Does the valley’s fate hang in balance?

By K.N. Pandita – As Chinese troops crossed and routed Indian border post in North East in 1962 war, President Kennedy began responding to Nehru’s startling request for military equipment. He sounded Pakistan not try to fish in troubled waters by contemplating indirect support to China in opening another front with India on her western border. Ayub Khan responded that such a commitment was contingent upon a just solution of Kashmir issue. Pakistan always hinged Indo-Pak relations to Kashmir.
Moving away from the policy of not hinging its relations with Pakistan on Kashmir scenario, Kennedy, in unison with the British, encouraged Kashmir dialogue between the two countries. 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 in 1963. Looking far beyond the immediate disaster of the Chinese incursions into India, Kennedy administration would make Pakistan realise the consequences of a big change in Asian geo-strategy and convince Ayub Khan about the feasibility of providing military hardware and other assistance to New Delhi.

1962 border talks between China and Pakistan alarmed Kennedy for Pakistan agreed to cede a chunk of Kashmir territory along the Karakorum watershed to China. 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 (c) 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, 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 defence to the north 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 Valley 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, evidently not from any common viewpoint but from national interests. 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 way back in 1963. Current Theo-fascism has made things much more complicated for India, for the US and for the world.
During the India-Pakistan dialogue in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September 2006, Pakistan identified the districts of Baramulla and Kupwara in J&K for immediate troop withdrawal by India as a gesture to help build the ‘impetus for peace’. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh contended that progress in the peace process could only take place if there was a complete cessation of cross-border infiltration and violence,.
Why is General Pervez Musharraf insisting on troop withdrawal specifically from these two districts, and indicates that the rationale goes beyond concern for the ‘impetus for peace’ or for the welfare of the people of Kashmir. These two districts are close to the LoC. Baramulla and Kupwara have traditionally served as a gateway to terrorism in the Kashmir Valley, and have, for long, been crucial to the Jihad in Kashmir.
The issue of troop reduction has been a central part of Pakistan’s long-standing demands on Kashmir and had, in the past, been projected as a pre-condition for talks with India. It is also an indication of the end-game Musharraf proposes to pursue on the Kashmir issue, comprehending a partition of the Valley under which these two districts, both with a Muslim majority of over 90 per cent, would be ceded to Pakistan.
During his recent visit in New York, Musharraf is also reported to have impressed upon the U.S Administration the need to influence India into agreeing to a troop reduction. Pakistan’s efforts to engage US ‘good-offices’ are at least partially influenced by the fact that, in 1963, the then US administration did bring some amount of pressure on India to consider ceding the “north-west” part of the Valley to Pakistan. India cast off the idea then and has since been steadfast in rejecting any such thoughts of a further partition, a point that the Government of India has often reiterated in the current context, with the Prime Minister himself insisting that there can be no redrawing of boundaries along religious and ethnic lines.
According to those who oversee security in the State, the prevailing situation in the two Districts, does not warrant any re-adjustment of the counter-insurgency grid, and any dilution of Forces is bound to affect the counter-insurgency grid and the security base. Pakistan-backed terrorist groups active in the Districts include the HM, which has a northern division for Kupwara-Bandipora-Baramulla; LeT, JeM, Al Umar Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Al Badr. Kupwara and Baramulla witness high levels of infiltration and terrorist activity, and any lowering of guard there would allow the terrorists, who have been under extraordinary pressure lately, to regroup and recover lost ground. It would also mean granting unhindered access to the Valley, especially to Srinagar, which is to the south-east of Baramulla. Being border districts adjacent to the LoC, any withdrawal of troops from Baramulla and Kupwara would undermine the internal security grid and would facilitate infiltration into the Valley. The operational advantage in these districts, vis-à-vis the execution of operations, accruing primarily due to terrain and location, lies with the terrorists. Troop withdrawal would simply cede the entire territory to the terrorists. Furthermore, the flow of actionable intelligence of terrorist movement into other Districts in J&K would also be adversely affected.
It is useful to note that approximately 34 terrorist ‘commanders’ were killed in the two districts between January 2003 and September 2005 (10 in Baramulla and 24 in Kupwara). While the number of civilian and SF fatalities is not as high as in some other districts of J&K [Baramulla witnessed 55 civilian and 19 SF deaths; and Kupwara: 13 civilian and 16 SF deaths this year, till September-end], the two districts serve as a gateway to the Valley. As many as 159 terrorists have been killed in Kupwara and 122 in Baramulla in the current year (the highest and second highest numbers in the State), and the two districts continue to be vital for terrorist and subversive activities. Further confirmation of this centrality to the terrorist enterprise comes, for example, from recent seizures of arms and ammunition. On September 19, the Army recovered a large cache of arms, ammunition and sophisticated devices for making bombs from a cave in the Gurez sector of Baramulla District. It included 14 AK rifles, a rocket projectile gun, rocket propelled missiles, 12 under-barrel grenade launchers, six pistols of Chinese and Pakistani origin, 80 sticks of RDX, 69 battery-operated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and a large number of grenades. Incidentally, it was in the Gurez sector that Indian troops had killed at least 18 infiltrators in July 2005. Consequent to border fencing and advanced detection devices, Army sources indicate that infiltrators are now using difficult and relatively inaccessible terrain as new routes, crossing the LoC through a mountain pass into the rocky and snow-covered region at a height of approximately 16,000 feet. In the past, infiltration through the Gurez sector had been rare, primarily because of the harsh terrain and poor weather conditions.
The Army currently holds commanding positions on the Shamshabari mountain range, north of Kupwara and above Uri in Baramulla. It is here that the Indian positions commence, on an approach from the PoK side, and these are crucial for any counter-infiltration plan. For instance, after the snow began to melt in the higher reaches sometime in July 2005, terrorists crossed the LoC from Chakwali to Kaobal Gali and the Kanzalwan area, in the Gurez sector. While the Security Forces (SFs) have, to a large extent over the past few years, been able to block ingress sites across Kishan Ganga River (Neelam Valley), which flows through the Gurez Valley in the Baramulla District, and also physically dominate the area up to Shamshabari range. (The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies , University of Kashmir, Srinagar)

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