Dr. Susmit Kumar
When the British left India in 1947, British-controlled states, also called British India, were divided between India and Pakistan in a plebiscite along religious lines. Twelve million Hindus and Muslims fled from one area to another and half a million people lost their lives in the ensuing communal riots. Under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the paramountcy of the British over about 600 princely states lapsed and these states were free to join India or Pakistan or become sovereign. The Indian National Congress had demanded that the two-nation theory [one for Hindus and another for Muslims] be applied to these princely states as well. In 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and his Muslim League party, however, said that the princely states were sovereign for every purpose. In order to accommodate Jinnah’s point of view, the British enacted article 7(b) of the Indian Independence Act of 1947.
Within a few months after independence, Sardar Patel, the Indian home minister, integrated 561 princely states, covering 800,000 square kilometers and containing a population of 86 million, into India. For this reason Patel is often compared with Otto von Bismarck, who unified Germany in the late 19th century. His work was much harder than that of Bismarck, who used “blood and iron” to integrate 39 states, whereas Patel integrated 561 without shedding blood or going to war. Jinnah thought that after the lapse of paramountcy many princely states would stay out of India. He tried his best to persuade Bhopal, Hyderabad, Jaisalmer, and Travancore to become sovereign. He even accepted the accession of Junagarh, which had a Hindu majority, to Pakistan in utter violation of the two-nation theory. In spite of this, Patel dealt firmly with such issues.
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was one of these princely states. Had it been part of British India, it would have gone to Pakistan, since Muslims constituted about 77 percent of the state’s population. After the lapse of the paramountcy in August 1947, the maharaja of J&K, Hari Singh, was uninterested in joining either country.
Within a week of getting independence, Pakistan planned an operation, codenamed Gulmarg, to invade J&K. On October 22, 1947, about 5,000 tribesmen led by Pakistani Army regulars attacked the region and quickly captured large parts of it. Instead of exploiting their initial success, however, the tribesmen stopped to loot, rape women, kill the inhabitants, burn houses, and abduct young women to take back to Pakistan. The maharaja made a desperate appeal to India to come to his rescue, but India took the stand that it was not in a position to send troops to rescue him. On October 26, the intruders massacred about 11,000 of 14,000 residents of Baramullah and destroyed the Mohra power station that supplied electricity to Srinagar. In a panic, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession, becoming part of India, the same day. The raiders were just five kilometers from the capital, Srinagar.
India conducted a massive airlift of army personnel to Srinagar the next day and captured Baramulla and major parts of J&K within two weeks. The intruders were on the run and the Indian army would have captured the entire J&K territory, but against the advice of Patel, Prime Minister Nehru took matters to the U.N. Security Council on January 1, 1948. There, India accused Pakistan of sending both regular troops and tribesmen into J&K. This led to the establishment of the U.N. Commission in India and Pakistan (UNCIP) by the Security Council to assess the claims and counterclaims of the two countries. Although Pakistan initially denied any involvement, it later on admitted that its army had been involved in the aggression. The chairman of the UNCIP was Dr. Josef Korbel, father of former U.S. secretary of state Madeline Albright. 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, and the cease-fire line became the Line of Control (LOC).
It was in fact wrong on the part of Nehru to take the Kashmir issue to the U.N. It is said that had he given a few more days to the army, all of J&K would have been recaptured. Fifty years later, India is still paying the price for his blunder. By taking the matter to the U.N., he internationalized the issue and made Pakistan a party in the issue. By signing the Instrument of Accession, however, Maharaja Hari Singh had made J&K part of India. This was completely legal under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, signed by both India and Pakistan, which gave sovereignty of the state to Maharaja Hari Singh after the lapse of British paramountcy. The Act contained no provision for ascertaining the wishes of the people of the princely states through plebiscite. This understanding was confirmed on February 4, 1948, by the U.S. representative, Warren Austin, who said in the Security Council, “With the accession of J&K to India, this foreign sovereignty (of J&K) went over to India.” In addition, Justice Owen Dixon of Australia, stated in his September 15, 1950, report to the Security Council that Pakistan had violated international law by crossing into J&K territory. It was thus completely wrong on the part of Nehru to agree to a plebiscite in a territory that was a legal part of India. Nevertheless, the plebiscite was conditional upon Pakistan withdrawing its troops and tribesmen from the state and restoration of the administration to the local authorities. In last 50 years, Pakistan has not fulfilled the first two conditions and is hence responsible for the stalemate.
Currently, India, Pakistan, and China control 45 percent, 35 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of the original J&K territory. China received about 35,000 square kilometers in Aksai Chin in the 1962 war with India and another 5,000 square kilometers in Balistan ceded by Pakistan under a treaty signed in March 1963. Indian Kashmir has three regions: Kashmir Valley, Jammu, and Ladakh. The Indian-controlled Kashmir Valley (IKV), Jammu, and Ladakh have Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist, respectively, majorities. Pakistan-Administered Kashmir (PAK) has a Muslim majority. The bone of contention is just IKV, a 100-mile-long valley, which is about 9 percent of the original J&K territory.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars—in 1947-48, 1965, and 1971—and two out of these were over Kashmir. In addition to this, India has been fighting a covert war in Kashmir since 1989. The two countries came close to a full-scale war in 1999 when Pakistani Army regulars occupied the peaks in Kashmir overlooking the important Indian highway linking Srinagar to Leh, the capital of Ladakh.
The massacre of hundreds of thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by the Urdu-speaking West Pakistani Army in 1971 and subsequent creation of Bangladesh clearly demolished Jinnah’s two-nation theory that the basis of nation-formation should be in religion. In fact, Jinnah himself drank, ate pork, and failed to say his prayers, and could not therefore be described as a Muslim. In Pakistan’s 1971 general election, the Avami League, headed by Sheikh Mujeeb, father of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hashina, won the majority. Instead of handing him power, West Pakistani leaders arrested him and unleashed a reign of terror in East Pakistan. India missed a golden opportunity to solve the Kashmir problem at that time when it had 93,000 Pakistani troops as prisoners of war and about 5,000 square kilometers of territory in the Pakistani Punjab, from where a million people had fled. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi magnanimously gave all this up under the 1972 Shimla Agreement on the promise by President Z. A. Bhutto that he would convert the LOC into an international border. He pleaded that it would take time for him to mold Pakistani public opinion for this, and that without this the nascent democracy that had emerged after 14 years of army rule would weaken.
After watching the defeat of a superpower, the U.S.S.R., by Afghan mujahideens, Pakistani dictator General Zia started the same kind of low-cost war by sending trained Islamic militants into Kashmir in the late 1980s to bleed India; it had become clear that Pakistan would never be able to defeat India in direct war. For centuries, Kashmir had been a place noted for its adherence to the gentle Sufi form of Islam. It was the only place where no communal riots and killing took place during the partition of India. Since 1989, however, India has been fighting Pakistan-sponsored terrorism there. Local militants are active also. Although the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a local outfit, receives supports from Pakistani authorities, its goal is an independent country. In the early 1990s, militants killed Hindus in the Kashmir Valley, causing Hindus to flee. No Hindus live there now. By 1995, however, Indian authorities had crushed the JKLF, and Kashmiris had become fed up with violence and yearned for peace. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) then started infiltrating the valley with Islamic fundamentalists trained in Afghanistan’s terrorist universities. Kashmiris, who once fought against Indian authorities, then started siding with Indian forces to fight non-Kashmiri Islamic fundamentalists. According to American officials, the ISI even used al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan to train covert operatives for use in a war of terror against India. Terrorist training camps that had been closed after the September 11 attacks on the U. S. have been reactivated again in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Tension between India and Pakistan has also nearly erupted into overt war more recently. Following a five-man suicide squad attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001, the two countries amassed nearly one million troops along their 1,800-mile border. It was the largest military mobilization in their 54-year rivalry.
For the most part, however, the Indian army is fighting an ongoing, low-intensity war with Pakistan. Pakistan is sending Islamic militants not only to Kashmir, but to other Indian states as well in order to create terror by bombing trains, Hindu temples and mosques. The ISI has been using Bangladeshi Muslims also for this purpose, and created training centers for them in Bangladesh.
1 Risen, James and Miller, Judith, “Pakistani intelligence had links to Al Qaeda, U.S. officials say,” The New York Times, October 29, 2001.