Thursday, 23 March 2017
Jammu and Kashmir dispute and the CPEC, Dr Shabir Choudhry
1. Jammu and Kashmir dispute and the CPEC
Dr Shabir Choudhry 23 March 2017
The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh had ambitions to become a sovereign ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. He did not join India or Pakistan, and after the termination of the British Paramountcy on 15 August 1947, he technically became a sovereign ruler. He concluded a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan and offered India to have a Standstill Agreement too.
India did not refuse to have such an Agreement but wanted to discuss this matter. On 22 October 1947, Pakistan in violation of the Standstill Agreement launched a tribal attack on Jammu and Kashmir with intention of capturing it. This unprovoked aggression resulted in death and destruction. Tens of thousands of innocent people were killed, women kidnaped and raped. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir requested India for help, which was only provided once he signed an Instrument of accession with India on 26 October 1947.
India, after that made many blunders; and continue to do so. A short list is as follows:
1. When the panicked Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession he DID Not say it was Provisional; however, it was ‘provisionally’ accepted by the Lord Mountbatten, on behalf of an independent India, of which he was a Governor General.
2. First the British managed a partition of India on religious lines that hatred and resentment between both communities continues. 1 Secondly, Mountbatten accepted the accession conditionally giving the people of Jammu and Kashmir to take the final decision on future of the State. It must be pointed out that Pundit Nehru wanted the people of the Princely States to take decision regarding future of the States; but Mr Jinnah wanted the Rulers to take this decision. After lengthy discussion, the principle agreed between Pundit Nehru and Mr Jinnah was that the Rulers of the Princely States would decide the future of their states.
3. Under the Accession treaty it was responsibility of India to save life, liberty and property of all citizens of Jammu and Kashmir State.
4. It was also their responsibility to ensure that all Pakistani troops, all the tribesmen and the Pakistanis who came there for the purpose of fighting were driven out of Jammu and Kashmir.
5. Once that objective was achieved, then the matter was between people of Jammu and Kashmir and the government of India. People of Jammu and Kashmir had 3 options:
A/ Attest the ‘provisional’ accession;
B/ Reject it;
C/ Or negotiate new terms of the accession.
6. Before this stage, Pundit Nehru was persuaded by Lord Mountbatten that the matter should be brought to attention of the UN Security Council. Nehru, of course, had no experience about the mechanism of the UN, so he readily agreed; and India approached the UN Security Council on 1 January 1948. And to make the matters worse, the case was registered under Chapter six of the UN Charter which has only advisory role. It is the Chapter 7 that makes decisions mandatory which could be implemented by force if necessary. Under the Chapter 6, the parties to the dispute ‘seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice’.
7. Under Chapter 6, parties to the dispute can continue negotiations for ever; and that is what happened to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. But the Jammu and Kashmir dispute was internationalised. India could no longer dictate terms with its military might in the battlefield.
8. Despite the strength of Maharaja’s accession, although provisional, Nehru agreed to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir to determine its future.
9. If India truly believed that Jammu and Kashmir was an ‘integral’ part of India, then why they agreed to hold a plebiscite to determine its future?
10. The UN Security Council arranged a Cease Fire on 1 January 1949, that a plebiscite could take place. Under the UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948, Pakistan had to withdraw all their troops, withdraw tribesmen and other Pakistanis who entered Jammu and Kashmir for the purpose of fighting. After this, India had to withdraw ‘bulk’ of their troops followed by a plebiscite. Since Pakistan refused to implement part one of the Resolution, the other two parts could not take place and the State remains forcibly divided since 1947.
11. Apart from these blunders, India committed another blunder when after the 1965 war, and subsequent Tashkent Agreement, India vacated areas of Jammu and Kashmir which they invaded and returned to the pre - war positions. This was acceptance that India has no claim over the areas of the Jammu and Kashmir state occupied by Pakistan. On one hand, India claims that the Jammu and Kashmir is an ‘integral’ part of India; and on the other hand, they returned the areas they occupied in the 1965 war.
If rulers of India had really believed that the Jammu and Kashmir was an ‘integral’ part of India, then they could have withdrawn from the areas which were legally part of Pakistan; and they could have refused to withdraw from the areas of Jammu and Kashmir they occupied in the war.
12. Practically it meant, India was happy with the areas of the State of Jammu and Kashmir they controlled. They forgot that the provisional accession was for the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir and not for certain areas. In view of some constitutional lawyers, if India abandons the other areas of the State, the provisional accession becomes null and void.
There are other serious blunders too, but they are related to human rights and administration; and not directly connected to the CPEC and legal position. Just one short comment. India, in order to justify what they are doing in Kashmir say, Pakistan is sending terrorists in Kashmir to create law and order situation and destabilise Jammu and Kashmir.
Even if we accept that as a whole truth, still it is a responsibility of India to ensure people living under their jurisdiction are safe, their rights are not curbed and they don’t live in fear. It is not responsibility of citizens to challenge and combat those who train and send ‘terrorists’; or fight the men armed and trained to kill.
How the CPEC will affect Gilgit Baltistan
After this brief summary of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, it is imperative to explain the current situation, especially related to the CPEC.
Pakistan has no land link with China. They only have access through Gilgit Baltistan, which legally is not part of Pakistan. Either under the pressure of China, or to satisfy their imperial agenda they have virtually annexed the region of Gilgit Baltistan. Rumours suggest that once again there is Chinese pressure that because of the CPEC the status of Gilgit Baltistan must be settled. If this happens this will be a big blow to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Some people think, may be India will be happy as that will give an opportunity to New Delhi to incorporate the areas of Jammu and Kashmir under their control.
As a loyal son of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, I sincerely believe that China Pakistan Economic Corridor is not in our best interests. I have every right to write and oppose this mega project which, like East India Company of the past centuries, will usurp our rights and loot and plunder our resources. In my view these are the dangers because of the mega Project, it will:
1. Change status of Jammu and Kashmir dispute and Gilgit Baltistan;
2. Exhibit a serious danger in the demographic changes; already hundreds of thousands of non - local people reside in Gilgit Baltistan and control local economy and politics;
3. Enhance Pakistani and Chinese ability to loot and plunder our resources;
4. Affect the eco system of the region, and we will suffer from enormous environment problems;
5. Strengthen influence and power of secret agencies of Pakistan and competing interests of secret agencies of other countries, and will result in curbing our fundamental rights and more intimidation and harassment;
6. Result in stationing of foreign troops to protect the CEPC route, and economic zones will also have very negative impact on our polity and our lives;
7. Encourage those powers or groups which oppose the CPEC and growing Chinese influence in this region, and might try to sabotage the projects related to the CPEC by stationing their non - state actors, which will surely affect our lives and our future;
8. Present a serious danger that Pakistani occupied Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan could become a battleground for competing interests of countries and their proxies; and especially a battleground for the new Great Game.
Can India become Part of the CPEC?
In my opinion it won’t happen. However, some people think India can also join the CPEC; and in this regard, Pakistan and China have also invited India. I cannot see India joining the CPEC, because it is not in the national interest of India. I and many other scholars and strategic experts believe that the CPEC is not only an economic project; but it also has hidden military and strategic agenda as well. I am sure Indian military and strategic experts can also see this; and will not advise the government to shoot itself in foot.
· How can India join a project which also aims to encircle India militarily?
· How can India join a project which will strengthen its adversaries in the Arabian Sea and in the Indian Ocean?
· How can India help its estranged neighbours to become politically more stable, militarily more strong and economically more vibrant that they can compete with India and harm Indian interests; and even defeat India?
· How can India support a project that runs through a territory – Gilgit Baltistan, which India claims to be its ‘integral part’? Supporting the CPEC or becoming part of it will be tantamount to declaring that these areas belong to Pakistan.
Some critics say there are more chances that India might disrupt or sabotage the CPEC, rather than joining it to strengthen its ‘enemies’. In any case, I can’t see how India will benefit by becoming part of the CPEC. Which route they be using? It is obvious they don’t want to go to Gwadar. Their interest could be in going to the Central Asia. That practically means, India using the Pakistani roads to enter Afghanistan and beyond. A million-dollar question, in view of the India Pakistan relations, terrorism and hatred, can India trust Pakistan, especially the military establishment?
For the past two weeks, it was hot news that Pakistan has decided to make Gilgit Baltistan a fifth province of Pakistan. Nearly all political parties of Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir condemned this proposed action. Even pro Pakistan parties also opposed it. Above all, to surprise of many, the pro Pakistan leadership of the Valley of Kashmir have also opposed this action and cautioned Islamabad that it will have adverse impact on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute; and may give New Delhi an excuse to annex Jammu and Kashmir under their control.
I have seen reports where the Kashmiri Pundits and the non - Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir also challenged Pakistan’s proposed action and unambiguously declared that areas of Gilgit Baltistan are part of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; and it must not be divided.
To me this is a good sign. It proves that despite what has happened since 1947, people still have a sense of belonging to each other. They still think that our motherland must not be divided.
The government of India on the other hand also expressed their policy and opposed Pakistan’s proposed annexation of Gilgit Baltistan, which they call India’s ‘integral’ part. I believe, India can only issue statements to express their official stand, may be for public consumption. They cannot and will not do anything in practise to challenge the occupier or make a serious effort to liberate those areas. Perhaps, they expect the local people to challenge Pakistan, fight with them and after defeating them request India to make them part of Jammu and Kashmir which is under their control.
This approach is similar to the Pakistani position which want the Kashmir Valley to become part of Pakistan; but are not prepared to fight for that. Instead, they use proxies and expect people of the Valley to fight and defeat India; and then request Pakistan to make them part of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Both Indian and the Pakistani approaches are wrong. In real life, it does not happen. If people of Gilgit Baltistan fight Pakistan, suffer death and destruction; and after defeating them, then they would not like to become part of any country. They would prefer to become independent. I suppose same will be the position of people of Kashmir.
Chinese view on Status of Kashmir
On March 18, 2017, Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson clarified the Chinese position on the issue of Kashmir, he said, “China’s stand on the disputed valley will not be affected by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” She said this while addressing a press conference in Beijing. In a reply to question she reiterated China’s historic stance on the matter and added that the dispute is a ‘leftover issue from history between India and Pakistan; and needs to be settled between India and Pakistan through a process of dialogue and consultation’.2
I have noted that many people, including citizens of Jammu and Kashmir expressing their satisfaction that China has not changed its policy on Kashmir. I don’t agree with that, as I don’t go by statements of politicians and diplomats, I observe the actions and see if they are in consonance with the public statement.
In any case, the statement needs a careful examination: “China’s stand on the disputed valley will not be affected by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” This statement is only related to the Valley of Kashmir and not the entire Jammu and Kashmir state which, apart from the Valley, includes areas of Jammu, Ladakh, (Aqsai Chin, occupied by China), Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. It also includes nearly 2000 square Kilometre of area gifted to China by Pakistan in 1963.
According to the above statement, to China only the Valley of Kashmir is disputed. Does it mean they recognise Ladakh and Jammu to be part of India and the Pakistani Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan. Also, the statement clearly say it is a matter between India and Pakistan and they should settle it by a process of dialogue. In other words, people of the Valley of Kashmir have no say in this matter.
I don’t know if India and Pakistan have any issue with the above statement or not, but being a patriotic citizen of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, I have very serious objections. To me this is another step towards dividing my motherland. The Valley of Kashmir is not the only region that is disputed. The entire State of Jammu and Kashmir that existed on 15 August 1947 is disputed
CPEC and the UN Resolution
To the amazement of many the recent UN Security Council Resolution in support of the CPEC has surely strengthened the Chinese and the Pakistani positions on the CPEC. The UN Security Council Resolution ‘renewed the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for one year’. The 15-nation UN body commended to ‘promote security and stability in Afghanistan and the region “to create a community of shared future for mankind”. In this context, the Resolution welcomed ‘efforts to strengthen the process of regional economic cooperation, including measures to facilitate regional connectivity, trade and transit, including through regional development initiatives such as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road) Initiative”. 3
The Resolution also refers to other projects like “regional development projects, such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project, the Chabahar port project agreed between Afghanistan, India and the Islamic Republic of lran”. 4
India, as pointed out above, is not in favour of the CPEC (BRI) because of many issues which include the claim over Gilgit Baltistan. However, the UN endorsement of the CPEC can complicate the matters for India as far as claim over Gilgit Baltistan is concerned. China and Pakistan are jubilant because the UN Resolution has supported the CPEC – it is regarded as a diplomatic victory for China.
I sincerely believe that the CPEC is not in favour of Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. It will immensely benefit China, but it will create enormous problems for the region. Sadly, by the time people of Pakistan will realise it will be too late. Pakistan will not only suffer economically, but they will lose their sovereignty; and may lead to a military clash and result in disintegration of Pakistan.
Writer is Chairman, South Asia Watch, London.
1. Dr Mubarak Ali, a Pakistani historian, in an interview with Dunya with Kamran Khan, 23 March 2017. http://www.sajtv.com/2017/03/23/dunya-kamran-khan-ke-sath-23-march-2017-dunya-news-youtube/
3. Ref Hindustan Times, 18 May 2017