Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Myths About Kashmir

I am utterly dismayed by the way foreign media and supposed foreign analysts describe the Kashmir issue and the way that they discuss it in television debates. They start with such factually incorrect assumptions about Kashmir’s history and its current problems that I wonder if any discussion or suggestions about the solution of that problem will lead us anywhere. I understand the truth is so glaring that recognizing the truth will probably make the complete mockery of the position of Pakistan and many international powers particularly the western countries, that they and their misinformed media perpetuate these myths. I wonder whey India turns out so defensive in the world in its position on J&K. As long as there is conviction amongst Indians in the Idea of India there is hardly any reason to be defensive about it, except that we were limited in our history by our resources and by being on the wrong side in terms of national self interest with the west and China. My conclusion is that in the world of international diplomacy it is not about truth but self interest and we have been collectively let down by our defensive approach in communication and diplomacy while Pakistan and its strategic friends in their single minded pursuit of self interest have managed to bog India down. This post is an effort to dispel some of these myths which have been perpetuating in the world for so long that some of them have even come back and occupied a considerable space in Indian national consciousness.

First let me address what Kashmir is in terms of the territory of Kashmir. What the world calls Kashmir is not Kashmir it is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is only a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The size of the valley of Kashmir is about 140 Km long and 32 Km wide which is comparable to the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh which is currently under Chinese occupation. The world seems to know that Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan where as the fact is that Kashmir is not divided, the entire valley of Kashmir is within the Indian side of the Line of Control, what was divided thanks to the Pakistani invasion in 1947 was the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The entire Jhelum valley which is Kashmir was completely cleared of the Pakistani invaders in 1947. In fact what Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir is not even Kashmir it is a part of Jammu which it continues to occupy after 1947 invasion.

A question is raised several times that a plebiscite promised by India on the Kashmir question was not honored. The true facts are that Kashmir became an international dispute in 1948 when India appealed to the United Nations for its intervention on the Pakistani aggression on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The fact that it was considered a dispute at all in the UN rather than an act of aggression by Pakistan continued to dismay Indian government for several years. How could the UN have considered an aggressor and a victim of aggression at par by legitimizing it as a dispute between India and Pakistan, where as it was clearly Pakistan which had attacked the state and India had gone in to defend the state after it had legally acceded to India, so it was Pakistan which was in illegal occupation of the territory when India went to the UN. Kashmir issue became and international dispute thanks to a technical error in the appeal which was filed by Sir Girija Bajpai in the UN which was filed under chapter 6 of the UN charter which deals with peaceful resolution of disputed rather than chapter 7 which deals with acts of aggression. The gross disservice done to the nation by the team filing the appeal should have been an issue of national debate and questioning but it was hardly ever raised for the last 65 years in the country. But this technical error gave Pakistan the opportunity and the western country an excuse to hide behind the technicalities of appeal in order to pursue their own national interest at the cost of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The UNSC resolution 47 which was finally passed in April of 1948 mentioned plebiscite as means to decide the fate of Kashmir but it was conditional on the Pakistani forces being removed from the region and an impartial plebiscite to be conducted under supervision Indian armed forces. Since Pakistan had no intention of withdrawing, a plebiscite could not have been held. Thanks to its aggression Pakistan had already been rewarded with a portion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmir had become and international dispute thanks to its desire to acquire more portions of the state by all means possible at its disposal.

Another myth which is perpetuated is that Jammu and Kashmir region has been a source of bitter territorial dispute between India and Pakistan for which they have gone to several wars. The assumption in any such argument is that both sides have been attempting to change the status quo on the line of control and trying to occupy territory in each others control. Where as the fact is that starting from 1947 when Pakistani invaders first attacked the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir it is Pakistan which has been trying to alter the situation by force and not India. Every invasion in the Kashmir region has been initiated by Pakistan. Pakistan thanks to its covert invasion in 1947 managed to acquire a considerable territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1965 brimming with self confidence with their plum acquisition of American Patton tanks and encouraged by the favorable outcome of Raan of Kutch invasion they planned and executed the so called Operation Gibraltar and invaded in Jammu & Kashmir. In 1971 it was Pakistan which chose to first expand the war of Bangladesh Liberation in the western sector by planned air strikes and then tank invasion to acquire territory in Kashmir by force. It was Pakistan which in 1989 chose to apply lessons learned from its Afghan operations to Jammu and Kashmir and wage a proxy war on India, they armed and trained disaffected Kashmiri youth and also Pakistanis and Afghans and other foreigners and sent them out to wage a ‘Jihad’ in J&K. In 1999 again it was the Pakistani Army which invaded and occupied mountains in Kargil on the Indian side of Line of Control and expected to get away with it thanks to its nuclear armed status. What is also pertinent to note is that in each of these instances of invasion and violence in J&K starting with 1947, the Pakistani Army has initially denied having any role to play and the west has remained silent on it (except perhaps the Kargil war of 1999) not in the interest of truth but for its own self interest.

Now let us understand Jammu and Kashmir in terms of its people. Arguments are made by Pakistan and sometimes echoed in the west that ‘Any resolution of Kashmir has to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people’. In order to understand the wishes of the Kashmiri people we have to first understand who the Kashmiri people are?  Are they only the primarily Muslim Kashmiri speaking population of the valley? Or are they the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. The thrust of the argument by Pakistan here is that the wishes of a section of the people of the Kashmir valley who are vocal in espousing the separatist cause should matter and the views of the rest of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and those in the valley who do not espouse such a cause should essentially be silenced. It should be reminded that it is a voice that the population of Jammu and Kashmir has consistently been expressing in the various elections that have taken place in the state under Indian constitution. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of the cultural diversity of Jammu and Kashmir which I have come across was in an article in Frontline Magazine in 2001 by Mr. Balraj Puri. Jammu and Kashmir in spite of no permanent immigration to that state since independence because of its special status granted to it in the constitution is one of the most diverse of all regions of India in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion and sects. How can such a region have a singular opinion on the so called resolution of Kashmir? Whose opinion matters most? The Kashmiri Muslims, the Kashmiri minority refugees, the Buddhist Ladakhis, the Muslim Ladakhis, the Pahadis, the Gujjars, the Dogras, the Sikhs? Is the future of Jammu and Kashmir to be determined by a very vocal separatist block which has also espoused to violence at the behest of their controllers in Pakistan Army and the silent majority which has consistently been expressing its opinion in the various elections in the past about trust in Indian democracy should suffer the consequence of the separatist agenda?

The real fact of Kashmir is that Kashmir is not a territorial dispute at all. Kashmir is an ideological dispute. It is a dispute between the Idea of India which is a pluralistic multi-religious, mutli-cultural, multi-ethnic, secular  democracy and the Idea of Pakistan which was based on a two nation theory which states that Muslims of India and the Hindus of India are separate nations. So the Pakistani claim on Kashmir is based on the religions identity of Kashmir where as India's claim on the state of Jammu and Kashmir is based on its identity as a mosaic of ethnic, religious and linguistic groups of people.

2 comments:

  1. That is a cogent article on Kashmir but I suspect not many will be interested in it. Agencies and individuals with vested interests are out to sensationalise and even scandalise the 'issue' and unfortunately their lies seem to have drowned the voices of reason such as yours. Deep in my heart, I am quite bitter about the predicament of Kashmiri refugees who don't seem to be getting even the cursory lip-service now. Kudos to you for posting this.

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  2. Wow!! Too good piece of writing especially the "thank you" part. Another point I would like to add will be that of Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to flee from the valley and then we have people saying Kashmir is dominated by the Muslims.

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