The Kashmir Dispute
Submitted by George Callaghan…
The Jammu and Kashmir Conflict has rumbled on and off for 72 years. Kashmir (as the area is known for short) is argued over by Pakistan and India. The Pakistanis control an area they call Azad Kashmir (‘Free Kashmir) and maintain the fiction that this area is independent. In point of fact it is a de facto portion of Pakistan and is even represented in the Pakistani National Assembly. The majority of Kashmir is run by India and is represented in the Parliament of India. India maintains that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral portion of the Republic of India. The United Kingdom bears some responsibility for this.
Why is it this conflict suppurates on seven decades after its outbreak? Many conflicts have been and gone in that space of time. Some of these scraps are now all but forgotten?
We have to rewind to 1947. The United Kingdom was giving in to the Indian demand for independence. London co-operated with Indian politicians in managing the transition of power. The major political party in India was Congress. Congress was a secular party open to people of all faiths. India at the time was 60% Hindu. The % of Hindus in Congress was rather higher than 60%. The Muslim community formed about 35% of the population. There was a political party called the Muslim League. Since the 1930s the Muslim League had said that in the event of Indian independence a Muslim homeland ought to be formed in India. They based their claim on the contentious two nations theory. This is that Hindus and Muslims form different nations. Congress emphatically rejected this claim as utterly specious and unhistorical. Not all Muslims were in the Muslim League. There were a few other political parties but for the sake of simplicity we shall overlook them. There were and are other minor religious communities such as Christians, Sikhs and so on.
The demand for the creation of Pakistan was vociferous. The leader of the Muslim League was a cadaverous barrister named Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Despite drinking whisky more often than he prayed toward Mecca this man said that Islam was his identity. He called for a day of action in 1946. This meant hordes of Islamists rampaging through Hindu areas slaughtering those of a different faith.
The Congress Party reluctantly agreed to the Partition of India. A new country would be created. The name of it was Pakistan. This name had been invented by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali. He was so concerned for the future of the Muslims of South Asia that he did not visit South Asia for years and lived out his life in Cambridge. He never once set foot in the country that he named.
British India was divided into provinces. Some had an overwhelming majority of Hindus or Mohammedans. Allotting those provinces to either India or Pakistan was straightforward. In the Punjab and Bengal it was not so clear cut. In these two provinces Muslims and non-Muslims were almost equal in numbers. A British academic called Sir Cyril Radcliffe was called in to draw the border. Sir Cyril came out from All Souls College Oxford to India. He had never been to India before. He had the unenviable task of drawing the border. Whatever line he drew was sure to cause contumely to be hurled on him.
What about the princely states? There were over 500 states ruled by hereditary rulers. These princes had a direct relationship with the British monarch. The princely states were internally self-governing but they could only conduct foreign affairs via the British. The princely states had to plump either for India or Pakistan. Almost all of them made the logical decision. Hindu and Sikh majority states opted for India. The Muslim majority ones went for Pakistan. So far so rational. Jammu and Kashmir was the fly in the ointment. This gigantic state lay at the very north of India abutting onto the Himalayas. Kashmir luxuriates in the most celestial natural splendour. Nehru wrote that Kashmir ‘is like a woman whose beauty is above desire.’ This state was ruled by a Hindu maharajah who was a profligate playboy. Most of his subjects were of the Muslim persuasion.
On 14 August 1947 Pakistan was born. A day later India took her place among the sovereign nations of the world. Internecine fighting erupted in the Punjab. Many people were put to the sword on the basis of their religious confession. After some months a semblance of normality was restored. At that point the nascent Pakistani Government thought it right to task the tribesmen of the North-West Frontier with a special mission. These pugnacious sorts were to invade and conquer Kashmir. This would allow Pakistan plausible deniability. The tribesmen happily took up their task intent on booty. In the Frontier almost every man owned a gun. They fell to it and invaded Kashmir. Kashmir was independent then as the maharajah mulled his options. He could join either Pakistan or India. He could of course remain independent but that did not seem feasible in the long term. But with the tribesmen screaming through his keyhole he realized that he needed help fast! The Indians would only dispatch their army to save Kashmir if the maharajah formally announced his desire for his state to become part and parcel of the new and independent Union of India.
The Maharajah of Kashmir asked to accede to India. The Indian Army was airlifted to Srinagar in Kashmir just in time to save the city. There was a tough fight in the mountains for months before the United Nations interceded. The Line of Actual Control was established. As in Pakistan controls to the west of it (a third of Kashmir) and India controls to the west. The word ‘control’ is used since neither side wishes to acknowledge the legitimacy of the others position. Many Kashmiris welcomed the Pakistanis.
The United Nations voted that Pakistan ought to withdraw from Kashmir. Then a referendum could be held on the future of Kashmir. That ballot box decision would determine whether Kashmir would join India or not. Remember that theoretically Pakistan’s permission is that she wishes to uphold Kashmir’s desire for independence. India has never held such a poll in Indian Kashmir. A high majority of people there are Muslims. Delhi feared that most of them would vote to leave India. But as Indira Gandhi noted this poll was only to be held after the Pakistanis pulled out.
In the mean time thugs in Kashmir have butchered many Hindus and many moderate Muslims. Pakistan had funded, armed and trained terrorists to commit countless bestial crimes against the civil population of the state. Some of these terrorists are from Jammu and Kashmir. Others are from Pakistani Proper. Those Hindus and pro-Indian Muslims who have not been killed have in many cases found it prudent to shift to less dangerous areas than Kashmir. Therefore, the ethnography of the state has changed very significantly since 1947. If a poll were held now it is likely that most people would vote to leave India. This would partly be because the pro-Pakistani terrorists have purposively altered the ethnoreligious composition of the state through their bloody rain of terror. Putting all that aside even if the ethnic makeup of Jammu and Kashmir had not been changed by terrorism an area does not always get what it wants in terms of voting to join this country or that. The Indian argument is that this is not about Kashmir only. It is about the whole of India. The unity of India is indefeasible.
India and Pakistan fought two more full scale wars. One of these was principally about Bangladesh – back then it was called East Pakistan. Since 1989 there has been an intermittent conflict in Kashmir. Various terrorist organisations have plagued the state. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Hizb ut Tahrir, Jaish e Mohammad and other outfits have wreaked merry hell in Kashmir. They have also attacked targets in other parts of India. The Pakistani Army has also fought there. The two countries have avoided a full-scale war since 1972.
The terrorist organisations are openly armed, trained, financed and briefed by the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence). The ISI is Pakistan’s answer to the CIA or MI6. The ISI’s offspring have committed numerous large scale atrocities in Kashmir and further afield. Hindus in Kashmir have often been slain in huge numbers. Muslims who prefer secular India to shariat state Pakistan have been killed. The Indian security forces have not been blameless. They have sometimes killed civilians. Torture has not been unknown. Suspects sometimes vanished into thin air.
Through all this time the United States has fulminated against the wickedry of Islamist terrorism. Yet over the decades the US has furnished Pakistan with tens of billions of dollars and provided her with armaments. Washington did this fully cognizant of Pakistan disbursing these funds among Islamist terrorist organisations. Further, the arms that the US gave to the Pakistanis sometimes ended up in the hands of various proscribed organisations waging a war of terror on Indian civilians. It is sickening to hear moralistic denunciations of the evils of Islamism from a government that actively promotes and arms it. By US law the US Government itself should be on trial for aiding and abetting terrorism.
Pakistani assistance to the terrorists in Kashmir and in other states of India is plain for all to see. In Rawalpindi the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Force (JKLF) has on an office which is well sign-posted. Members of JKLF and kindred organisations have often been arrested in India. There they gave chapter and verse to the Indian Police about the fulsome support and guidance that they received from the ISI. You might say that they invented this under duress from the police and it is all bunkum. Islamabad routinely denies instigating these attacks on India. Such statements are unworthy of belief.
There have been numerous large scale crimes committed by Pakistani-backed terrorists in India. Among the most notorious are the Mumbai attacks of 2008. The Taj Hotel in Mumbai was taken over and the guests were taken hostage. The terrorists also gunned down scores of civilians in a railway station. The sought ought the few Jewish people in the city to kill them. The Indian Police intercepted phone calls from Pakistan to the cell phones of the terrorist. The ISI was directing the operation in real time telling the terrorists where to go and when. In an act of restraint which has few parallels in history the Indians did not retaliate. It was perhaps too merciful and magnanimous. Pakistan is not going to desist from orchestrating such barbaric attacks on civilian targets. Until Pakistan pays a very heavy price she shall continue to take a toll on India. The logic being that Pakistan is gradually wearing down India’s will to resist.
Examples of Pakistani mendacity are legion. Dawood Ibrahim was a key figure in the Mumbai underworld. It is well known that he has been resident in Karachi for years. The Pakistani Government blandly denies that he is present on their territory. Footage of his daughter’s wedding in Karachi to a Pakistani cricketer left Islamabad with a little explaining to do.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan maintains that almost all Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir wish to be Pakistanis. This is a very unsafe assumption. There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. In 1947 not all Muslims even in the Punjab or Bengal (the bifurcated provinces) opted for Pakistan. Why would a Muslim prefer to be an Indian than a Pakistani? There is a multitude of reasons for this. India has free and fair elections. It has an independent judiciary. As the Indian Supreme Court rule the death penalty it imposed only for ‘the rarest of the rare’ of heinous offences. India has very extensive freedom of expression. The Republic of India is making major progress in tackling graft. Besides India is experiencing turbocharged economic growth. The country is so prosperous that it has its own aid programme for less economically developed nations. It even has a space agency.
There are all sorts of reasons by a Muslim, including an observant one, would not wish to be a citizen of Pakistan. The elections there are flagrantly rigged. The judiciary is very much under the thumb of the ISI. The country has two parallel yet overlapping legal systems – shariat and common law. A common law court can acquit someone who can then be convicted for the very same incident by a shariat court. The court system is sclerotic and dysfunctional in the extreme. Conditions in prisons are inhumane. But if you have enough money you can even bring prostitutes into prison to service you. In the 1980s the military dictator General Muhammad Zia ul Haq was in power. The chief martial law administrator – as he styled himself – promulgated the notorious Hudood Ordinances. These retrograde laws would have made Draco of Athens blanche. Capital punishment was prescribed for a whole host of infractions of the legal code. Blasphemy is not even a misdemeanor in most countries. But in Pakistan to profane the Islamic faith is punishable by death. People are sentenced to death for this crime on the basis of the slenderest of hearsay evidence. Corruption is the order of the day in all walks of life. The police often say they shall not even start to investigate a crime until a complainant has paid them a douceur. The law provides capital punishment for drug peddling. But in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan the government does not even pretend to enforce the law. There are open markets in heroin and other drugs. How can this be right? On one side of a line in Pakistan people are hanged for supply of drugs. On the other side they can do so openly without fear of even the mildest penalty?
The non-Muslim minority in Pakistan get it in the neck. Christians are regularly murdered. Many Pakistani Muslims will be as outraged by such crimes as I am. Likewise Hindus and Sikhs live in fear. They are not allowed to be the head of state. On the other hand there is one privilege for non-Muslims. Only a non-Muslim is allowed to be an executioner. This is so the government can say that Muslims are humane. Only a Christian has the opprobrious job of topping people. Israelis are not permitted to visit the country.
There are plenty of delightful Pakistanis. I feel sorry for them. There are people of moderate opinion who yearn for peace. To make serious peace overtures to India would be more than your life is worth if you are a Pakistani politician. You would find yourself overthrown or assassinated if you made a concession worth the name to India. Ironically it is the military governments of Pakistan who have negotiated in good faith with India. That is because no one can accuse a military strongman of not being tough. Civilian leaders are overeager to burnish their patriotic and macho credentials. There are occasional summits with Indian politicians. There will be perfunctory pacific platitudes but nothing lasting ever transpires. One could call Kashmir a frozen conflict except there is actual fighting. There are no UN troops present to hold back the two sides. The Indians regard this as a domestic matter and therefore say there is no need for the participation of a UN peacekeeping force. For Delhi the situation is that that whole of Jammu and Kashmir is Indian and that is that.
In the 1980s Zia ul Haq built up the various terrorist gangs in Kashmir. He also let them flourish in the North-West Frontier Province (now called the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa). It is a case of he who rides a tiger ends up inside it. The Pakistani Government has created a monster it cannot control. If a Pakistani leader were to attempt to dismount this tiger of terrorism he would be swallowed by it. The government dares not take on the terrorists for fear he would be killed. It might not be the illegal organisations that kill him. It could easily be elements in the ISI. It is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Benazir Bhutto was the only woman to ever be Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was assassinated by religious extremists in 2007 as she campaigned to return to office. It is widely believed that the ISI in cahoots with her killers. Musharaff sometimes tried to reign in the terrorists. The Taliban made persistent attempts to send him to zhanat. Even Musharaff could only go so far in attempting to curb the terrorists. If he had then he would have been ousted by the ISI or even the army.
In the 19th century it was said that Prussia was not a country with an army but an army with a country. To some extent the same holds good of Pakistan. Though it is the ISI that calls the shots more so than the army.
Pakistan is almost a failed state. A failed state with nuclear arms is a petrifying prospect. The one thing to unite Pakistan is detestation of India. Were it not for that then the country might rip at the seams. That is why Pakistan had to keep the conflict going.
Politicians from the two South Asian giants often meet. There are platitudes about peace. In the end nothing changes. Occasionally trade is improved. Transport links are restored. The ISI is Pakistan’s deep state. The ISI decides reconciliation has gone too far. It will order it marionette terrorist organisations to launch another crime in India. This will be of sufficient magnitude to provoke India into severing ties. After a couple of years there will be a détente. So the cycle continues without end.
Kashmir has proved to be a graveyard of reputations for statesmen on both sides. India’s economy is growing apace. Soon Hindustan shall leave her western neighbor way way behind. Pakistan does not wish to trail in the dust. Out of spite she would like to wreck things for her neighbor. As India grows wealthier she also becomes more popular. Greater soft power as well as military hardware makes her a more formidable foe. But nukes are the great equalizer. Until Pakistan attained them in 1998 there was the possibility of a comprehensive crushing defeat by India. But there is no such chance now.
Many Indians would like to settle the situation. They can live with Pakistan controlling or even legally owning a third of Kashmir. Some have spoken of jettisoning the rest of it. However, for other Indians this is unthinkable. It would be a most disgraceful act of betrayal to abandon India’s sacred soil. Moreover, tens of thousands of soldiers laid down their lives for their beloved Mother India. Did they die in vain?
Pakistan and India are far away countries of which we know little for some people in the British Isles. But make no mistake this conflict is impactful. It has the potential to create much greater havoc. That is because both parties to the conflict are nuclear armed states. A nuclear exchange between them could not fail to cause millions of deaths.
China’s role is significant. Her regional rival is India. The logic here is the enemy of my enemy is my friend. China has been cosying up to Pakistan for decades. For both countries this represents the depth of cynicism. The Muslim minority in China is heavily oppressed. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are held as political prisoners. Hundreds of Muslims have been executed after flagrantly unfair trials in China. Muslims are tortured on an industrial scale in China. There is not a peep out of Pakistan about this. So much for the sense of Muslim brotherhood. Do not bite the hand that feeds you! The Pakistanis welcomes China’s economic corridor. They are very grateful for Chinese assistance against India. Pakistan has even given away some Kashmiri land to China. But according to Islamabad it is not theirs to give. The People’s Republic of China has been pleased to build Pakistan up militarily and economically. This is because Beijing considers the country to be a useful counterweight to India.
Patently the Partition of India was a cardinal error. The vivisection of the Subcontinent still causes bloodshed today. It has been even more cataclysmic for Pakistan than for India. There is the rare Pakistani with the moral courage to say that they regret Pakistan splitting from India. However, asperity between the two is so ingrained that it is hard to imagine Pakistan ever seeking readmission to India even centuries from now.
There are over a million British-Pakistanis. Many of them have ancestral links to Kashmir. There is a town in Pakistani controlled Kashmir called Mirpur. This town is known as ‘Little England’ due to its high number of British-Pakistanis who have returned to the old country. Quite a few British-Pakistanis care passionately about the Kashmir issue. That is why this question matters for the UK. Some of those terrorist organisations that have wreaked havoc in India also do so in the UK.
Pakistan has its military-industrial complex which has a vested interest in sustaining the conflict. The armed forces and the ISI desperately need the Kashmir Dispute. This is almost their raison d’etre. If it were not for that then the status and wealth of the military-industrial complex would be greatly reduced.
There are signs of hope. The green shoots of peace include TAPI. That is the Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan Indian Pipeline (TAPI). As Pakistan and India will be linked by a pipeline they will have a common interest. Either can easily shut off gas to the other.
Around the world there are Muslims who feel themselves to be part of the Umma. This is the worldwide Muslim community. Some of them with no links to Pakistan sympathise with Islamabad’s position in relation to Kashmir.
There is little the UK can do. When Robin Cook was Foreign Secretary he accompanied the Queen on a visit to Pakistan and India. The idea of her visiting Pakistan now is unimaginable since it is extremely dangerous. Cook offered to mediate between the two nations on the Kashmir issue. He had a tin ear for Indian sensitivities. It came across as condescending. For India this is a domestic matter. Kashmir is Indian and part of it is under illegal military occupation. The Pakistanis are at pains to internationalise the issue. They wish to draw upon the fellow feeling of hundreds of millions of Muslims across the globe.