'Eye for Eye' Is No Balm

Bibekananda Ray

The UNSC sent four representatives to both India and Pakistan to mediate a solution—General McNaughton (1949), Sir Owen Dixon (1950), Loy Henderson(1951) and Dr Frank Graham (1951). In December 1949 it sent its Canadian President, General McNaughton to mediate between two countries. He apprised both nations with his proposals and two days before the end of his term, told the UNSC on 29th December that his assignment was over but the Council asked him to continue mediation. He did so and submitted his final report on 3rd February 1950 wherein he suggested that Pakistan and India should simultaneously withdraw their regular forces, (except those of India's forces needed for security), the Azad Kashmir forces and Kashmir State forces and that the militia would be demobilised and the administration of Northern Areas would remain with the local authorities but under UN supervision, while the region would also be included in the demilitarisation process. Pakistan accepted his proposal but India rejected it. He treated India and Pakistan on the same par in the dispute but it was not acceptable to India as New Delhi deemed only its own presence in Kashmir as legal, not of Pakistan. The USA made it clear to India that it would have to comply with any decision that the Security Council may opt for, because by rejecting the McNaughton proposals it would be the third successive time India spurned the conclusions of a neutral UN representative; Nehru accused the US of a ruse to avoid holding a plebiscite, because it might go in Pakistan's favour as Kashmir's population was predominantly Muslim; delaying it might go in India's favour. Privately, India's top brass preferred a partition of the State to holding a plebiscite. McNaughton's proposals were approved by the Security Council, which then passed a resolution giving both sides five months to complete demilitarisation; India accepted the draft resolution on 14th March 1950.

The Council then appointed Sir Owen Dixon, Australia's Chief Justice, as the next UN mediator, tasked with implementation of McNaughton's demilitarisation. He proposed that the areas demilitarised by Pakistan be governed by the local authorities under UN supervision but New Delhi opposed it, alleging that the local authorities could be biased toward Pakistan but India did not offer any alternative. On the Indian side of the ceasefire line, Dixon proposed attaching a UN officer with each district magistrate, who would inspect and report on the magistrate's reports and proceedings. Nehru objected to it, saying it would intrude on India's sovereignty; he did not offer any alternative proposal too. Next, he proposed establishment of a coalition government between Sheikh Abdullah and Ghulam Abbas, or distribution of portfolios among various parties. He also suggested establishing a neutral government by respectable non-political people for six-months prior to a plebiscite, in which Hindus and Muslims will have equal representation under UN's supervision. His third suggestion was installation of an administrative body, made up wholly by representatives from the UN. Nehru disagreed with all these suggestions, earning Sir Dixon's rebuff.

Sir Dixon next asked Nehru in the presence of the Pakistani Prime Minister, whether it would be advisable to have plebiscite by region and allocate each region according to the results of a plebiscite in each; Nehru reacted favourably to this plan and proposed a partition-cum-plebiscite plan, under which Jammu and Ladakh would remain in India, Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas will go to Pakistan and a plebiscite would be held in the Kashmir Valley. Dixon favoured the plan (which still goes by his name), because people in Jammu and Ladakh preferred being in India and  those in Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas wanted to belong to Pakistan. This left the Kashmir Valley and perhaps some adjacent country around Muzaffarabad, whose choices would be reflected in plebiscite. Pakistan 'bluntly rejected' the proposal, as it demanded that the plebiscite should cover the whole of J & K and a partition should be along religious lines. Dixon feared that Kashmiris, not being high-spirited, may vote in fear or imbibe improper influences. As Pakistan objected, he proposed that Sheikh Abdullah's administration should be in abeyance, while the plebiscite was held. Nehru did not accept it. New Delhi declined Dixon's proposal for a limited plebiscite, because it wanted to keep its own troops in Kashmir during the plebiscite, for "security reasons" but at the same time did not want any Pakistani troops to remain. This was contrary to Dixon plan under which neither India nor Pakistan would be permitted to retain troops in the plebiscite zone. Frustrated, he withdrew from mediation in 1950, leaving India and Pakistan to solve the conflict suo moto. Being disgusted, Dixon lost patience and admitted failure of his mediation.

Sir Dixon's failure thickened US distrust of India. Its next envoy to New Delhi Loy Henderson (1948-1951), visiting Kashmir in 1951 observed that the majority of its people would rather vote for joining Pakistan in a plebiscite than remaining with India, or given a choice, most Kashmiris would go for the third option, independence. Henderson believed that because of Nehru's charge that the USA was biased in favour of Pakistan, Washington distanced itself from the dispute in 1950.The next US ambassador in New Delhi, Dr Frank Graham who was also appointed UN representative to both countries arrived on 30th June 1951; he resumed Dixon's demilitarisation bid but neither country agreed on the number of their troops to remain in Kashmir. He gave another proposal, whereby both countries were to gradually reduce their forces to the ratio obtaining on 1st January 1949, which was accepted by Pakistan but rejected by India. Dr Graham offered yet another proposal on 16th July 1952, under which Pakistan would reduce its forces to 3,000 to 6,000 and India to12,000 to 16,000, excluding the state militias on the Indian side and the Gilgit and Northern Scouts on Pakistan's side. Hoping for a plebiscite, Pakistan accepted the plan but India did not, as the number of irregular troops was not decided. Dr Graham suggested that 6,000 would be the limit of Pakistan's forces and 18,000 would be that for India. India proposed that she be allowed to keep 21,000 troops (including the state militia) on its side and Pakistan be allowed only 4,000 civilian security force. As Pakistan did not agree, Dr Graham's efforts also failed; he admitted to the Security Council. In December 1951, the UNSC passed another resolution, calling on India and Pakistan to agree on reducing the size of their forces, Pakistan to 3,000-6,000 and India to 12,000 and 18,000. Pakistan agreed with the Resolution but India did not and gave no reason. Undeterred, Dr Graham then revised his proposal allowing India to keep 21,000 troops as per her demand; India did not agree to this too. In his third report to the UNSC in April 1952, he noted a progress on the demilitarisation bid, as both countries were withdrawing their forces since March but in his fourth report in October 1952, he informed the Council that the negotiations had broken down over the size and type of forces to be permitted for both sides. The Security Council then adopted yet another resolution, asking the two nations to hold direct talks to settle this. Talks between India and Pakistan were held in February 1953 in Geneva but no solution was reached. In his final report on 27th March 1953, Dr Graham admitted failure and end of his mediation.

Sheikh Abdullah fought for Kashmir's independence but remained Nehru's friend. In August 1953, he was finally dismissed by Karan Singh, the Sadar-i-Riyasat. Two months before it, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee who was arrested by Abdullah and kept under questionable medical care in Srinagar, died in mysterious circumstances.

Thus, between 1949 and 1951, the UNSC sent four representatives for mediation but none succeeded. When Pakistan agreed to a Resolution, India did not and vice versa. Only China tabled a proposal; no other member-country volunteered. There had been no mediation attempt after 1954 after the failure of mediation. Why did the UNSC appoint only US ambassadors to both countries for mediation; why did it not task any Russian, Chinese or Japanese jurist for mediation?

Across these seven decades, Pakistan made numerous armed attacks and incursions on the border and elsewhere in J & K and India retaliated, or pre-empted; India made none. The latest and most gruesome mayhem by Jaish-e-Mohammad fidayeens in Pulwama on 14th February 2019 could perhaps be foiled if advance Army intelligence warnings were heeded and the long vehicular CRPF convoy was airlifted, or given air cover. On the 12th day after it, before dawn on 26th February, 12 Mirage-2000 war planes of the IAF made air strikes on sundry Islamic terrorists' training centres, deep inside the POK. No country or organization has disclosed the casualty; at 0400 hrs. it was still dark at Balakot, making counting impossible. In response, almost at the same time, Pakistani troops opened artillery fires on some Indian border towns, violating UN protocol. India's opposition parties are demanding the actual casualty in Pakistan and POK side, as Reuters and BBC reporters visited Balakot and found only some pine trees blazed.

At present, India has control over about half the area of Jammu & Kashmir, while Pakistan controls one-third of the region, comprising two de facto provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Pakistan was left with territory that, although basically Muslim in character, was thinly populated, relatively inaccessible, and economically underdeveloped. The largest Muslim group, situated in the Valley of Kashmir and estimated to number more than half the population of the entire region, lay in Indian-administered territory, with its former outlets via the Jhelum valley route blocked. The eastern region of J & K is also involved in a boundary dispute that began in the late 19th century and continues into the 21st. Although some boundary agreements were signed between the UK, Afghanistan and Russia over the northern borders, China never accepted them; its stand did not change after the Communist Revolution of 1949, creating the People's Republic of China; by the mid-1950's the Chinese army had entered the north-east portion of Ladakh.By 1956-57 it built a military road through the Aksai Chin for better access to western Tibet. India's belated discovery of this road led to border clashes between the two countries that culminated in the Sino-Indian war of October 1962. India controls much of the Siachen Glacier area, including the Saltoro Ridge, while Pakistan controls the territory southwest of the Ridge. India controls 101,338 km² (39,127 sq m) of the disputed territory, Pakistan controls 85,846 km² (33,145 sq m), and the People's Republic of China controls the remaining 37,555 km² (14,500 sq m). Gilgit-Baltistan is a group of territories in the extreme north, bordered by the Karakoram, the western Himalayas, the Pamir, and the Hindu Kush ranges. With its administrative centre in Gilgit town, the region is spread over an area of 72,971 square kilometres and has an estimated population of nearly 10 lakh. Ladakh in the east, lies between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the Himalayas in the south. Main cities are Leh and Kargil; it is sparsely populated by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan origin. Aksai Chin is a desert of salt spread over altitudes up to 16,000 feet. The region is almost uninhabited, and has no permanent settlement either. India claims those areas, including the area 'ceded' to China by Pakistan in the Trans-Karakoram Tract in 1963, are a part of its territory, while Pakistan claims the entire region excluding Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract. The  1947 war established the rough boundaries of today, with Pakistan holding roughly one-third of Kashmir, and India one-half, with a dividing line of control established by the United Nations. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 resulted in a stalemate and a UN-negotiated ceasefire.

Kashmiri Muslims are of four kinds—Shaikhs, Saiyids, Mughals, and Pathans. Shaikhs are the majority and descendants of Hindus. The Saiyids  are the priestly class, who later took to agriculture and other pursuits. Pathans are more numerous than the Mughals who live in the south-west of the valley. All these tribes were Hindu and were converted to the Islam after arrival in the region. The Hindus reside mainly in Jammu, constituting nearly 60%; In Kashmir Valley, the Hindus represented 524 in every 10,000 of the population (i.e. 5.24%), and in the frontier wazarats of Ladakh and Gilgit only 94 out of every 10,000 persons (0.94%).In Kashmir Valley, the total population was recorded to be a little over 11. 6 lakh, of which the Muslims were over 10.8 lakh, or 93.6% and the Hindus were a little more than 60 thousand, belonging to "Brahmans (186,000), Rajputs (167,000), Khattris (48,000) and Thakkars (93,000). The Kashmiri Pandits, the only Hindus of the Kashmir valley, who had constituted approximately 4% to 5% of the population of the valley during Dogra rule (1846-1947), and 20% of whom had left the Kashmir valley by 1950, began to leave in much greater numbers in the 1990's. Approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left the valley during that decade.People in Jammu speak Hindi, Punjabi and Dogri, the Vale of Kashmir speaks Kashmiri and people in the sparsely inhabited Ladakh region speak Tibetan and Balti.

There has been a spurt in violence in the Valley since 2014. On one hand, stone-pelting by hired youth and children at security forces and their passing vehicles did not diminish after demonetisation, as claimed by PM Modi. On the other, India's troops and policemen are intensifying vigil against militants and terrorists in Srinagar and border areas. After Pulwama mayhem, the Army claimed to have eliminated all militants from the Valley, warned Kashmiri youth that they would be killed if seen carrying fire-arms and urged their parents to restrain them. The Modi regime wasted the gains from 10 years of relative quiet in the previous Congress rule. Instead of wooing rebel Kashmiris into the mainstream by employing them and promoting their trade and livelihood, Modi's government took resort to more repressive measures. The number of terrorist incidents, as per Union Home Ministry data, rose about three-fold from 222 in 2014 to 614 in 2018. As against 47 security forces killed in 2014, 80 were killed in 2017 and 91 in 2018.In March 2019, 40 CRPF personnel fell to the bullets and fire by JeM terrorists at Pulwama and some senior officers were killed in artillery fire elsewhere in border regions.  The Army often violates the 65-year old ceasefire protocol on the Line of Control to combat infiltration.

"Eye for eye" vendetta by one against the other is going on for 71 years with casualties on both sides and brief hawkish patriotism, leading not even an inch nearer to an abiding solution. There are minor fringe irritants too in their relations, to solve which foreign secretaries of both countries meet. They hardly discuss Kashmir's territorial issue which is reserved for political heads. Five Indian senior political leaders and Prime Ministers were not hawkish with Pakistan—I K Gujral (1989), Morarji Desai (1977-1979), A B Vajpayee (1998-2004) and Rajiv Gandhi (1984-1989); they too did not try to resolve the Kashmir issue. Islamabad was very pleased with I K Gujral and Morarji Desai for their sympathetic attitude to Pakistan; it even gave Pakistan's highest civilian honour Nishan-e-Pakistan to Desai. Soon after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Modi made an unscheduled visit to Lahore to attend PM Nawaj Shariff's marriage party bash but after the Pulwama mayhem, he has become rather hawkish with General Election knocking at the door. If such "eye for eye" retaliation continues, as it has all these years, with casualties and other repercussions high on both sides, the protracted dispute will remain unsolved and its origin and history unknown to new generations. India has so far refused any third party mediation- either by the USA or by Russia, although the latter has remained India's permanent friend. US ambassadors' mediation in 1950's having failed, the USA deems India's claim on the Valley weaker than Pakistan's. In the US media, Kashmir-related news gets more prominence than other news with distinct bias toward Islamabad. In the circumstances, both the countries have to go back to the UN if they want to love and thrive in peace and pick up the thread of mediation where it was left by UN mediators in 1950's. India refused to accept many of their mediation moves while Pakistan did; unless New Delhi is more flexible, no mediation can succeed.

The proposals in UN Resolutions have been outdated; they can no longer be implemented in the altered ground situation. To permanently solve Ksshmir stalemate, India has to agree to a plebiscite, to be organized by the UNSC or a third party on mutual consent. At first, both countries have to agree to let Kashmir valley and the POK go under UN administration, suspending democratic election for a few years, during which the people of these regions  have to be convinced about benefits of being or belonging to India. Kashmiri pundits who were hounded out from the valley in the 1990s and settled in makeshift camps and colonies in and near Jammu have to be resettled in their homes and elsewhere in the disputed territory with subsidised helps. When both countries are satisfied about the ground situation and had amply publicised benefits of being or belonging to a particular country, the plebiscite can be held under strict UN supervision and its outcome has to be gracefully accepted by the defeated country. This way, peace and stability can return to the valley and the POK, as they have returned in other UN-administered territories like West New Guinea, Cyprus, Syria, Cambodia, Kosovo and East Timor before deciding their political destinies. "Eye for eye" will only lead to a war of attrition with heartache and blindness looming on both sides.

Vol. 51, No. 38, Mar 24 - 30, 2019