Revisiting Indo-Pak Negotiations on Kashmir 1962-63

By K.N. Pandita – President Kennedy and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan met in Bermuda December 20, 1962. They agreed to provide $ 120 million as “emergency” military aid to India to face short-term threat from China. Rebuffing Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys’ concern that “should the West aid India and the Kashmir talks fail, it would have disastrous effect on Pakistan”, President Kennedy asked,” What would be so disastrous if Pakistan left CENTO? What do we get from Pakistan? In return for protection of our alliance and our assistance what do they do for us?” This was also indirect disapproval of Macmillan’s expression of more concern for Pakistan and criticism of India.

As Chinese troops crossed and routed Indian border post in North East, President Kennedy began responding to Nehru’s startling request for military equipment. He sounded Pakistan to give a commitment that it would not try to fish in disturbed waters by contemplating indirect support to China in opening another front with India on her western border. Ayub Khan’s response was that such a commitment was contingent upon a just solution of Kashmir issue. This was not the first time that Pakistan was making any demand from the US for regional peace contingent to Washington bringing pressure on India to resolve Kashmir issue.

Though, by and large, the US generally refused to hinge its relations with Pakistan to Kashmir scenario, Kennedy, in unison with the British, encouraged a dialogue between the two contending countries over Kashmir. The ground was prepared by unpublicized joint visits to New Delhi and Islamabad by President Kennedy’s rowing ambassador Averell Harriman and Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys. The fact of the matter is that while Kennedy administration looked far beyond the immediate disaster of the Chinese incursions into India, it also wanted to make Pakistan realize the consequences of a big change in Asian geo-strategy. As such it tried to convince Ayub Khan about the feasibility of providing military hardware and other assistance to New Delhi.

At this point of time the US was also alarmed by 1962 border talks between China and Pakistan that ceded a chunk of Kashmir territory along the Karakorum watershed to the Chinese. Pakistan’s courting of China would have far-reaching impact on regional strategies.

American pressure continued even while bilateral talks were underway. During the first round in Rawalpindi, US Ambassador MaConaughy in Islamabad and his British counter part High Commissioner Sir Morris James remained in close touch with each other and the two delegations. This pattern of close observation continued throughout all the six rounds.

During initial round the two sides reiterated their traditional positions. In the second round in New Delhi (Jan 16-19, 1963) the two sides seriously discussed the basis for drawing international boundary through Kashmir. Pakistan stated is guiding principles as (a) character of the population (b) security considerations, and © control of river headwaters. India objected to the first point stating that this could flare up communal reprisals. At the end the two sides agreed on a confidential joint statement of principles calling for an international boundary through Kashmir.

In the third round (Feb 8-10, 1963) at Karachi, Pakistan stiffened its position on the question of international boundary. In response to India’s offer of minor concessions to adjust the cease-fie line, Bhutto’s counter proposal allowed only a sliver of territory in Jammu retaining all of the valley and all of Ladakh for Pakistan.

At this point, Phillips Talbot, US Assistant Secretary of State, who had been flying in and out of Delhi monitoring the talks, presented to President Kennedy a US-UK proposal for the partition of the J&K. It suggested joint Indian and Pakistani presence in the valley and partition for the rest of Kashmir.

Next day Bhutto flew to Beijing to sign the border agreement with China. This and Pakistan’s poor territorial offer upset US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, who warned Pakistani Ambassador Aziz in these words, “ If the negotiations were to fail because of Pakistan, the sympathy that Pakistan has enjoyed from other governments on Kashmir in the UN and elsewhere would be dissipated.”

On the eve of the fourth round, MacConaughy, the US Ambassador in Islamabad delivered to Ayub Khan yet another letter from President Kennedy echoing Dean Rusk’s earlier warning and adding that “if the opportunity to solve Kashmir were lost, it would seem almost inevitable that the issue would for all practical purposes , be settled on the basis of status quo”.

In the fourth round held at Calcutta (March12-14, 1963), Pakistan failed to improve on the territorial proposal made during the Karachi round. This was despite Ayub’s surprising comment made during a conversation with Ambassador MacConaughy that the partition proposal made by Pakistan in the third round of talks was “damn non-sense”

Disappointed at the course of Indo-Pak talks, President Kennedy approved the release of a US-UK paper. It outlined the elements of Kashmir settlement:

* Giving both countries a substantial position in the Vale
* Ensuring access through the Vale for defene to then Roth and east (i.e. India’s defence of Ladakh)
* Ensuring Pakistan’s interests in the headwaters of Chenab River.
* Ensuring some local self-rule in the Vale and free movement of people
To India and Pakistan, and
* Enhancing economic development effort.

Since the contents of the paper were leaked to Pakistanis earlier than to the official delegations — perhaps through bureaucratic mix –, Nehru had reason to suspect the concept was worked up in Karachi behind his back.

In the fifth round the two sides stood fast by their positions except one change and that was both rejected the proposal of dividing the Valley.

In the sixth and the final round in Delhi (May 15-16, 1963) India rejected Pakistan’s proposal of internationalizing valley for six months followed by a plebiscite. She proposed a no use of force to change the status quo in Kashmir. Pakistan rejected the proposal.

With six month-long bilateral talks headed towards failure, Rusk-Sandys consultations resulted in the idea of mediation. Earlier Nehru had turned down Kennedy’s suggestion of Eugene Black serve as mediator but now he seemed not too averse to the idea. The idea was put to Ayub and Bhutto both of whom gave a cold shoulder to it. This annoyed the State Department, which issued a note to Pakistan saying, “ We do not see how we can help any further in altering the status quo on Kashmir.”

Today, forty-two yeas after that event, President Musharraf is producing the same “elements of settlement of Kashmir issue” albeit under different nomenclature. If India were to accept the “elements” today, she had no reason to reject it then. Current theo-fascism has made things much more complicated for India, for the US and for the world. (The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies Kashmir University, Srinagar).

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