Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Lok Sabha speech on Tuesday 6th February 2018, said, “If Sardar Vallabbhai Patel would have been the first PM of the country, all of Kashmir would have been ours”—as quoted by the Indian Express. However, Modi was severely criticized by Indian academicians as well as senior politicians over his ‘uneducated and misinformed’ remarks about the subcontinent’s history.
Historical accounts offered by Indian as well as Pakistani historians offer a deeper analysis of the Kashmir problem.
For example, V.P. Menon, India’s former secretary of Ministry of States and a trusted aide of Sardar Patel, wrote in his book ‘Integration of the Indian States’that before the Indo-Pak independence, Mountbatten had tried to persuade Hari Singh, the then Maharaja of Jammu& Kashmir , to accede to either Dominion—India or Pakistan, preferably to which majority of population had religious affiliation. Moreover, Mountbatten tried to convince him that acceding to Pakistan would not lead to Indian resentment because he had assurances of Sardar Patel himself. However, Maharaja seemed indecisive then.
On the contrary, Pakistani historians, such as Chaudhary Mohammad Ali (bureaucrat and later PM of Pakistan), in his book, ‘Emergence of Pakistan’,contend Menon’s argument and blames Mountbatten to have had abiased policy against Pakistan and failed to convince Maharaja to accede to Pakistan. Owen Bennet Jones also agrees to Pakistan’s view as he mentions in his book, ‘Pakistan: The Eye of the Storm’ that if the award of Gurdaspur—the only strategic land link between Kashmir and India—was provided to Pakistan,it would have become impossible for Maharaja to opt for India. Mountbatten, being aware of this strategic importance of Gurdaspur, influenced its award to India so as to keep options open for Maharaja to accede to India or Pakistan. For this reason, Akbar S. Ahmed, Jinnah’s biographer, described Viceroy Mountbatten as ‘Pakistan’s first basher’.
Furthermore, Chaudhary Mohammad Ali also mentions the historical account regarding the accession of Kashmir in the Liaqat-Patel dialogue vis-à-vis exchanging Kashmir with Hyderabad. Owen Bennett Jones, in his book, ‘Pakistan: The Eye of the Storm’ writes about the high-level meeting between Liaqat Ali Khan and senior political and military leaders—notably Brigadier Akbar Khan, on 12 September 1947. In that meeting, he discussed the plan for resolving the Kashmir issue. However, he paid no heed to suggestions of anyone in the meeting and failed to make the most of the resources available at his disposal to militarily take over Kashmir.
Mr Jones also points outthat in the event of NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) tribesmen’s considerable success in sabotaging Maharaja’s forces and coming within the reach of Srinagar, a great opportunity to control Kashmir was lost . To his understanding, it was largely due to the ambivalent attitude of Pakistani leadership of the time and lack of coordination—coupled with weak military and insufficient logistic support—that they failed to help either the Poonchi rebels in their September revolt or later the Pukhtoon tribesmen’s incursion into Srinagar in October the same year. This way Pakistan lost what Jinnah called ‘the ripe fruit’ of Kashmir that fell in Indian lap.
The Sino-Indian border war of 1962 was another opportunity to resolve the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. Qudratullah Shahab wrote in his book, Shahabnama, that he had gone to see President Ayub Khan to convey the recommendation of a Chinese diplomat regarding waging war against India with a view to freeing Kashmir . However, the United States had in fact taken assurances from Pakistani leadership to remain neutral in the China-India war and had promised to hold resolution of Kashmir dispute afterwards through diplomatic channels.
Arguably, the last opportunity that Pakistan missed was during the Kargil Crisis of 1999 due in large part to ill-planning and lack of coordination among different tiers of the state. Thus, a potentially successful opportunity turned into a death blow to the Kashmir cause. Moreover, the events such as the terrorist attacks on Indian Parliament in December 2001, following the attack on the Srinagar Legislative Assembly earlier in the year, and then the Uri incident in 2016 provided an opportunity to India to project Kashmiri freedom fighters’ struggle as an insurgencyby the terrorists.
By getting sympathies of the international community through its successful propaganda and diplomatic strategies, today, India is carrying out state oppression against Kashmiris’ legitimate struggle for the cause of their freedom.
While Pakistan must take into account the lost opportunities in its efforts for Kashmir resolution, the international community also needs to evaluate its failure in resolving this dispute. Though the major powers—especially the West—raise their critical voice or take prompt action against human rights abuses in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and the latest protests in Iran, they remain unmoved by sufferings of Kashmiris at the brutal hands of the Indian army. Disappointingly enough, their strategic interests in India overshadow their focus from Indian oppression against Kashmiris and expose their diplomatic duplicity. While they continue to demand more from Pakistan, they must do, if not more, at least something for resolution of the Kashmir cause.
A version of this article appeared in The Nation, newspaper.
Riaz Khokhar is a Research Assistant at the Center for International Strategic Studies. Mr. Khokhar holds a Masters degree in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. His research interests include Pakistan's foreign policy affairs, strategic dimensions of world affairs and nexus of security and economic issues among South Asian states. He wrote his Masters thesis on Pakistan's Foreign Policy Posture after Donald Trump's Coming into Power, completed in May 2017.