The roots of Kashmir issue lie in the process of partition of British India. An awkward handling of Pak invaders in 1947, then going to the UN against Pak invasion, China grabbing a part of Kashmir territory in 1962 war and from Pakistan, and Islamization of the issue by Pakistan have turned it into a perfect political mess. The sufferers are the wonderful Kashmiri people and the great ‘Sufi’ Islamic tradition practiced by 60% Kashmiris. What we have are the “Pakistani infiltration problem” and “radicalization of Islam” problem and economic development problem and unemployment problem in Kashmir!
The Kashmir “Issue”
In 1947, the British India was divided between India and Pakistan along religious lines. Muslim dominant areas in the West and East together formed Pakistan – a single country in two disconnected lands separated by “enemy” India. Under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the supremacy of the British over about 560 princely states ended and they were free to join India or Pakistan or stay sovereign – the last option was problematic and impractical. The royal rulers of 561 princely states were in reality mere tax collectors for the British and served at British pleasure. 12 million Hindus and Muslims fled from one area to another and half a million people lost their lives in the ensuing communal riots. If Kashmir remained unaffected from the mass communal violence, credit goes to its unique and humane Sufi-Rishi culture which doesn’t recognize faith and religious divides. It’s what defines the “Kashmiriyat” of Kashmiris.
Within months after independence, Sardar Patel, the then Indian home minister, started the process of integrating 561 princely states into India. Many saw parallel with what Otto von Bismarck did in the Germany in the late 19th century to unify it. However, Bismarck used “blood and iron” to integrate 39 states, but Patel integrated 561 states without bloodshed. It was an impractical idea to allow dozens of tiny independent ‘Nations’ who would quarrel and weaken each other for rest of the future in place of one unified nation. Given the Islamic logic of dividing the country, India should have declared itself a Hindu Nation but it chose to treat all so-called “faiths” – wrongly called Dharma – equally. Since then, it has been tolerating some religious fanatics who want to identify with Pakistan due to their “faith” label.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Islamic card did not end with India’s division, he continued to display his anti-Hindu mindset when he provoked rulers of, for instance, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Jaisalmer, and Travancore to stay out of India Union. But given the realities, they all joined India; Hyderabad took the longest.
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was also one among these princely states. Following his communal thinking, Jinnah was expecting that Muslim dominated Kashmir would “automatically” accede to Pakistan, but Raja Hari Singh of Kashmir wanted to remain sovereign.
Invasion of Kashmir and UN Involvement
Seeing Hari Singh’s reluctance, the just created Pakistan ran out of patience and along with 5,000 tribesmen its troops suddenly invaded Kashmir on 20 October 1947. It was operation “Gulmarg”. The invaders quickly captured most of the State, but in place of consolidating their gains they went on to loot, kill, destroy and rape – a typical characteristic of Muslim invaders. They massacred about 11,000 – 14,000 residents of Baramullah and destroyed the Mohra power station that supplied electricity to Srinagar. When they came dangerously close to the capital, Srinagar – just five km away – Hari Singh sent out frantic request for help to India, but Delhi demanded that Kashmir join India first. Hari Singh agreed and signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947.
Needless to say, the Muslim leaders also played a key role in deciding to align with India and refused to go the Pakistani way – in the name of Islam. In fact, they actively welcomed Indian Army and cooperated with it to drive out the Muslim Pakistani raiders in 1947.
Soon India despatched forces to Kashmir which drove away the intruders and captured Baramulla and major parts of J&K within two weeks. Prime Minister Nehru decided to take the matters to the U.N. Security Council against advice from Patel and accused Pakistan of aggression.
The Security Council set up a UN Commission in India and Pakistan (UNCIP), headed by Dr. Josef Korbel, father of former U.S. secretary of state Madeline Albright. Pakistan initially denied any involvement and blamed local tribes, but later admitted that its army was involved in the aggression. On August 13, 1948, the UNCIP passed a resolution asking Pakistan to withdraw its troops and tribesmen from J&K. “Once Pakistan withdraws them, the administration by the local authorities needs to be restored, India will reduce its troops to the barest minimum and then a plebiscite will be held to ascertain the wishes of the people of the state.” The cease-fire went into effect on January 1, 1949. The cease-fire line became the Line of Control (LOC) which continues to this date.
India backed the resolution within days but Pakistan had several reservations and evaded acceptance until 20 December 1948 – most probably because given the prevailing sentiments it was afraid of plebiscite. When they signed, a third of Kashmir was in Pakistan’s hand. The trust deficit between the two bitter neighbours failed to restore the pre-partitioned unified Kashmir. Pakistan of course never withdrew from Kashmiri territory under its fold, yet it never stops from quoting UN resolution.
What exactly does the 1948 UN resolution say?
This is the relevant clause of the resolution adopted by the UN on August 13, 1948:
“As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that state. When the Commission shall have notified the government of India that the tribesmen and Pakistani nationals have withdrawn, thereby terminating the situation which was represented by the government of India to the Security Council as having occasioned the presence of Indian forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and further, that the Pakistani forces are being withdrawn from the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the government of India agrees to begin to withdraw the bulk of its forces from that State in stages to be agreed upon with the commission.”
Since Pakistani troops and civilians continue to illegally occupy what constitutes nearly 40 per cent of the territory of J&K, it remains in clear violation of the terms of the UN resolution.
Yet, Pak leaders keep referring to this resolution like morons who can’t read or understand what the UN resolution said. What about the later Shimla Agreement of 1972, which is much harsher?
Did Nehru Make a Mistake?
There are people who think that Nehru made the mistake of taking the matter to the UN. If he had given some more time to the army, all of J&K would have been freed. By going to the UN, he internationalized the issue and made Pakistan a party. They argue that by signing the Instrument of Accession, Maharaja Hari Singh had already made J&K part of India which was completely legal under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, signed by both India and Pakistan. The Act gave the power of decision to the heads of the princely states and contained no provision for plebiscite. It is a perfectly valid interpretation that was affirmed by representatives of several nations.
For argument’s sake even if one agrees to the plebiscite, the precondition was Pakistan’s withdrawal of its troops from Kashmir and restoration of the administration to the local authorities.
India and Pakistan have fought two direct wars over Kashmir: in 1947-48 and in 1965. In 1989 Pakistan shifted gears, after realising that direct confrontation is too dangerous. Not finding much militant support from local Muslim Kashmiris, it launched an all out attack on their peace-loving Sufi-Rishi culture through Islamic extremists who started destroying holy shrines all over Kashmir. Its policy of open support to Islamic violence was jolted in 2001 after the US troops arrived in Afghanistan.
China Grabs a Part of Kashmir
In the 1962 war, China grabbed about 35,000 sq km in Aksai Chin. It got another 5,000 sq km in Balistan from Pakistan under a treaty signed in March 1963. Thus, the original Kashmir has been divided in 3 parts: 45% with India, 35% with Pakistan, and 20% with China. This points to the dangers of being located as “sovereign state” without capability of self-protection in a hostile neighborhood. The hard fact is that our World doesn’t run on principles of justice or moral romanticism; it is dictated by the jungle principles – “might is right” and “survival of the fittest”. Being a gentleman Kashmiri Pandit Nehru realised this bitter truth only after the 1962 Chinese invasion – 15 years too late!
The J&K has 3 major regions: The Kashmir Valley which is predominantly Muslim, Jammu which is Hindu dominated, and Ladakh which has largely Buddhist population. The POK has a Muslim majority. The bone of contention is just a 100-mile-long valley, which is only about 9 percent of the original J&K territory.
Surprisingly, no one talks of China Occupied Kashmir (COK), because the “China phobia” still hovers in Indian minds!! Indians have to face and get over this fear now, before it is too late.
The 1971 War – Birth of Bangladesh
In 1971, a general election in Pakistan gave an overall majority to an East Pakistani party, the Aavami League, headed by Sheikh Mujeebur Rahman whose daughter still heads his party. However, reflecting the weak democratic roots in Pakistan, the politically and economically powerful leadership sitting in the West Pakistan refused to hand over power to him. Protests followed in the ethnic Bengali dominated East Pakistan. Mujeeb was arrested and the unrest escalated, prompting deployment of Pak army. It soon turned into a civil war with widespread army atrocities; people started fleeing their homes.
In few months, around 10 million refugees from East Pakistan crossed over to the Indian side for safety. Irked by Indian support to civilian groups fighting its army, Pakistan attacked Indian airfields and Kashmir. India retaliated and a full-fledged war broke out on both Eastern and Western fronts. In that era of cold war, the US came forward to defend its ally Pakistan and sent its nuclear-armed aircraft carrier, the Enterprise, in the Indian Ocean threatening India. The USSR spoke in favour of India. However, the war ended soon with surrender of 93,000 Pak troops and about 5,000 sq km of Pak Punjab under India’s control – the largest military surrender since WW2.
Bangladesh was born and the East Pakistan disappeared from the world map. The US nuclear threat, however, left a deep impact that motivated India to soon acquire nuclear capabilities. Not surprising that in 1974, India tested its first nuclear device, and Pakistan accelerated its nuclear weapons program.
The breakup of Pakistan in 1971 proved another point: the practice of fundamentalist brand of “political” Islam and democracy can’t co-exist peacefully – the two are mutually exclusive. But Pakistani leaders feel highly vulnerable without the idea of Islamic aggression supporting their political ambitions. The humiliating defeat and truncation of the country did not force the Pakistanis for soul searching and course correction. Instead, it only fuelled their hatred which would again instinctly get connected with Islam in the coming future.
Shimla Accord: Did India Miss Another Opportunity?
In a midnight drama on 2 July 1972, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed the Shimla Agreement according to which both sides agreed “to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.” The two countries also agreed that they will not unilaterally try to alter the Line of Control in Kashmir. And India returned the Pak troops and the captured Pak territory.
Many people think that with so many prisoners of war (POW), a vast chunk of Pak land under its belt and Pak reduced to 60% of its original size India should have bargained harder, despite the usual US pressure. They say that perhaps Indira Gandhi relied too much on Pak President Bhutto’s promise of converting the LOC into an international border at a future date. He was said to have pleaded that it would take time for him to mould Pakistani public opinion on this issue, without doing that the nascent democracy that had emerged after 14 years of army rule would weaken. At that time, Atal Bihari Bajpai had called the agreement a “sell out”.
How the Idea of Using “Jehadi Violence” Against India was Born
On the Christmas Eve of 1979, the Russian troops landed in Kabul and took control of the country. The ground work was already created by installing a communist regime in Afghanistan during the previous year. It was a typical communist expansionism after Berlin, Korea, Hungary and Cuba. The puppet government was opposed by religious leaders who fled to the mountains with arrival of Russian army.
The US naturally came to oppose the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and defend its ally Pakistan, who could be the next target of the Russians. So, Pakistan set up training camps to produce Islamic Jehadi fighters – the Afghan Muzahideens. The US liberally funded and armed the fundamentalists. The US was determined to make Afghanistan a ‘Vietnam’ for the Soviet. However, towards late 80s the Communists realized their folly and withdrew in early 1989.
When the Russians left, Pakistan was already basking in glory of having helped its ‘Islamic’ Afghan brethrens drive away the communist occupiers. It was a great victory of its “Islamic” Ideals. (The myopic US or Pak leadership never thought of disarming the Islamic fundamentalists or absorbing them in civil society.)
The idea of using Islamic fundamentalism against adversaries was already demonstrated! So, why not divert the already trained – but now out of job – Islamic militants to Kashmir.
Thus, in 1989 the Kashmir Valley became the target of Pak design and got thrown into a long turmoil. It was turned into another Islamic hotspot through infiltrations of Islamic militants. Pakistani dictator General Zia started applying the “technical and operational expertise” acquired in Afghanistan to “bleed” India in Kashmir. The US was of course unconcerned then – it woke up only after the 9/11 attack in New York when monsters of its own creation stung it badly.
Soon Kashmiri Hindus became the target of violence and they had to flee the Valley in masses. New Delhi sent army with extra powers. Slowly many locals stopped playing the Pak game and others, who once fought against Indian authorities, started helping the Indian army root out the Pak trained Islamic mercenaries.
In the meantime, militants started targeting Sufi-rishi shrines and their annual Urs celebrations across the valley. In 1993, a group of fundamentalists seized the Hazratbal shrine which houses a hair of the Prophet. But somehow the issue was resolved through negotiations. Two years later, in 1995 Hizbul Muzahideen commander Mast Gul (of Afghan origin) along with dozens of militants seized the famous Chrar-e-Sharif shrine. After two month standoff with the army they burnt down the shrine.
The extremists did not spare the shrines in POK and Pakistan. The Pak Taliban, which has been busy targeting the Shias and other minorities, turned its attention on Sufi shrines in Pakistan. They did not spare even the Data Darbar in Lahore and the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, the patron saint of Karachi. Both attacks invited widespread condemnation. Like devil’s army they have continued their hateful agenda against all symbols of peace and harmony on both sides. In 2012, several shrines were burnt in “mysterious fires”; the most dominant was the Dastageer Sahib in Srinagar. The Wahhabi extremists proudly declared on facebook these acts as the “divine acts of God.”
What a display of mental bankruptcy, in the name of faith. They are the monsters indigenously produced in Pakistan’s Jehad factories which get half finished human resource from Wahhabi Madrasas, run on Gulf funds.
Pak Design Vs Kashmiri Aspirations
Pak’s design in Kashmir must be distinguished from aspirations of some Kashmiris who harboured dreams of a sovereign state. Pakistan agenda solely revolves around distorting and redefining the identity of “Kashmir Muslims”. It wants to destroy their peaceful sufi-rishi culture (which is a beautiful amalgamation of Sufi Islam with Hindu spiritualism) that respects peaceful coexistence of different religions. Pak wants to replace it with the Wahhabi fundamentalism that doesn’t tolerate even other Islamic traditions. If the sufi-rishi tradition says “love all”, the Wahhabis say “hate all”.
It wants the Muslims of the Valley forget about their culture and respect for the land, and turn hateful towards Hindus. This is what it has been trying since 1947 – to Islamize the issue and give it the color of a Hindu-Muslim conflict.
This is the main worry of all thinking Kashmiris; that Pakistan has turned their attorney in the name of Islam.
After noting that the local groups like Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) have their own independent agenda and don’t subscribe to Pakistani game plan, it decided to marginalize them and propped up the Hizbul Mujahideen, the armed wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami in early 1990s. Pakistan did not want Kashmiris to set their own political agenda. It wanted to Islamisize and globalize the issue and then unleash a proxy war against India using the jobless Afghan Jehadis as puppets.
Pakistan is also the chief patron of many other Kashmir centric militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Hizbul Muzahideen (HM), Harket-ul-Jehadi Islami (HUJI), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Al-Bader and so on apart from the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).
The Kargil War
In 1999, Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee initiated a peace mission by travelling to Lahore by Bus. Hope of lasting peace was felt by people of both countries. But soon the reality bounced back. Three months later Pakistan troops disguised as militants invaded Kargil ridges, 10 km inside Indian territory from the line of control. If captured, Pak would be in a position to cut supplies on the NH1 which is the only link between India and Kashmir.
Indian side initially failed to realise the gravity of situation but then used sufficient force to drive back the intruders. The architect of Kargil war was army Chief General Parvez Musharraf who soon ousted PM Nawaz Sharif is in a military coup in 2000 and grabbed power.
Events of 2001 & 2002
By all means the year 2001 will be always known for escalation and globalization of Islamic violence. It jolted the lone super power US to come out of its false sense of invincibility. It felt vulnerable perhaps for the first time after the end of cold war a decade ago.
The 9/11 Terror Attack in the US
The well-known terror attack in the US on September 11 that killed over 3,000 people marked a turning point in the US approach to Islamic terror groups.
If Pakistan was using Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan to train militants to fight in Kashmir, it had to stop it under US pressure. This led to reactivation of Kashmir focused militant training camps in the POK.
October 1, 2001
A terror attack was attempted on the Kashmir state legislature in Srinagar which killed 38 people.
October 7, 2001
The U.S. launched a war in Afghanistan – a “war on terror”. Pak became a US ally allowing Pakistan to become a base of operations for the United States. Terror outfits like the Al Qaeda, Taliban, and their supporters in Pakistan started feeling severe pressure.
December 13, 2001
Indian Parliament was targeted by 5 Jehadi terrorists. They killed 9 people before falling to bullets of security people. It badly infuriated India and led to massive troop build up along the Pakistan border. The danger of conventional and nuclear war heightened. The danger of full blown war almost became a reality.
May 14, 2002
A terrorist attack on families of Indian servicemen killed more than 30 people. India threatened retaliation; Pakistan displayed its nuclear card, if attacked. It was clearly emboldened by having the US military in proximity. The US mediation finally diffused the tension and Pakistan promised to end cross border infiltration.
The Way Forward
It must be clearly understood that there is no “Hindu-Muslim problem” in Kashmir. But J&K certainly has Pak sponsored militancy problem, radicalization of Islam problem, economic development problem and unemployment problem. The Pak design in Kashmir depends entirely upon radicalizing Kashmir Muslims; therefore, it sees the centuries old Sufi-Rishi culture of Kashmir as a serious threat. The state government should actively highlight the distinction between the Sufi Islam practiced by Kashmiri Muslims and the Pak sponsored Wahhabi fundamentalism of Arab desert. They are opposite ends of the pole.
The Center and State governments should counter it actively protecting, highlighting and promoting its indigenous sufi-rishi culture. Parallely, speeding up economic development and employment generation would take the heat off the Pakistan devious design. Unfortunately, even after six decades, the state economy has hardly developed beyond seasonal tourism and youths are desperate for employment.
Today, Kashmiris are fed up with the Pak sponsored Islamic radicalization and militancy in the Valley.
It is heartening that since BJP’s solid Lak Sabha victory in 2014, Prime Minister Modi has put development of Kashmir among his top priorities. He is also keen on better integration of Kashmiri society into national socio-economic mainstream. The year 2014 also gave the BJP the opportunity to form government with the local People Democratic Party (PDP). Despite the ideological differences, if the current CM Mufti shows sensible thinking and considers long term interests of his people, he has an ideal opportunity to partner with the Center and push the development agenda. Only rapid economic growth, job creation and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits will bring long term peace and prosperity in this earthly paradise.