Thursday, 30 January 2014

My reply to a student from Singapore, Dr Shabir Choudhry

My reply to a student from Singapore, Dr Shabir Choudhry
Deepika Chandrasekar is a student who is doing some research on the following topic: "To what extent did the division of Jammu and Kashmir disrupt the peace of the Indian subcontinent?"
Like so many other students around the world who contact me for help and advice on various issues related to Jammu and Kashmir and Indo Pak relations she also asked for help, and subsequently sent me four questions. Her questions and my replies are as below.

1-    What are your views on the Kashmir dispute?

The Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed semi autonomous status under the British Raj. The State, referred here as Kashmir included the areas currently occupied by India, Pakistan and China and namely Jammu, the Valley of Kashmir, Ladakh (Occupied by India); Aksai Chin occupied by China in 1962 Indo China war, and a tract of approximately 2200 sq miles given to China by Pakistan to China in 1963 from Gilgit Baltistan and areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan occupied by Pakistan.

The British Raj in India consisted of two units, namely the British India which was directly ruled by the India and the Princely India consisted of more than 562 big and small Princely States and was indirectly ruled by the British through separate treaties. Jammu and Kashmir was among the biggest Princely States and enjoyed greater autonomy than vast majority of other Princely States; and also had history and tradition of being an independent country.

The Division of India which took place in accordance with the Two Nations Theory was only applicable to the British India; and did not apply to the Princely States, as pointed out in the following documents:

The Cabinet Mission Memorandum
Third June Plan
Indian Independence Act

The independent character of the Princely States, especially after the British departure from India, was discussed in a Cabinet Meeting, which was also attended by Mountbatten on 20th May 1947, in which The British Viceroy to India Lord Mountbatten asserted that ‘as soon as Dominion Status was granted to British India, paramountcy would come to an end. The states would then become fully independent and would be free to negotiate new arrangements if they thought it desirable to do so’ 1
Furthermore, Mountbatten in his speech to Chamber of Princes on 25th July 1947 explained to the Princes the position of the States after the lapse of Paramountcy: ‘the Indian Independence Act releases the states from all their obligations to the Crown. The states will have complete freedom – technically and legally they become independent’. 2

Apart from that the man who was seeking a separate homeland for Muslims and demanding a division of India, Mohammed Ali Jinnah also believed that the Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely Stats. Mr. Jinnah categorically asserted that the states were fully entitled to refuse to join either of the constituent assemblies. Mr. Jinnah, in a press statement on 17th June 1947, declared that:

‘After the lapse of paramountcy, the Indian states would be, constitutionally and legally, sovereign states and free to adopt for themselves any course they wished. It is open to the states to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly or to decide to remain independent. In my opinion they are free to remain independent if they so desire’.

This clearly demonstrates that the Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely States; and Mohammed Ali Jinnah practically proved that by accepting accession of Junagarr State which had a Muslim Ruler but vast majority of his subjects were non Muslims. Apart from that he supported Ruler of Hyderabad’s right to remain independent, even though this Princely State had two thirds non Muslim Majority; and if rules of the Two Nations Theory were applicable to the Princely States then Junagarr and Hyderabad would have automatically joined India.

What this proves is that after the end of the British Raj in India, when the British Paramountcy lapsed on 15 August 1947, the State of Jammu and Kashmir emerged as a sovereign State with a right to conduct its own foreign affairs. The Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir concluded a Standstill Agreement with newly established state of Pakistan; and made a similar offer to India.

Independence of Jammu and Kashmir did not lost for too long because of two big hostile neighbours. On 22 October 1947, Pakistan violated the Standstill Agreement and managed a tribal invasion of Kashmir (for details see my book: Tribal Invasion and Kashmir). In order to save his throne and the country he asked for help from India, which was only made available after the accession which was provisionally accepted.

On the morning of 27 October 1947, the Indian forces landed in Srinagar, and the subsequent war between India and Pakistan divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir; and which remains forcibly divided to date and people suffer on both sides of the divide.

Despite the respective claims of India and Pakistan, the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed. It is not legally part of India, Pakistan or china. All areas are occupied and the forces of these countries are stationed there against our will. Hitherto, there were only three parties to the dispute, namely India, Pakistan and people of Jammu and Kashmir. China, despite its occupation of JK territory, is not considered as a party to the dispute. However, over the years, mainly due to weakening position of Pakistan, government of Pakistan and some Kashmiri leaders have made efforts to make China part of the Kashmir dispute, which would be disastrous for Jammu and Kashmir and the entire region.

Even though it is people of Jammu and Kashmir who continue to suffer, and it is they who are the main party to the dispute, the sad thing is the both occupying countries have never included people of JK part of any negotiations.

We had no say in the UN Security Council, and all the Resolutions are against our will. The UNCIP Resolution of 5 January 1947 truncated our right to self determination. What we have is a right of accession and not right to self determination. The Shimla Agreement of 1972 has practically made the Kashmir dispute a bilateral dispute; and the UN Resolutions are only mentioned by Pakistan and some Kashmiri leaders to fool their audience.

There could be no peace in the Indian Sub Continent until the Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and India and Pakistan have no right to decide our future. As long as the Kashmir dispute is there unresolved, there will be powerful groups in Pakistan and elsewhere recruiting people in name of Jihad and liberation of Kashmir, hence more violence and destruction.

Kashmir and the people of the region have seen too much violence and destruction. Gun and violence is not the way forward, as that will further aggravate the situation. People want to live in peace and harmony and the way forward is a process of dialogue involving all parties to the dispute.
1.         Cabinet Record 134/343, 1B (47) 26, 20th May 1947, quoted in Mountbatten, by Ziegler, Phillip.
2.         Full text of the speech, Rao, Guru Raj, Legal Aspects of the Kashmir Problem, pages 190-194.
(You can also quote from my book: Kashmir and the Partition of India (My Mphil theses)

2- How do you think this conflict has disrupted peace in India?


Although the partition of India on communal lines and subsequent riots that killed more than half million people embittered the relationship between the two countries; but it is believed that with time the wound would have healed if it was not for the bitter rivalry over the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The controversial Radcliffe Award ensured that India also had a land access to Kashmir through Gurdaspur.

Both the Muslim League and the Congress were competing with each other to win over the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. After the British Raj, both countries went to war with each other over the control of Jammu and Kashmir. No country was in a position to win a decisive victory against the other; and the UN arranged a Cease Fire which became effective on 1 January 1949.

Despite the Cease Fire both countries remained hostile to each other and their efforts to get Kashmir continued. For decades the Kashmir dispute was a corner stone of their foreign policies; and their bilateral relationship had been held hostage by this dispute.

The Kashmir dispute not only led to more than war between the both competing countries it also promoted religious extremism, hatred and violence, as people were persuaded to wage a jihad against Hindu India. People of Pakistan, especially the people of Punjab, where from the ruling elite belongs, are emotional about Kashmir and they wanted to get Jammu and Kashmir for religious and strategic reasons. Also beauty and natural resources of Kashmir were very important to them.

In my considered opinion the root cause of instability in the Indian Sub Continent is because of the unresolved Kashmir dispute. Also it is also the bone of contention between the two countries, and main source of tension, competition arms race, hatred and extremism. Pakistan justifies in keeping a large army and nuclear war heads and sophisticated missile system because of animosity with India over Kashmir.

In view of this, it is imperative that the Kashmir dispute is resolved through a process of dialogue, and by taking appropriate steps to build confidence and increasing the area of cooperation that a new era of friendship and cooperation could begin in South Asia.

3- How do the people in Kashmir feel about this dispute?

Jammu and Kashmir was a multi religious and multi ethnic state with great civilisation, vibrant and tolerant society. However, all this changed after the partition of India, and the tribal invasion and forced division of the Jammu and Kashmir State. Furthermore the Pakistani supported militancy mainly in the Valley of Kashmir has torn apart the fabrics of this tolerant society and gave rise to religious intolerance, hatred and violence.

Now the position is as follows:
·         So called Azad Kashmir 100% Muslim;

·         Gilgit Baltistan 100% Muslim, although different areas are occupied by different sects of Islam;

·         From the Valley of Kashmir nearly all non Muslims were forced to leave because of militancy; and the uprooted people live in Jammu and in India;

·         In Ladakh, Leh has non Muslim majority (Buddhists); and Kargil has Muslim majority;

·         In Jammu there is non - Muslim majority with some districts having Muslim majority.

Because of the forced division and religious indoctrination people are divided on religious, ethnic and regional lines. Also people are directly influenced by the propaganda of either India or Pakistan and the political parties operating in both parts of the State.

Result of this is some people want to join India, some want to join Pakistan and some want to become independent. Some would even vote for the status quo. However, nearly all want to have Kashmiri identity, culture and traditions preserved. If there was a vote held under an impartial body like the UN with three choices, namely accession to India, accession to Pakistan and an independent Jammu and Kashmir, many impartial surveys have concluded that more than 70% will vote for the third option of independence.

It is because of this both India and Pakistan want to ensure that there is no third option available to the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and that they are not part of any negotiations to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Whatever is the future of Jammu and Kashmir, overwhelming majority of the people believe that the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir is one political entity; and it must not be divided, as it would lead to more extremism and intolerance in the region.

Also overwhelming majority of the people believes there is no military solution to the dispute and that the dispute must be resolved by a process of trilateral dialogue.

4- How the Kargil War affected India and Pakistan?


Animosity and distrust between India and Pakistan continued despite diplomatic relations and different pacts. Both countries continued to work against each other and destabilise the other. Most Pakistanis believed that India did not sincerely acknowledge the creation of Pakistan; and all Pakistan’s energies were India centric, and to defend itself from the giant neighbour.

In the late 1990s, the governments of Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee decided to start a process of dialogue to resolve all outstanding disputes including the Kashmir dispute. Both matured and pro peace Prime Ministers came to the conclusion that the Indian Sub Continent needs peace and not continued confrontation and hatred. So despite opposition from the powerful anti peace lobbies both Prime Ministers continued with the confidence building measures and the peace process.

In this regard a daring visit by Atal Behari Vajpayee to Pakistan and Minar e Pakistan to demonstrate his sincerity that he wanted peace in the region; and that India sincerely acknowledged existence of Pakistan and did not want to destroy Pakistan.

While millions of people were dreaming of peace in the sub continent and close cooperation between India and Pakistan, the powerful Pakistan army and anti peace forces had other ideas. They wanted to back stab the peace process and their elected Prime Minister by initiating another military operation against India. This time they selected the heights of Kargil and.

Sad thing is that while the civilian government in Pakistan was busy in making plans for the peace, mutual trade and cooperation a small group in the top ranks of the Pakistan army planned the misadventure of Kargil, which killed the peace process and had a far reaching negative impact on the India Pakistan relations. Because of the Kargil, the trust level was at its lowest; and the Indian government and its establishment felt they were betrayed; and that how could they trust the country which initiates a military attack while signing a treaty of friendship and mutual cooperation.

The Kargil adventure will go down as a turning point in the history of the both countries; and will always be viewed as a disastrous mistake that caused death and destruction and rolled back the peace process. Also it strengthened the suspicions, mistrust and hatred. END

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