind when discussing the complexity of Kashmir question. It will also help the American think-tanks not to be over enthusiastic to pour the home-made concoction down the throat of parties concerned. Astute statesmanship calls for balanced anticipation of events likely to follow a particular move.

In March 1950 the U.N. appointed Sir Owen Dixon, the Chief Justice of Australia, its representative in India and Pakistan. He raised the possibility of regional plebiscites, either throughout the various regions within the State or in the Valley of Kashmir alone, leading to a partition of the State. While Nehru took his time, both Sheikh Abdullah himself and Pakistan Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan rejected it. In his report to the United Nations in September 1950, Dixon said, “The interest of the people, the justice as well as the permanence of the settlement, and the imperative necessity of avoiding another refugee problem, all point to the wisdom of adopting partition as the principle of settlement and of abandoning that of an overall plebiscite. But in addition the economic and geographic considerations point in the same direction.”

Commenting on self-determination as a political principle in general and its application to Jammu and Kashmir, Professor Maurice Mendelson, Q.C, an authority on international law whom the International Commission of Jurist had approached for opinion on the subject, reported back as this: “But in fact, there is no warrant in law for this type of fragmentation of the ‘peoples’ and the international community and international law have firmly set their face against the “Bonianization” that this might entail. In a report purporting to expound the law, the policy preferences of the authors should perhaps have been left out, but even as a matter of legal policy these recommendations are questionable. (a) If implemented, they could (as is recognised) endanger international peace and security. (b)  They could (the authors’ protestations notwithstanding) create a precedent for demands to break up India and other multi-ethnic, multi-denominational states, with potentially disastrous consequences not only existing structures but also for fragile inter-communal peace. (c) Braking up JK might, in the view of the members of the Mission, help solve some political and human rights problems there; but it is likely to create others. For within each fragment defined on ethnic or religious grounds, there may well be minorities whose aspirations may not be satisfied, and whose own human rights could be seriously endangered. (d) Using religion as the sole or a major criterion for defining a political unit is not self-evidently desirable. It is not necessarily a person’s only or most important affiliation, and there are potential human right problems here too.  Furthermore, hatred of other groups, identified on the basis of their religion, has been one of the main causes of horrific bloodshed in the sub-continent and elsewhere. Accordingly to single out religion as the basis of a polity is not necessarily a progressive step.” {Ibid. Appendix 1, p.141}

Evidently Owen Dixon had also realised potential dangers lurking in plebiscite, partial or regional in Jammu and Kashmir and modified his earlier report. Unfortunately, those who took up his original plan and are now reproducing it under different names showed little or no sensitivity to the serious consequences of the exercise to which an allusion has already been made. The situation in the sub-continent is much more volatile today in the contexts of religion and ethnicity. To rake up a sensitive issue like plebiscite or what is called in more diplomatic jargon “will of the people” is to drag the sub-continent to the brink of a disastrous phenomenon.

It also needs to be said that though Lord Mountbatten, the first Governor – General of independent India expressed on 27 October 1947 that the wishes of the inhabitants be consulted after the invasion of J& K had been terminated and law and order restored, {Letter dated 27 October 19947, Lord Mountbatten to Maharaja Hari Singh.} there are reasons to doubt whether Lord Mountbatten intended, or had the legal power, to impose conditions on accession? Again in the words of Professor Maurice, “ but even if he had, (a) this would not bind India under the international law, and (b) the invasion he referred to has still not been terminated.”

In short, under international law as it stood at the time, the accession was valid, and the inhabitants of J&K had no right to be consulted. Accordingly, for them to have such a right now, they would have had to have acquired it subsequently and subsequent developments in international law did not confer a right of secession on a non-colonial people such as the inhabitants of the Indian State of Jammu and  Kashmir.   Not to speak of reaching a certain level of oppression justifying secession of the State from the Indian Union, in developmental activity and in the context of raising the standard of life, the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir has taken big strides with income per capita much higher than in any other state of the Indian Union.

In conclusion we hope that Washington and London will desist from raking up an issue which has the potential of exacerbating religion-based violence thus derailing peace processes undertaken at various levels in the sub-continent. Labelling territories as disputed and bartering them away to buy peace with the terrorists is not the way of eradicating global terror.
(The write is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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