Being a matter of dispute between India and Pakistan, hundreds of books have been written on Kashmir. A. S Dulat's Kashmir ….. the Vajpayee years is the one documenting one of crucial periods of Kashmir's history from 1990 till 2014. The book evokes interest as it is an insider's story about Kashmir. A . S Dulat was a top IB official and RAW Chief. The agencies involved in dealing with Kashmir not upfront but from behind the curtain : their sleuths are the people who matter.
The problem inherited by India and Pakistan in lieu of partition continues to embitter relations between India and Pakistan on one side and on the other Kashmiris continue bearing the brunt of this problem created by the visionless political actors across the board of the era of 1940s. Since 1947, for almost seven decades now, it has been a history of manoeuvring, machinations, fraud and deceit. It has been a dirty game of politics, at its worst. That is what A.S Dulat's book on Kashmir brings into mind. Straight from the horse's mouth this contention is upheld that New Delhi has been treating Kashmir like a colony from the very beginning of Kashmir's precarious relationship with India. This kind of unrealistic approach, myopic and unwise, led the bosses in new Delhi to stage- manage and even to the extent of so visibly rigging the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. One is left asking what if New Delhi had experimented with MUF (Muslim United Front) alongside National Conference and Congress in 1987 election to J&K assembly. Democratic process having failed over the years, what option did they leave for the Kashmiris else than taking up the gun ? A .G. Noorani is right in asserting that " this book reveals all too clearly that India will continue to rig elections to the assembly of Jammu and Kashmir for as long as the Kashmir dispute is not settled with Pakistan with the consent of the people of the State? ( Frontline : August 07, 2015 )
Free India's first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and Jammu and Kashmir's first Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah are the architects of what is now known as the Kashmir imbroglio………… a paradise on earth turned into a limbo for its people. After incarcerating the Sheikh for eleven years Nehru in 1962 had his regrets for what had happened with Sheikh Sahab ( Dulat : Page 313) Dulat writes sheikh was released in 1964 and sent by Nehru to Pakistan to work out a solution, but while he was there Nehru passed away? Unfortunate coincidence! Was not it? This was a serious and meaningful effort on part of Nehru to untie the Gordian knot. Sheikh Sahab stayed in new Delhi as Nehru's personal guest discussing with him what to do. Before going to Pakistan he held a press conference in New Delhi in which he said, " I won't go to Pakistan unless there is something concrete in my hands" . And he did go to Pakistan with a plan to settle the dispute, accompanied by Beg Sahab , Maulana Masoodi , Mubarak Shah and his son Farooq. In Islamabad Sheikh Sahab had discussions with President Ayoub and Z.A Bhutoo, the then foreign minister of Pakistan. Pakistanis , as it seemed , had given their OK to Sheikh sahib for the plan as soon after he held a press conference in Rawalpindi in which he excitedly proclaimed, "I have succeeded in my mission" Wisdom and political acumen would have it that the Kashmiris remained tight-lipped about everything till they had seen Nehru immediately thereafter. Instead of rushing back to New Delhi, they went to Azad Kashmir and it was there that Sheikh Sahab received the news of Nehru's death. Nobody ever after knew what Nehru had worked out nor did Sheikh Sahab ever after speak about it. The Gordian knot, as Dulat rightly calls it , remained as it was still awaiting some noble soul and visionary from India to cut it.
Dulat writes that in 1975 Sheikh Sahab had entered into accord with Indra Gandhi on being prompted by Z.A. Bhutto to do so. Bhutto was at the time Prime Minister of Pakistan. According to Dulat Sheikh Sahab sent his son Farooq from London to Pakistan to contact Mr. Bhutto and see what Pakistan could do to help Kashmir. Bhuttoo's response was disappointing. As he told Farooq: " tell Sheikh Sahab Pakistan can not do anything. He should take whatever best he can from New Delhi." This was a message for Sheikh Sahab that he should make it up with New Delhi and settle with power in Jammu and Kashmir. But as far as Bhutto is concerned facts belie what Dulat says. While the parlays about the accord were going on between Beg Sahab and Parthasarthy and the deal was in the offing Bhutto spoke. He said, "if Sheikh Abdullah strikes a deal with India, it will be his third big mistake? (The first 1938, the second 1947 and the third now 1975) . Bhutto even said that one Friday he would give a call for Hartal in Kashmir against this deal. And he did. Complete Hartal was observed in Kashmir. Now either Bhutto played a Machiavelli or Dulat downgrades Pakistan for the penultimate. But it must be said that the lion of Kashmir died a disappointed man as regards the shaky strife-torn future of his beloved Kashmir. Shamim Ahmad Shamim wrote of him that he is the tragedy incarnate of our history as well as its most motivating personality. Betrayed by Nehru and later subdued by Indra…….. the Durga of India , he at the end settled for the paltry Chief Ministership of Jammu ad Kashmir. I know it from one of his trusted men that he wanted to fight a lost battle with new Delhi and that he would rather prefer to die in Jail than in office. But having said this he never came back to office. Death came calling and he was no more.
Eulogizing Vajpayee, Dulat writes that Vajpayee modelled himself on Nehru. There is no comparison between the two. His questionable policy on Kashmir apart, Nehru was a downright believer in secularism, a man of secular outlook who said that Bhakda Nangal and Hirkud dams were the modern temples of India. Whereas Vajpayee , a front- rank Politician in BJP choose to remain a silent spectator while L.K. Advani, Sushma Suraj and Uma Bharti watched the demolition of the Babri Masjid right on the spot . L.K. Advani's Rath Yatra was a prelude to predominate Hinduva over secularism. Again the Gujarat pogrom happened when Vajpayee was the Prime Minster of India. What as PM did he do to alleviate the sufferings of the Gujrati Muslims after two thousand of them had been killed in a few days of carnage? That was so visibly a pogrom with state connivance, both Gujarat and the mighty state of India.
Vajpayee's poetic utterance in Srinagar in 2003 ……. That of Insaniat Ke Dairey Mein, had a litmus test in Agra. Kashmiris were hopeful of that summit, being productive to resolve the dispute over Kashmir with Pakistan. But Vajpayee the Prime Minster was not the man to rise above narrow political considerations. Musharaff's out-of-box solution was something which should have invoked his Insaniat to forge a possibility of an amicable settlement over Kashmir. A possibility of good neighbouly relations between India and Pakistan. What a prospect for India in particular to emerge as a power to foster economic development, peace and prosperity for the whole of Asia . As trust deficit between India and Pakistan is adversely affecting the momentum of cooperation of the countries of this region. It was a great opportunity frittered away. Having come so close to make it with so much of hard work put in deliberations from Delhi to Agra, the deal on the last one word was suddenly dashed to the ground. According to Dulat Jaswant Singh the foreign Minister of India called twice on the Pakistani ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi to say that the deal was done and it never happened. On Vajpayee's sullen response as a great leader, to the situation this is what Dulat has to say. "One enduring criticism of Vajpayee is that he did not have the gumption to go to the last mile to get something that he really wanted. A positive conclusion to the Agra Summit. And when the team returned from Agra there was a huge, palpable disappointment. This is a point that most accounts of the Agra Summit have skipped. The feeling of so close, yet so far' shared by the two old men ( Vajpayee and Brijesh Mishra running the country.)
" Yaar hote – hote reh gaya" , Brijesh sighed to me , shaking his head at the done deal that came undone………….. Vajpayee was no Nehru to prevail upon the hawks.
Dulat finally writes that "finally a solution to Kashmir has to be found between India and Pakistan. At least he must be admired to admit this : " the status quo has gone on a long time , with a lot of vested interests having been developed : the army, the police, the paramilitary, the bureaucracy, the politicians of every hue" .
Why not then dismantle the status quo? Mr. Dulat.