‘Burden of Geography’
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‘Burden of Geography’

Independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister, Sardar Patel were not on the same page on overwhelmingly Muslim majority State becoming part of union of India.

Independent India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister, Sardar Patel were not on the same page on overwhelmingly Muslim majority State becoming part of union of India.

Nehru, was obsessively working for it since 1946. And after Lord Mountbatten arrived in India as the last British Viceroy, Nehru reviving his old friendship with him 'never lost an opportunity to 'arguing in favour of Jammu and Kashmir joining India.'  In June 1947, before Mountbatten leaving for Srinagar for meeting Maharaja Hari Singh, Nehru handed over a memorandum to the Viceroy arguing for accession of the state to India- and this memorandum became Viceroy's bible on Kashmir.  

Contrary to Nehru's overzealousness about Kashmir, many historians have recorded that Sardar Patel was not interested in the State joining India.  Contemporary historian Guha writes 'Sardar Patel at one time was inclined to allow Jammu and Kashmir to join Pakistan.'  Even in October 47, when all preparations for taking over the State were going on' Nisid Hajari in his just released book 'Midnight's Furies' records, "Nehru wanted his ancestral land to join India more desperately than Patel did." (P308). Nehru's man Friday in Kashmir SMA seconding views of couple of historians in an interview in 1974 told Khushwant Sing, 'that Sardar never wanted   the state to be part of India.'

 'Sardar Patel, couple of Indian historians write, 'changed his views on Kashmir after Pakistan government accepted the accession of Junagadh.  This may be a contributory factor. But primarily, it was Nehru who looked at geo-strategic importance of the State from the prism of  the British colonial masters, who  convinced Patel    about  importance of the State for the defence of India and made him to change his idea  bringing in the State within fold of India – whatever means.' In his letter of 27 September 1947 Nehru also explained Patel how Sheikh Abdullah and his party would prove an asset in safeguarding the interests of India in the State.

The geographical location of the State has not been only one of important reasons for the birth of the Dispute but also for its non-resolution. Much quoted British historian and an authority of South Asia has rightly questioned. 'Had the State been situated almost anywhere else in the Subcontinent, and had embraced lesser area, Indo-Pakistani argument over its future might not have been conducted with particular intensity.' 

Kashmir, unlike the dispute over the future of two other princely states of Junagadh and Hyderabad that died with whimper for its geographical location stealthily slipped into the global politics. It not only became a defining factor in India and Pakistan relations but also become a fulcrum for India-US relations during presidencies of Truman and Eisenhower. At one time Nehru in a fit of rage told an American official Henderson that 'he was tired of listening moralistic lessons from Washington'.  For quite long time it was an 'article of faith' in Washington and Whitehall that the 'resolution of the Kashmir only could bring about lasting improvement in Anglo-American relations with South-Asia. Nehru dovetailing Washington policies about Kashmir and 'containing of the communists influences' in the region ably procrastinated  resolution of the Kashmir Dispute by making the Soviet Union to veto the resolutions on Kashmir in UN. Despite, Nehru drawing all strength from the Soviet Union for averting an immediate Kashmir related crisis and delaying a resolution, the United States nudging for resolving the Dispute has religiously been responded by India and Pakistan.  It has been US shove that had caused bilateral talks between two countries from Bogra-Nehru summit of 1953 to Modi-Nawaz meet 2015 in Russia. 

In this column, it may not be possible to go into details about, how for its geography Kashmir got caught up in the web of the cold war and became an intractable dispute for over sixty years. Truth, however remains that even after end of the cold war and disintegration of Soviet Union twenty six year back after its defeat in 1989, Jammu and Kashmir again made to the international radar screen as an unresolved dispute that threatened peace in South Asia. To quote Schaffer, the years of the 1990s 'again heightened Washington's apprehensions about  Kashmir dispute threatening American interests in South Asia and beyond.' Clinton pronounced Kashmir as "the most dangerous place in the world." For a quite some time Kashmir remained central point in President Obama's discourses on South-Asia. The appointment of Richard Halbrook as its special envoy in South-Asia sufficiently suggested that Washington looked at resolution of the Dispute as a key factor for peace and stability in the region. 

Despite, India- US  relation in the history of two nations at present being on a higher pedestal there runs is an undercurrent in Washington that the 'non-resolution of the Kashmir problem can only deepen hostility between the two  key South Asian players- India and Pakistan. Mohsin Hamid, author of novel, the 'Reluctant Fundamentalist' sometime back commenting on Afghanistan situation wrote in Washington Post, "Fighting terrorists or fighting the Taliban — or indeed, fighting in Afghanistan at all — addresses symptoms rather than the disease in South Asia: the horrific, wasteful, tragic and dangerous six-decade confrontation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir…Ignore Kashmir, as the United States does, and the conflict seems incomprehensible. Include Kashmir in the picture, and it all makes sense." It is not a novelist or author who see primacy of resolution of Kashmir for permanent peace in the region but there are many in Washington who continue to see Kashmir as gateway to peace in Afghanistan. 

In present tense situation on the LoC and working boundary there seems little scope in forward movement on Kashmir. Notwithstanding, the looming scepticism about India and Pakistan engaging themselves in serious dialogue in near future the changing power equations in the region- Pakistan-Afghanistan-China Cooperation suggest there is possibility of two countries engaging in serious dialogue for the resolution of the dispute.

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