Kashmir quagmire: India should accept Pakistan's challenge of ending 'unfinished agenda'

The latest in India-Pakistan diplomatic shadowboxing is that Pakistan has unilaterally invited the Indian foreign secretary for talks on Kashmir, saying it was the "international obligation" of both the countries "to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions". This call for talks comes in the wake of a series of statements emanating from Pakistan’s political establishment over the last few months that "Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of the partition".

Kashmir quagmire: India should accept Pakistans challenge of ending unfinished agenda

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

To quote Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Husain, "Pakistan would continue supporting the right of self-determination of Kashmiris because Pakistan considers Kashmir as an unfinished agenda of the partition of the subcontinent."

However, a closer scrutiny of both these assertions – the relevant Security Council resolution on Kashmir (which in fact was outdated in 1949) and "unfinished process of the partition of pre-1947 India" will create more problems for Pakistan, contrary to what it claims. In my considered view, the Modi government should seriously ponder over taking up the Pakistani challenge; it has nothing to lose but everything to gain in the bargain.

Let us begin with the much talked about Security Council resolution No.47 of April 21, 1948. First, it talks of "ceasefire" between the troops of India and Pakistan. Then it says "for restoration of peace and order" that Pakistan would use its best endeavour "to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the state of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State”.

Only after the withdrawal of these tribesmen and Pakistani intruders to the satisfaction of the then United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, India, said the resolution, would give a plan for the gradual withdrawal of the "bulk" of its troops in phases. Not only this; the resolution also gave the primary responsibility to India to maintain the law and order in the state, to involve all the political parties and people’s organisations and prepare them for the eventual plebiscite(whether to remain with India or go to Pakistan) in consultation with the Commission.

What all this underscores is that Pakistan must remove all its forces first from the Pakistan-occupied–Kashmir, including Gilgit and Baltistan (all these are parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir that had joined India through the Instrument of Accession in 1947 as agreed to by then ruler of the state). Besides, it presupposes that all the demographic changes that have taken place all these years in PoK must be reversed. The vacated area will come under the control of India in consultation with the UN. India will maintain the law and order and make conducive the atmosphere by talking to the people of the state and their representatives for the eventual plebiscite.

Is Pakistan prepared for all this? And once it is prepared to do, will it ensure the withdrawal of the Chinese whom it has leased large chunks of Kashmir’s land, ostensibly for the economic development of the region? In fact, if India reversed its earlier decision in favour of the plebiscite, it was only when Pakistan refused to withdraw its troops and systematically changed the demographic composition in the PoK. Instead, it facilitated the setting up of a Constituent Assembly for Kashmir, which, in turn, ratified the Instrument of Accession and said that Jammu and Kashmir "shall remain a part of India".

Now let us come to question of the incompletion of the process of partition. In fact, here Pakistan is much more vulnerable. Its basic argument, though it does not say so clearly, is that since Kashmir is a Muslim-majority area, Muslims there cannot co-exist with non-Muslims, i.e., Hindus who are otherwise the majority community in India. And this is exactly propagated by the all the separatists in the state. In other words, we are face-to-face once again with the old shibboleths of the past. The two-nation theory is being revived and revisited upon us.

But then, revisiting partition throws some counter questions: how should India allow independence to Kashmir Muslims or allow them to join Pakistan; what would be the modus operandi of this exercise; would it be conditional or unconditional?

These questions are pertinent because when India was divided in 1947, the population figures were roughly 330, 27 and 30 million in India, West Pakistan, and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) respectively. In terms of area, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh constituted roughly 1.3, 0.3 and 0.06 million square miles respectively. Thus, population percentages were 85 percent, 15 percent and land percentages 75 percent and 25 percent for India and united West and East Pakistan respectively.

Now — and this is critical – the united Pakistan of 1947 was clearly intended to be for "all" Muslims of the subcontinent, just as Israel was created for all Jews of the world. Thus, if all Muslims of pre-August 1947 India had migrated to Pakistan, they could not have been refused by the new Pakistani rulers. Partitions in other parts of the world were always accompanied by a carefully supervised exchange of populations. This was the case with Greece-Turkey, Germany-Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria-Turkey, Poland-Germany, Bosnia-Serbia and Croatia-Serbia, where full-scale exchange of populations were organised, sometimes by the United Nations itself. In fact, none other than late BR Ambedkar had raised this vital point.

In the case of India, however, the British appear to have deliberately botched things up, and the kind of supervised population exchange that could have averted chaos and bloodshed simply never happened. Between the sheer incompetence of Louis Mountbatten and the pomposity of Jawaharlal Nehru, the partitioned-on-religious lines India was actually left holding more Muslims than either Pakistan or Bangladesh! Thus, it turned out that India of 1947 was forced to accommodate over 85 percent of the population (Hindus + Muslims who stayed put) in 75 percent of her original landmass. Pakistan got a much better land deal. This was a double injustice to the dismembered India.

It may be noted here that the father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had talked of a Pakistan where every religious community could reside, and that he did not insist on Hindus and Sikhs quitting Pakistan despite the horrendous ethnic cleansing in some states at the time. But that seems to have been a diplomatic nicety, as Jinnah was the architect of the Lahore Resolution of 1940, and the Great Calcutta Killing of 1946, which made Partition inevitable.

Be that as it may, the situation today is radically different. In 1947, Hindus constituted over 20 percent of the population in West Pakistan and 36 percent in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Today, ethnic cleansing and forced conversions have reduced them to less than 1 percent in Pakistan and about 6 percent in Bangladesh. In sharp contrast, in India the Muslim population has risen from about 10 percent in 1947 to nearly 15 percent today. So Pakistan and Bangladesh have a disproportionate share of the original land vis-à-vis India.

In such a scenario, any talk of revisiting partition by granting "azadi" for Kashmir reopens the prickly issues the 1947 Partition. If Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan argue that the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims cannot coexist in Jammu and Kashmir and, therefore, the Muslims must either join Pakistan or form an independent country, then they should convince their Muslim brethren in the rest of India that they have done wrong by staying back in India and that they all should migrate either to Pakistan or Bangladesh, failing which India should demand that Pakistan and Bangladesh must adjust the excessive land handed over to them at the time of partition.

In fact, all our Muslim brethren must rise to the occasion and say that they and their parents/grandparents made the right choice by opting for a secular and pluralist India than Pakistan, and, therefore, Pakistan must return the excessive land that it got in their name. And how about getting back, in the process, Lahore and Karachi in lieu of the Kashmir Valley?

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Updated Date: Aug 16, 2016 15:43:36 IST

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