New Kashmir bargain

By K.N. Pandita,

By disengaging some of its troops from anti Taliban-Al Qaeda front in NWFP and re-deploying them on international border with India, Pakistan is countering American pressure on “doing more” against Pakistani perpetrators of 26/11 carnage.

In a re-hyphenating act Washington has revived its Kashmir rhetoric. Her Generals are sending confusing messages with a view to shift the pressure point from Islamabad to New Delhi.

On his visit to Amethi as Rahul Gandhi’s friend, the British foreign secretary David Miliband said that terrorism in India was linked to resolving Kashmir issue.  

Linking Pakistan sponsored, abetted and supported terrorism to Kashmir with the purpose of bringing pressure on India to take her hands off Kashmir is an extremely dangerous short cut to neutralising global or regional terror spread by radical Islamists. The British did not feel the need of alerting Bush administration that 9/11 and global Islamic terror were Al Qaeda’s response to America providing crutches to Saudi monarchy

What do the Americans want to sell to India? Very simple. Undo status quo in Kashmir, open it for arbitration, accept a dilution of India’s sovereignty in J&K and let the Muslim majority valley pass into the hands of the Punjabis of Lahore brand failing which nobody can stop Pakistani jihadis grabbing political power in Pakistan, taking hold of her nuclear arsenal and unleashing the WMD selectively against India.

This is Washington’s prescription for containing the Islamists in Pakistan who are sponsoring terrorism against India on their soil. The US has signed a bilateral treaty with India on containment of terrorism.  If this is the purport of such an agreement, evidently it has been an exercise in futility if not a deliberate act of subterfuge.

Washington, by it own confession, has been offering mediation on Kashmir for a long time. Despite India’s tacit refusal to accept mediation by the third party, Washington has been drawing out from Pandora’s Box one after another prescription for application to Kashmir juggernaut. But on each formula it has drawn flak, be it the Dixon Plan, or Kathawri Plan or Musharraf Plan; all old wine in new bottles. The change is in nomenclature while the substance remains the same.

American policy planners and think-tanks are once again focussing on Kashmir and raking up UN Kashmir resolutions/proceedings, albeit selectively. As such it becomes important for inquisitive historians and researchers to be well-informed on the subject, which has been made much more complicated by those who want to blend it with self-righteous approach.

The truce agreement proposed by the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) on August 13, 1948 differed in one respect from the Security Council’s resolution of 21 April 1948. It said, “The territories on the Pakistani side of the cease-fire line were not to be occupied by Indian forces but were to be administered by their local authorities under the supervision of the Commission.”  To UNCIP’s proposal that India and Pakistan reaffirm that “the future status of J&K is determined in accordance with the will of the people”, India gave a qualified acceptance and Pakistan rejected it. On 5 January 1949 the Commission published detailed proposals for the administration of Plebiscite Administration, and in March 1949, American Admiral Chester Nimitz, was appointed the Plebiscite Administrator.

In the face of Sheikh Abdullah’s deep hostility towards Maharaja Hari Singh, reinforced by pressure from Nehru government in Delhi, the Maharaja, while not formally abdicating, handed over his powers to his 18-year old son, Yuvraj Karan Singh, on 29 June 1948. Indian State has no other example of shameless betrayal than that of reneging from the promise made to Hari Singh.

Article 1 of the Indian Constitution deemed the State of Jammu and Kashmir to be an integral part of Indian Union. However, Article 370, under the cross-heading “Temporary Provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir”, conferred on the State a degree of autonomy unique among the States of India. In particular, the power of the Indian Parliament to legislate for J&K was restricted to Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication. Union legislation on other matters could be applied to J&K only with the concurrence of the government of the State. The President of India was given power to abrogate or modify Article 370, but only on the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. It was not made clear whether this power was to remain exercisable, and if so what (if any) consent was needed to its exercise, after the constituent Assembly had completed its duties, Article 370 being regarded as “temporary”.

In April 1951 Yuvraj Karan Singh called an election to State Constituent Assembly. In theory members were to be elected by secret ballots on the basis of universal suffrage, but these were rigged in as far the nomination papers of candidates of other parties were rejected. The Praja Parishad — a party with considerable support from the people of Jammu region —boycotted after the nomination of many of its candidates had been rejected. Two independent candidates nominated for constituencies in the valley withdrew under pressure before the election. Representatives of the National Conference were returned to all 75 seats without a vote being cast except in two constituencies in Jammu.

In his speech delivered before the State Constituent Assembly on October 1951 on the occasion of its inauguration, the Sheikh recommended accession to India, and rejected accession to Pakistan or independence. But soon he showed signs of a drift. Alastair Lamb states in Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy that what the Sheikh really wanted was independence. The Sheikh himself made this clear in a discussion with Warren Austin, the Ambassador of the US to the UN, on 28 January 1948.

To put an end to growing estrangement, leaders of the National Conference reached an agreement with Nehru government in Delhi in 1952. In this agreement mechanism of future relationship was evolved. Hereditary rulership was to be replaced by an elected Head of State, (future Sadr-e-Riyasat), laws, which reserved rights of land ownership in the State to citizens of the State were to be retained, the state would have its own flag, the power of the President of India to  declare emergency rule could be exercised only at the request of or with the concurrence of the State government and the residuary powers under the Indian Constitution were to be   vested in the State and not in the Union Government (as with all other States).

The Delhi Agreement of 1952 was partially implemented in November 1952 when the Constituent Assembly elected the former Yuvraj Karan Singh, the first Sadr-i-Riyasat. However, Sheikh Abdullah delayed implementation of the rest of the Agreement.

In November 1952, the Sheikh ordered the arrest of two leaders of the Praja Parishad – - an act which heightened the already considerable tension in Jammu, where the Praja Parishad had been campaigning for the separation of Jammu from Kashmir and the abolition of the special status of the State.

Meanwhile, the Sheikh raised the question of independence again in widely-reported discussions with Adlai Stevenson (statesman and American Presidential candidate in 1952 and again in 1956) when the latter visited Srinagar in May 1953. He set up a working committee of the Constituent Assembly to consider a wide range of options for the future of the State. At a meeting of the Committee in May 1953 he denounced the Delhi Agreement and advocated independence for the Valley. The Sheikh hinted at the possibility of independence in public speeches in July that year.  However, after his removal on August 9, 1953, his successor Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad declared that the State was a permanent part of Indian Union and proceeded to implement the rest of the Delhi Agreement.

In October 1956 the J&K Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution for Jammu and Kashmir which declared (contrary to the Security Council’s resolution 91 of 1951) that the State “is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.”  On 24 January 1957 the Security Council reaffirmed that resolution. However, a resolution calling for the study of a proposal for a UN force in Kashmir was vetoed by the USSR. The UN sent the Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring to report on Kashmir, but he was unable to make any concrete proposal.

In 1954, Pakistan entered into a military pact with the USA and began to receive American weapons. With this eroded India’s acceptance of the principle of self-determination through a plebiscite in J&K. On 29 March 1956, Nehru, in a speech to the Indian Parliament formally withdrew the offer of a plebiscite. Kashmir has assumed strategic importance in view of the US arming Pakistan with modern weaponry. Its regional implications were far-reaching particularly when the world was going through cold war era, Nehru added.

Despite this development, Sheikh Abdullah continued to call for plebiscite through the Plebiscite Front founded by his close associate, Mirza Afzal Baig.  Foundation was laid for a shift in half a century old J&K politics from peaceful and non-violent struggle for ousting monarchical rule and ushering in peoples rule to taking up arms and voting for confrontation with Indian secular democracy.

Three attempts made by Pakistan to grab the State of Jammu and Kashmir by force of arms failed, and in one of these Pakistan got split into two. The proxy war has been going on for nearly two decades in which the old Plebiscite Front activists of Kashmir found a new avatar in terrorist organizations of various names challenging India’s territorial integrity.

It will do little good either to the interests of the Americans or the British to rake up Kashmir issue with the tacit objective of forcing India to offer the State to Pakistan on a platter. In a broadly publicised interview, Al-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed said that wresting Kashmir from the hands of India is not the final mission of his organization; it aims at establishing a great Islamic Caliphate from the Dardanelles to the Straits of Malacca in Indonesia.

A bargain of Kashmir over terrorism shall have to be preceded by a bargain of Saudi Arabia over western domination.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

Comments are closed.