Kashmir, Damocles Sword

Contrary to Nehru’s expectations it did not help in making Jammu and Kashmir as good a state as any other state that merged under the partition plan with India.
Kashmir, Damocles Sword
File Photo

In 1947, when India and Pakistan were born as independent dominions, Jammu and Kashmir failed to 'redefine itself to the new order of the sub-continent'. Thus it became a dispute between the two dominions. Since that day the Dispute like sword of Damocles hangs over two countries. It has bedevilled their relations and brought about three wars between them and also worked as a catalyst for the dismemberment of Pakistan.  Turned the two countries into opposing armed camps equipped with nuclear weapons- threat to peace in Asia.

History, initially threw up an opportunity, if it had been grabbed timely like all other states of the Subcontinent, there would have been no dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. Seen in right historical perspective, it was for the blinkered vision of Jawaharlal Nehru that Kashmir has brought the South Asia to the brink of a nuclear war. His coloured vision guided by sentimentalism rather by the realpolitik is manifest in the note that he handed over to the Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten when he visited Kashmir in June 1947 for meeting Maharaja Hari Singh. Sardar Patel's aversion of seeing Kashmir as part of India had come from a deeper understanding unlike that of Nehru's sentimentalism. The two came on same page after Nehru resurrected the British ghost of threat from the North, what Alastair Lamb has called as "British geopolitical artefact."  Nehru, who had started working on plan as early as 1946 for integrating Jammu and Kashmir into India once British had departed. To quote Colonel Webb, he at that time had dreamt of making it 'anti-Pakistan zone North of Punjab. Moreover, after the appointment of Mountbatten as the Viceroy he intensified his activities, for seeing his plan translated into reality and instead of looking towards Hari Singh, Maharaja of the State he saw Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, as most suited person for the job. He wrote a letter on 27 September 1947, to Home Minister Patel for getting Sheikh Abdullah released from jail. The letter read reads: 'Releasing Sheikh Abdullah, enlisting support of his followers would help bring about the accession of Kashmir to the Union of India.' Two days later Abdullah was released. Twenty three days after the Afridis took over Muzaffarabad and on 27 October Indian troops landed at Srinagar. 

There can be no denying that release of Sheikh Abdullah and his followers did help in smooth landing of troops at Srinagar. Nevertheless, contrary to Nehru's expectations it did not help in making Jammu and Kashmir as good a state as any other state that merged under the partition plan with India.  Instead it became a Dispute between the new born countries. 

To nail Pakistan, Nehru believing that the "Instrument of Accession" was as unassailable document and for seeking an international recognition for this document, the GOI went to the United Nations Security Council. It also complained against Pakistan. Ostensibly, UN did not cognizance of this "document" notwithstanding its condition of it being subservient to ratification by will of people. Instead, the Security Council passed resolutions for holding a plebiscite to determine the future of the State. These resolutions had alarmed Hari Singh one of two signatories to the "Instrument" made him realize that the document has not been recognized internationally  instead a question mark had been put on its sanctity. On 31 January 1947, he wrote a long letter to Indian Home Minister, Sardar Patel informing him that he was interested in withdrawing the accession. He wrote to him, "There is an alternative possible for me and that is to withdraw the accession and that may kill the reference to UNO because the Indian Union will have no right to continue the proceedings before the Council if the accession is withdrawn. The result may be a return to position the State had before the accession." (The state from August 15 to 27 October 1947 was an independent and sovereign country.  

True, since that date a lot of water has flown down the Jhelum.  But   the contours and status of the Dispute has not changed.  For settling the Dispute out-of-court, Islamabad and New Delhi got engaged at the bilateral level scores of times. There is a lot of rhetoric about Simla Agreement having changed the status of the Kashmir Dispute from international to bilateral. Those conversant with the proceedings of the July 1972 summit between Mrs. Gandhi and   Bhutto fully understand that it has not. That is why, when Mrs. Gandhi did not withdraw Kashmir case from the Security Council on the basis of the six point accord had paid no heed to the suggestion. For past forty four years, after the Simla Agreement, the leaders and officials of the two countries met several times and more than often Kashmir topped the agenda.

Notwithstanding, the stance taken by New Delhi that Kashmir was an integral part of India, we are often informed that Kashmir is part of the "composite dialogue." Moreover, every now and then we are told that in 2007 an agreement on Kashmir had been reached between New Delhi and Islamabad- by all stretch of imagination it would not have put a seal on the status quo. Despite being in denial mode, in a note circulated on September to the Members of the APD during meeting New Delhi subtly admitted that there is demand of plebiscite in the state. The Intifada III, as the present uprising is popularly called in Kashmir has not sparked charged discussions as those in fifties in Pakistan and India Parliaments but is also going to dominate the debate in the upcoming UN General Assembly session.  It seems both India and Pakistan have girded their lions to outsmart each other during the session. There are indications that Prime Minister is going to raise the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK and perhaps also claim these areas and equally Nawaz Sharif seems is going to raise the demand of holding plebiscite in the state. If the debate bring Kashmir back to the UN floor needs to be seen.     

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