Kashmir Debacle: Missed Opportunities

Dr. Abdul Jalil

Can Kashmir issue be solved through a dialogue?

Four wars have been fought between Pakistan and India on Kashmir and a solution of the issue remains as elusive as ever. As a consequence of the wars, Pakistan has suffered colossal losses in men, material, and economy and even lost East Pakistan. Today once again world powers are pressuring and persuading both Pakistan and India to solve their issues through a dialogue. Despite Pakistan’s agreeing to mediation, Indian Defence Minister Rajnat Singh in his statement said arrogantly; “yes we agree to a dialogue on Pakistan held Azad Kashmir only and not the Indian occupied Kashmir”.

Dialogue is considered the best and safest way for solving international issues in an amicable manner. The recent dialogue between US and Taliban have given us a lesson that unless the oppressed holds a gun in his hands, the oppressor will not yield to any reconciliation. America declared Taliban as terrorists but the irony of the fate is that America has been sitting face to face with the same Taliban around a dialogue table in Doha Qatar. Kashmir issue has a deep link with Afghanistan. If we look back on the pages of history, we find that during Afghan war between Britain and Afghanistan (1839-1842), Raja Ghulab Singh of Kashmir supported Britain with men and material logistics against Afghans.

In the war of 1845, between Sikhs and Britain forces, Raja Ghulab Singh betrayed Sikhs and sided with British forces and as a result Sikhs were vanquished. To reward Raja Ghulab Singh for his services and support to British army, then Indian governor Henry Hardinge through a treaty popularly known as “Amritsar Treaty” handed over possession of Kashmir state to Ghulab Singh for seventy five lacs (7500000) Nanak Shahi coins. There was a great uprising in State of Kashmir against the treaty and to take the control of Srinagar, Ghulab Singh sent his forces from Jammu; a bastion of Hindu militants. Despite stiff resistance rendered by the Kashmiris, Dogra forces finally overpowered them and took control of Srinagar.

Henry Harding who later became the Commander In Chief and Field Marshal of British forces actively supported Dogra forces and assisted Ghulab Singh militarily in gaining control of Srinagar. During partition of India, Lord Mount Baton, then British governor general, openly sided with Raja Ghulab Singh and annexed Kashmir with India. Against this merger an armed uprising took place which subsequently led to a war between Pakistan and India. When Pakistan got an upper hand in the war, India felt that Kashmir is slipping out of her hand and immediately rushed to United Nations for a cease fire which was brought into effect by her sympathizers Britain and USA. Pakistan thus missed a great opportunity to acquire Kashmir.

UNO unanimously adopted two resolutions on 13th August 1948 and 5th June 1949 to hold plebiscite in Kashmir to know the will of people with reference to Kashmir merger. When India strengthened her hold on Kashmir, she flatly refused to implement UN resolutions. In the meantime United Nations appointed an Australian Judge Owen Dixon as mediator to solve Kashmir issue. Instead of holding a simple plan of plebiscite, Owen Dixon proposed a complicated one. He divided Kashmir into four zones; Kashmir proper, Jammu, Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan. He insisted on holding referendum in these four zones separately. Pakistan rejected this formula. Later on Dixon proposed another plan named “Chenab Plan” in which river Chenab arbitrarily made a boundary between Srinagar,Kupwara, Baramula, Islamabad, Poonch, Budgam and Rajouri on one side and Jammu – Ladakh on the other-side. Jammu and Ladakh were to be given to India because of Hindu majority population and areas of Muslim majority to Pakistan. This plan was also rejected by Pakistan thus missing the second opportunity to acquire Kashmir.

In 1956, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy became Prime Minister of Pakistan. Then US president Eisenhower requested him for an airbase at Peshawar from where United States could fly her spy planes over Soviet Unions for espionage. Hussain Shaheed Suhraverdy allowed American planes to operate from Badhbair Peshawar in return for American support at United Nations to solve the Kashmir issue. Through American efforts, Kashmir issue was once again put on United Nations agenda, when a solution to this effect was almost near, a Coup-d-etat occurred in Pakistan and the legitimate government of Shaheed Suhrawardy was toppled. Later in an interview with a foreign newspaper, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy said “I am not repenting for loss of Prime Minister’s slot but I am extremely grieved to feel that Pakistan has lost Kashmir forever”. Thus, Pakistan lost the third opportunity to solve Kashmir issue.

In 1962 China attacked India, wrested a large chunk of territory from India. Then Prime Minister of China sent a cable to Pakistan to capture Kashmir which was totally devoid of Indian soldiers. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and United States president John F Kennedy barred Pakistan from attacking Kashmir. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer explains in his book “JFK’s Forgotten Crisis” that how they barred Pakistan from attacking on Kashmir during that crucial time. Thus Pakistan missed the most riped fourth opportunity to acquire Kashmir.

A great turmoil and uproar ensued in Pakistan subsequent to alleged rigging of polls by Ayub Khan against Fatima Jinnah in 1965 elections. To divert attention of masses, Ayub Khan prematurely launched Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir. Pakistan army crossed the Line of Control and made significant territorial gains. To weaken the Pakistan Army onslaught, India attacked the cities of Lahore and Sialkot after crossing international border. After seventeen days, war came to a halt through a cease fire agreement.

In 1989, after the retreat of Russia from Afghanistan, an armed uprising commenced in Kashmir. Two Mujahedeen factions; Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Hizb Ul Mujahedeen initiated the armed struggle but after the tragic demise of General Zia Ul Haq, these Mujahedeen factions lost their vigour and tempo and the freedom struggle could not be sustained.

Another attempt to liberate Kashmir was made by General Pervez Musharraf by initiating Kargil War. Due to wrong strategy and civil-military differences at home, the fifth golden opportunity was lost by Pakistan to acquire Kashmir.

In 2007, General Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh agreed to comply with te “Owen Dixon Plan”. Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Gillani rejected it as betrayal of Kashmiri people. This was followed by the Lawyers agitation in Pakistan which dethroned General Pervez Musharraf government and the “Dixon Plan” could not be implemented, thus depriving Pakistan of the Sixth last opportunity to solve the Kashmir Issue.

The present Narendra Modi government, an offshoot of Rashtriya Sewayam sevak Sangh (RSS), is implementing its “Hindutva” doctrine. After the abrogation of article 370, and revoking the special status of Kashmir, Modi government is now having an evil eye on Azad Kashmir and Pakistan to annex these regions with India by either cleansing or subjugating Muslims of the Sub Continent. The solution to Kashmir Issue remains as elusive as ever until probably a large scale military conflict with India which will finally determine the shape of Kashmir’s future.

The contributor is a former Secrearay of Health and Population Welfare, GB.

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