1 August 2016

End the myth-making on Kashmir

29 July 2016

Lord Mountbatten’s confidential aide memoire dated February 25, 1948 offers definitive answers on the legal, moral and constitutional sanctity of Kashmir's accession to India, which still remains shrouded in controversy for many

It is too early to say whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s West Asia and North Africa outreach is fructifying as an encirclement strategy against Pakistan, but the Right-wing head of Government has pro-actively attempted on something that no one else has done in recent memory. To counter Pakistan’s military-industrial complex and its interventionist heft in the Kashmir valley, Modi and the Indian deep state have realised that the gridiron that supports Pakistan has to be dismantled. So, from the Saudis to the United Arab Emirates to Qatar to Kuwait and even Iran, Modi has actively engaged with these nations to wean them away from Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia is now India’s pre-eminent oil supplier, replacing Iran. It is also India’s fourth largest trading partner, but equally India is using Iran to build a $150 million springboard in Chabahar port. The Saudis and the Islamic Republic of Iran are the region’s two most influential countries, but polar opposites in the strife-torn region. India is wary of the rapid spread of puritanical and extremist Wahhabi Islam from Saudi Arabia described as “an extraordinarily serious ideological threat, a totalitarian movement masquerading as a religion.”

Malaysian diplomat Dennis Ignatius sums up the new danger, “A version which breeds contempt, hatred, intolerance and suspicion of other faiths, other cultures and systems of Government. It is a worldview that’s premised upon an existential struggle between Islam and the rest of the world where there’s no room for compromise or accommodation.” This narrow interpretation is driving political Islam and influencing youths to take up arms. Pakistan’s brutalised psyche, still tormented by the ghosts of the 1971 vivisection of east Pakistan, continues to pursue its toxic ideological doctrine of asymmetrical warfare in Kashmir.

Modi’s strategy has been to curtail Pakistan’s deep set ideological ties with West Asian countries, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia. And this goes beyond Kashmir, for India is the second most populous Muslim nation in the world. A blowback of rising Islamic extremism is already being felt in the new theatre of Europe, and India would not want pernicious Wahhabism to spread any wider and deeper back home.

Pakistan or Toxicistan, however, could not care less, enveloped and mired in jihadism as a way of life, fuelled by the divergence between Rawalpindi and Islamabad’s civil-military relationship, its self destructive mindset obsessed with the pouching of Kashmir. Detaching Kashmir from India remains its only all consuming passion.

Last week Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times issued a stern warning to Nawaz Sharif for this fixation and tried to drill some sense into him — “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (after a AJ&K) electoral win, said that Pakistan is waiting for the day when Kashmir becomes its part. Such statements are nothing more than rhetoric as politicians utter these statements to win the masses’ support... Instead of indulging in wishful thinking, the PM needs to sit back and think with a cool mind the ways to resolve the regional issues... Pakistan’s official stance on Kashmir is that it extends all-out moral support to Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom, and will continue to raise its voice for their right to self-determination at every platform.” It went onto say, “For the last 67 years, Pakistan has failed to ensure good governance in AJ&K. Not only AJ&K, many areas of the country are still facing neglect where people have no access to basic needs of life. Extending moral support to Kashmiris is good but making such statements is totally uncalled for.”

Pakistan’s unquenched thirst for Kashmir is a long-running saga. It is interesting to note that in a confidential aide memoire written by then Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten, on Junagadh and Kashmir, dated February 25, 1948, many misplaced notions and theories have been dissipated. The question mark over Kashmir’s accession to India, which for many remains shrouded in controversy, can have no better defence than the one provided by Mountbatten.

The secret brief was prepared by Lord Mountbatten for the Indian delegation to the UN Security Council. For good measure, he got the three Chiefs of Staff — General RNN Lockhart, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, Air Marshal TW Elmhirst, commanding the Royal Indian Air Force, and Rear Admiral JTS Hall — to sign on the aide memoire that no plans were made for sending Indian troops to Kashmir before October 25, three days before the tribal incursions began.

Reflecting on the three main misunderstandings at the time, Mountbatten provided a lucid account of what was right and wrong in terms of perception. The broad sweep of his aide memoire was broken into three aspects:

That the Government of India took possession of Junagadh State by force, after its legal accession to Pakistan, and has largely vitiated its case in Kashmir by its actions in Kashmir.

That the Government of India brought pressure to bear, at various times, on the Maharajah and the Government of Kashmir in order to induce the State to acceded to the Dominion of India.

That the Government of India planned the dispatch of Indian forces to Kashmir sometime in advance of the actual date.

Since Mountbatten was present in all meetings, his clear-headed aide memoire offers clarity on many perceptions and myths which continue to cloud people’s judgement even to this day. Mountbatten wrote: “On July 25, 1947, in my capacity as Crown Representative I addressed a special full meeting of the Chamber of Princes. At this I informed the rulers and their representatives of the policies of the future governments of both India and Pakistan, which I had worked out with them, with regard to the formation of Instruments of Accession and Standstill Agreements by and with states.”

On Kashmir, Mountbatten’s aide memoire reveals that: “My Government put no pressure to bear on the Maharajah to cause him to accede to India. Visits by Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Kripalani to Kashmir have been quoted in support of a claim that Indian representatives (though admittedly not members of my Government) did bring pressure to bear. All that I can say with regard to Gandhi’s visit is that he gave me his personal promise that he would not discuss political matters of this kind…Indeed the Government of India went out of their way to abstain from any acts which might be interpreted as inducement.

“It was on October 24, when I was dining with Pandit Nehru, that I heard the first reports that a column of tribesmen had entered Kashmir in buses from the direction of Peshawar, and were already on the outskirts of Uri. A defence committee meeting was summoned on October 25 morning and it was decided to that efforts should be made to fly arms and ammunition to Srinagar so as to give the ground forces defending the city a chance of repelling the tribesmen. I reiterate that no steps were taken to plan the dispatch of Indian troops to Kashmir before October 25.”

This ends the dispute on the legal, moral and constitutional sanctity of Kashmir’s accession to India.

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