Solution To The J&K Problem Lies In New Delhi…
J&K is an integral part of India. The only problem that can be called J&K Problem is the non- comprehension by India, its people and the government to this ultimate truth of its being the integral part of India and not distinct or separate entity in any way from the other states of India. The problem that would remain to be settled then is the need to free the areas of J&K illegally occupied by Pakistan and China. Once this fact is understood and fully comprehended by us, all else will fall in place.
It is proposed to discuss this very complex and muddled up situation, erroneously called “The Jammu & Kashmir Problem”, as under:
■ Strategic Importance of J&K
■ The Problem and its historic Mishandling
Strategic Importance of J&K
J&K forms the head of the Indian sub continent, and has been the traditional trade route of Central and South Asia to the East and Tibet, generally called the ‘Silk Route’. It is bounded by more countries than any other state of India; in the North East with Tibet, and further North with Xinjiang province of China, in the North West with the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan, in the West with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and further South with Punjab of Pakistan. This geographic layout is strategically so important that no power of the world wants to remain away from the area, as it gives them access to the sensitive areas of the neighbouring countries.. Its high mountains provide strategic depth and domination over the surrounding area. For hundreds of years in the past, the Russian, Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and the British Indian empires, sought the passes of this region to dominate each other. The region rests along “the ancient axis of Asia” where South, Central and East Asia converge and, since time immemorial, has been the gateway for both India and China to Central Asia.
The maps below show the geo strategic location and its dominating position.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir consists of two parts, one that is with India and the other that is under the occupation of Pakistan and China. The part with India consists of three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. While the Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, Jammu’s numerous shrines attract tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year. Ladakh, is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture. The illegally occupied part of J&K by Pakistan is in two parts, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (the so called Azad Kashmir by Pakistan) and Gilgit- Baltistan(GB) (earlier called the Northern Areas). China is in possession of Akshai Chin and the Shaksgam valley illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.
The “high roof of the world” , the Gilgit-Baltistan and the Ladakh region of the pre-independence state of Jammu and Kashmir is geo- strategically very important. This region lies between the high Hindu Kush and Karakoram mountain ranges to its north and the Western Himalayas to its immediate south, with the Kashmir Vale and the Jammu region further South. The strategic importance of J&K can be understood from the fact that China is spending huge sums to build infrastructure through highways connecting Tibet to Xinjiang through the Chinese occupied Akshai Chin plateau, and Xinjiang to Pakistan via the Karakorum highway through the Kunzreb pass. This highway then connects Gwadar port on the Arabian sea, giving warm water port and access to the Indian Ocean to China. Its importance can be visualized in that China trade can avoid the bottleneck of Malacca straits as also cuts down turn round to the interior provinces of China. China is now in de facto control of the GB area. It is believed to have deployed more than ten thousand troops for the purpose of developing infrastructure in the area. It is also believed that Pakistan is to lease the GB area to China for 50 years under the pretext of developing the area.
The strategic importance of J&K thus can be understood that now we face two enemies on our borders at a point where we are the weakest and have the maximum to lose, having already lost nearly 50% of the erstwhile J&K princely state through aggression by Pakistan in 1947 and then China in the 50s and 1962.Strategic importance of J&K is also to be understood from the point of view of strategic and valuable mineral deposits in the area, particularly in the GB and Ladakh area. It is surmised that GB area is rich in uranium deposits, besides great potential of hydro electric works.
It is unfortunate that the government of India took this area to be “Where not a blade of grass grows” That is where lies the problem, not understanding the Strategic Importance and correctly relating it to National Security. We have thus been so manoeuvred that we face two enemies on our most vulnerable area with the least developed infrastructure, with the result that to thwart the design of these two hyenas on our door step, we find ourselves sandwiched with extremely poor logistics backing. Today we are faced with a situation in Daulat Beg Oldie Area with Chinese having entered 19 Km into our territory and claiming it as theirs. We are face to face with disaster awaiting us as the only logistics backing with us is an airstrip at DBO with no worthwhile land route from Leh onwards. And even upto Leh we are dependent on the fair weather route via Zojila pass. The alternate route from Manali to Upsi in Ladakh is still waiting the Rohtang pass tunnel to be built
The Problem and its historic Mishandling
The problem of J&K can be summarized under the heads; J&K called ‘disputed territory’ ‘Article 370’, the ‘over dominance of Kashmir over the other areas’ and ‘Political indifference’ at the State and Centre government
Disputed Territory: UN resolution of 1948, which is cited by most adversaries of India, deals only with the aggression by Pakistan and not its accession to India. Accession is legal in every way and cannot be disputed. Similarly the so called “Two Nation Theory”, under whose umbrella Pakistan was formed, applied only to British ruled India and not the princely states, and hence a state being Muslim majority did not disqualify it from joining Indian Union. In the same context, referendum in J&K is illegal as it was not agreed by Muslim League to hold referendum in princely states but left to their rulers to accede to India or Pakistan, contiguity being a criteria for the same. Thus the only dispute that remains is the vacation of the aggression by Pakistan and the areas illegally ceded to China by Pakistan Government of India has to thus base its relations with Pakistan and China on that theme
Article 370: This is a self imposed gridlock that gives no advantage to India internationally, or to the state internally. Internationally this shows that J&K is different and not a part of India and any country can raise the status of J&K in international fora, as very often done by Islamic countries. As for internally for the state of J&K itself, it puts it at a disadvantage in development and other fields, as private financiers are not keen to invest there due to the restrictions of ownership. Besides, psychologically its people find themselves at a disadvantage when working in other parts of India. Article 370 and the policy followed through its propagation is the most glaring example of appeasement of the national minority of Muslims and the subjugation of the state minority of Hindus. No nation can have two laws and rules for national citizenship. On the other side in the illegal POK and GB, Pakistan has been encouraging its Punjabi Wahabi elements to settle in and control the area. Its demographic profile is totally altered.
Over dominance of Kashmir: One of the myths that needs to be broken is that “Kashmir is J&K”, because it is actually only a small part of it 7% to be exact of the J&K Princely state and about 15% of the J&K with India. Even the saying that “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari” is not correctly worded because Kashmir is not the Northernmost part of India; Ladakh is. And as per the official Indian map, Gilgit and Aksai Chin are the Northernmost parts, none of these being part of Kashmir. Even ‘Azad Kashmir’ PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) is not Kashmir. In the same way the Kashmiri Muslim is not in majority in J&K, when we take non Kashmiri Muslims in the other parts of J&K into account, from Ladakh and Jammu region. In fact Indian Army’s advance into present POK in 1948 was said to have been halted on the advice of Sheikh Abdullah to Pandit Jwaharlal Nehru that the areas beyond were not Kashmiris. And yet J&K politics is all centered round Kashmir and the Kashmiris. All Chief Ministers have been Kashmiri with bulk of the state and national funding being spent on Kashmir valley. The other two parts, Jammu and Ladakh have a grievance on that and rightly so. Ladakh has been demanding Union territory status and Jammu as separate state.
The misfortune is that in all this fight we forget the other two parts of J&K, namely POK and GB. Today they are raising their voice to ask India to liberate them and fight for their human rights that have been denied to them by Pakistan. The only symbolic gesture India makes is to keep a few vacant seats in their name in the state assembly. This is sheer tokenism and nothing more. Their demand that as the elections can not be held in POK & GB, some of them should be nominated and allowed to put across the problems of these areas, as also raise these in international fora. They also demand that their children should be given reservation in schools and institutions of higher learning in J&K as rightfully they are citizens of J&K living under the heels of Pakistan army.
The other part, Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam valley illegally occupied by China is not even considered by us in any discussion within or with the Chinese. Our thrust remains to demarcate the border in this area. The areas thus conceded is over 38,000 Sq Km in Aksai Chin and nearly 5,000 Sq Km in Shaksgam Valley.
Political indifference at the state and central governments
Somehow the impression is gaining ground that the State and Centre are not very keen to bring the problem under control. It is voiced by many experts that it suits the State government, whichever party in power, to continue providing tacit and covert support to the separatists, jehadi and the Pak supported elements, and milk the centre for resources. Scapegoats are easily found to pass on the blame for non governance and inaction. Security forces and the AFSPA is easily exploited for this. No firm action is taken against the separatists, who espouse their cause freely and indulge in nefarious activities within and abroad. Terrorism and violence is treated as the right of the people to indulge in. As Pakistan is considered a party to the dispute, its political interference, terrorist acts and inciting people to violence is taken as legitimate right of Pakistan. We fail to perceive this as the first battle by Pakistan to the ultimate jehadi war in India. We have failed to assert our right to ‘hot pursuit’, to strike at training camps across the border and to block all propaganda and contacts that spread discontent. Here we are not only a ‘soft state’ but a ‘failed state’ that refuses to protect its legitimate national rights.
The historic Blunders of J&K Problem
J&K has been one series of monumental blunders by Indian government. First we let Lord Mountbatten to unilaterally write to Maharaja Hari Singh for a referendum later when no such condition was desired by him, or stipulated in the ‘Accession Treaty’ We stopped the advance of Indian army to liberate POK and GB areas in 1948 and instead took the matter to the UN. The western powers were just looking for such an opportunity to have a say in the most strategic area that dominated the underbelly of China and USSR
To declare special status under a special article 370 of the constitution, thereby making J&K psychologically and physically different and separate, thus hindering its effective integration into the Indian Union
Recognition of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet in 1950 and withdrawal of our military posts from Lhasa and Yatung were to bring China on to our northern borders and open up another front to guard. But that was not the end of this flawed China policy, we indulged in daydreaming of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai and neglected our defence. Result was the shameful debacle of 1962. It has rightly been called the ‘Himalayan Blunder’ But the most shameful act was the acceptance of the ceasefire, unilaterally declared by the Chinese, and not preparing to fight back. After all nations have suffered tactical reverses, but they did not necessarily become strategic defeats. During WWII British army was down and out at Dunkirk and had to evacuate European main land, but it came back after four years to defeat the Germans. Similarly Singapur was lost in 1942, but the British Indian Army went back and defeated the Japanese. Why have we accepted the 1962 debacle as final and never even lay claim to our lost land from the aggressor. If on the Republic Day in 1963, instead of weeping over our tactical defeat and singing “Aye Mere Watan ke logo , jara aankh mein bhar lo pani’ we had roused the nation and sung Netaji Subhash Bose INA song of “Kadam kadam barhai ja, Khushi ke geet gaye ja, Yeh jindgi hai kom ki, tu Kom par mitae ja”, perhaps we would have been a different nation today
In 1965 Pakistan was emboldened after having acquired latest arms and ammunition from the USA under the Baghdad Pact (later CENTO) and seen the state of Indian army devastated by the Chinese in 1962 to take advantage of the historic opportunity and launched ‘Operation Gibraltor’ to liberate J&K and later captured some areas of Chhamb Jaurian in Jammu region. Indian Army fought back ‘ with whatever they had’ and managed to blunt the Pakistan offensive in Punjab and Jammu region. Our major achievement was in the Kashmir sector where we captured Haji Pir Pass that links Uri and Poonch. Unfortunately India gave it back to Pakistan at the Tashkent meet. The army calls it ”A War won on the battlefield but lost on the negotiating table”
1971 is a glorious chapter in the annals of Indian military history. We created history by liberating a nation and decisively defeating the Pakistan army on the battlefield, capturing 93,000 PWs. No greater victory could be asked for. Alas, we squandered the victory at Shimla where Indira Gandhi fell to the false promises of smooth talking ZA Bhutto, and the old story repeated itself. We won the war on the battlefield, but lost it on the negotiating table.
In 1974 our scientists did India proud by making the bomb and demonstrating it at Pokhran. Alas, we again fell under the threat of USA and disassembled all the infrastructure for the same, but having alerted Pakistan who went all out to acquire the bomb through any means. He succeeded in making one in 1985, while we remained without one for a much longer period. Under the threat of the bomb, Pakistan was able to put Punjab on fire and later J&K. Our much stronger armed forces now were immediately unable to react to this new kind of warfare that had surfaced in the subcontinent. Fortunately in 1998 India got a government that looked to the security of the nation first and all else later, under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We reasserted ourselves at Pokhran II.
Solution lies in the words and teachings of our ancient sages and Rishis. Swami Vivekananda said that “Shakti” is the power that builds the nation and without it the nation is enslaved. He asked, ‘Why is it that our country is the weakest- because ‘Shakti’ is held in dishonor here’ This he had said over a century ago, but unfortunately, it is true even today. ‘Shakti means national power to influence events in the interest of the nation. This Shakti flows out of economic strength, social harmony, people educated and dedicated to national cause, and most importantly military strength. However, the crucial element of the national ‘Shakti’ is the national leadership that is able to harness all this power and bring it to bear in national interest.
The strategic solution lies in breaking the unholy nexus between China and Pakistan by, firstly vigorously claiming POK and GB areas, supporting the population to fight the occupation forces, and by breaking the China link to the Arabian sea through Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan. The democratic voice of Pakhtoons for Pakhtoonistan encompassing areas South and East of defunct Durand line must be supported. Similarly the human rights violations, in fact genocide, of the Baloch people struggle for democracy in their province must be taken up at international arena and supported
As a veteran, I feel saddened when I find that the leadership pays no heed to the security of our nation. Jammu & Kashmir has been the hunting ground of both, China and Pakistan and we have treated it as a dispute and an internal law and order problem. I do not advocate war as the only solution. But with the changing dimensions of warfare ranging from nuclear, cyber, space to proxy war, we need to devise new ways and means to be one step ahead of the enemy. Pakistan has been at war with India since Oct 1947, and China since 1950 when it occupied Tibet, yet we failed to recognize the enemy and his modus operandi on both fronts. In between active war operations, they carry on proxy war with ‘thousand cuts’, supporting insurgency in J&K and the North East Mao tse Tung said that ‘Diplomacy flows out of the barrel of a gun’ In this ‘Dog eat dog’ world, it is no good making diplomatic overtures and resting on assurances on paper that are not worth the paper they are written on.
How many times Pakistan has made promises and never kept them. How the Chinese have been treating us and claiming Arunachal Pradesh and all Aksai Chin. Their intentions are clear, only we fail to see it that way, with the result that today India is widely perceived as being unable to handle external or internal challenges ranging from terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. being snubbed by Maldives, leave alone dealing with an assertive China, which has no qualms in blocking India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and undermining India’s influence in Asia The answer lies in building friendship bridges across Asia Pacific region with Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Australia, USA and other smaller countries by extending economic and military help to them. Besides, India must not accept China intrusion into J&K or any other area passively, but must counter with well planned and calibrated Indian moves along the border into tactically and strategically sensitive areas to China at the time of our choosing. The latest intrusion into Depsang valley in Ladakh is a very clever move by China. It wants to bargain for a settlement in Aksai Chin but keep Arunachal Pradesh open. The solution does not lie in negotiating border settlement in the West alone, as that will seal the fate of Aksai Chin for ever, leaving India no bargaining power in the North East
So how long shall we keep living in fools’ paradise. Awake my countrymen, your country is threatened, both externally and internally, and unfortunately your so called democratically elected government at present is fast asleep, content in its ‘appeasement policy’ internally and externally. Unless a country is militarily strong, no one will respect you, and all the economic gains will be for someone else to enjoy. Let not history of the past seven hundred years repeat itself.
(Indian Defence Review)
By Lt Gen (Retd.) NS Malik