Is India Going to Lose Kashmir; the Portends Are Ominous.
Kashmir was a part of the Sikh Empire and earlier it was part of the Mughal Empire. After the Anglo-Sikh wars ( 1845-49) when Punjab was annexed, the British as a mark of gratitude to the prime minister of the Sikh Empire Gulab Singh, made him the Maharajah of Kashmir. This was to reward Gulab Singh for betraying Sikh interests at crucial times to the English. Gulab Singh was a Hindu, but the state was predominantly Muslim.
In 1895 the last Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh was born. He was to play a pivotal role during the time the British left India in 1947. When British rule lapsed in 1947 the Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh had some ingenious ideas for an independent Kashmir state. He went about this aim as suggested by his advisors. He signed a stand-still agreement with both the new states of Pakistan and India, wherein it was agreed that both India and Pakistan will allow Kashmir time to reflect and ponder whether to join Pakistan or India.
Option by the Raj
It must be understood that when the British Raj lapsed by an act of the British parliament there was no option of Independence for the 500 odd princely states. They were given only an option either to accede to Pakistan or India. Hari Singh probably thought that he could get around this by his stand-still agreement.
India under Jawaharlal Nehru respected the stand-still agreement but Mohammad Ali Jinnah the leader of Pakistan was not ready to accept any idea of Independence for Kashmir or accession to India. On the advice of the CinC of the Pakistan army, a plan was made to invade Kashmir with the help of tribesmen of the North West frontier. These tribesmen would be led by officers of the Pakistan army.
The Cin C of the Pakistan army at that time was General Sir Frank Messervy till 10 Feb 1948 after which he was succeeded by General Douglas Gracey from the First Gurkha Rifles. Both these British generals actively planned and prosecuted the invasion of Kashmir.
Attacking the Maharajah
The British began this operation and the British resident in Gilgit Major Brown announced the ascension of Gilgit to Pakistan. Tribesmen also reported in large numbers for the invasion of Kashmir. Gilgit was lost within 24 hours when the maharaja's paltry troops were all captured and executed. The tribesmen now entered the Kashmir Valley. They were freebooters and as such, they entered Kashmir with the idea of looting the local Kashmiri people and abducting Kashmiri girls. They did not have a single-minded devotion to reach Srinagar.
Despite this, they were able almost to reach Srinagar and it was rumored that the airport had fallen to them. At this critical juncture, Nehru who was sitting on his haunches should have intervened. Unfortunately, he was under the influence of Lord Mountbatten who was the governor general of India at that time. Lord Mountbatten was following the British agenda of weakening India and advised Nehru not to intervene in Kashmir tell the Maharaja signed the instrument of accession to India.
Nehru thus lost precious time and finally VP Menon the Cabinet Secretary flew to Srinagar on 26 October 1947 to get the signature of the Maharaja on the document. Now facts have emerged that perhaps Nehru was greatly influenced by Edwina Mountbatten and this colored his thinking. He went by whatever Lord Mountbatten told him. In the meantime, the tribals did their cause no good by stopping at Baramulla to rape and plunder instead of heading to Srinagar. Precious time was lost by them and finally, Indian troops were flown to the airport in a DC- 3. The first batch of 28 Sikh soldiers led by lieutenant colonel Rai landed in Srinagar and soon more Indian troops flew into Srinagar.
The valley was saved and slowly in the winter of 1947, the tribesmen aided by the Pakistan army faced defeat. They were facing a professional Army and in combat, with them, they had no choice but to retreat. The Indian Army expelled the tribesmen from the valley and the general staff informed Nehru that very soon Indian troops would be able to liberate Gilgit. Unfortunately, Nehru who had no stomach for a prolonged war was looking for an easy way out. He was helped in this by the Cin C Indian army General Roy Bucher who advised against continuing the war though the Indian commanders were clear that they could capture Gilgit.
Approaching the UN
On the advice of Lord Mountbatten, Nehru approached the United Nations to solve the problem. This was a monumental blunder as the UN enforced a ceasefire leaving almost 35% of Kashmir in the hands of Pakistan. In world history, such a parallel exists anywhere? The day the cease-fire was enforced the Kashmir problem was created but sadly India had already lost more than one-third of the state.
Having lost one-third of the state the Indian leadership led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru committed another blunder. In his zeal to show to the world that he was a "great leader", he announced in a speech in Srinagar that when conditions were right he would conduct a plebiscite in the Kashmir state and give the option to the Kashmiri people to decide their future.
This mistake of Nehru was to cost India dear, as it's a well-known fact that in case a plebiscite had been held in the valley, the Indians would have lost it. Nehru realized his mistake and refused to hold a plebiscite. Leaders who followed him stuck to this approach. The UN Security Council proposed many resolutions on Kashmir that favored Pakistan, which by then had become an ally of the USA. But India was saved by the Soviet Union on a number of occasions by exercising the Veto.
Many people now opine that Nehru was a man who had a vision of the world which was not in conformity with the Indian aspirations. His grandfather was a Muslim and there is a chance that it colored his thinking. He now did something that now is an anchor around the throat of the Indian Government and has led to the Kashmir problem continuing to burn.
Amending the constitution Article 370
Nehru persuaded the president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, to sign the bill to amend the Indian Constitution. He got two obnoxious amendments to the constitution passed. These are known as section 35a and article 370. How and why he did it is not clear but the effect of these two laws ensure that Kashmir would remain as a separate part of India. It ensured that Indian citizens from other parts of India could not settle or buy any property or set up an industry in Kashmir. It gave Kashmir constitution a legal cover and Kashmir had its own flag. In addition, all laws passed by the Indian Parliament are not applicable to Kashmir unless approved by the Kashmir assembly.
Had this section of the constitution not been there Kashmir would have integrated into India. The settlement of Indians from other parts of India to Kashmir would have begun and the demographic problem of a predominant Muslim Kashmir Valley would have been solved.
Nehru died in 1964 but his successors who were from the Congress Party were always in awe of him and they failed to bring about any policy to undo the damage done by Nehru. A great opportunity was missed by his daughter Indira Gandhi who was the prime minister of India during the 1971 war with Pakistan. In this war, the Pakistan army was decisively defeated and over 90000 Pakistani soldiers taken as POW. This was the time to put pressure on Pakistan to solve the Kashmir issue but Indira Gandhi in the 1973 Simla conference failed. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in fact, got a clause inserted that Kashmir would be discussed later. At that time when Indira Gandhi had a big bargaining chip of 90000 Pakistani soldiers in Indian custody, she could have insisted to make the LOC as the International border. It would have legitimized Pakistan's annexation of 35% of Kashmir but the problem would be solved.
She did nothing and released the POWs to Pakistan without any Quid Pro. The status quo thus continued. The situation in the valley took a dip for the worse when Islamic propaganda helped start an insurrection in the valley in 1989. The insurrection spread fast followed by attacks on Hindus in the valley in the name of ethnic cleansing. The Indian government led by Narasimha Rao failed to act and over 200000 Kashmiri Hindus were expelled from the valley. The Indian government accepted this and emboldened the hardliners who are now being actively supported by Pakistan.
Insurrection in the Valley
This policy of supporting the movement in Kashmir had its genesis during the time when General Zia ul Haq was the President of Pakistan. He was of the view that just as India had intervened in East Pakistan similarly Pakistan also must intervene in the valley. It must be remembered that in East Pakistan the Indian Army supported the Mukti Bahini and many Indian soldiers in East Pakistan were operating in the guise of the Mukti Bahini
Zia was out for revenge and infiltrators from Pakistan, who had a measurable sport from the Muslims of the valley began to mount attacks on Indian soldiers. The insurrection has been going on 30 years and there is no end in sight. The Indian government instead of acting tough has been following the policy of appeasement. The entire budget of the Kashmir state is subsidized by the central government and billions of dollars have been given with no tangible results during the last 30 years. The insurrection in Kashmir has not been dealt with forcefully and air power has not been used.
There are members of Indian political parties who just for the sake of politics would like the status quo to continue. The issue that is hampering the integration of the state with India is Section 35a and Article 370 of the constitution. The BJP government had promised in its election manifesto that these obnoxious articles would be removed. However, in almost 5 years of BJP rule, nothing has happened and the same policies followed by the Congress government continue. All this shows a lack of will to integrate Kashmir with India and misplaced notion about the rights of Kashmiri Muslims.
Some leaders of Kashmir are now asking for the Institution of a Prime Minister and President for the Kashmir state. These demands are likely to gather momentum mainly because of a kid glove approach to the Kashmir issue by the Indian government. Sometimes the military solution is the best. In 1966 air power was used to crush the Mizo revolt. Unfortunately the same has not been done in Kashmir. The government has allowed the Hindus to be expelled and the local Kashmiri leaders are given lakhs of rupees for nothing.
It has now become a Catch 22 situation and the Indian leaders have to bite the bullet. If they do not bite the bullet and allow section 35a and Article 370 of the constitution to stand, in the years to come Kashmir may well be lost. The Kashmiri Mujahideen need to be hunted down and in a battle, no quarter can be given and no mercy can be shown. India sits at the crossroads. There is a silver lining as the BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly stated that he will integrate Kashmir with the rest of India by abrogating article 370. We will have to wait and see if he can do it. In case Modi does it Kashmir problem will be solved otherwise India may have to wash its hands of the valley