Any military solution to Kashmir tangle: A nuclear tinderbox Views of four Indian foreign secretaries

Talks on Kashmir are stalled. Instead of discussing the Kashmir dispute. India has threatened to carry out further surgical strikes at about 25 targets deep within Azad Kashmir. Indian army-chief Bipen Rawat has announced (January10, 2019) to carry out `war games’ by independent surgical fighting units in May 2019. They will be self-contained fighting backed up with air force and navy support (bolstered by Rs. 40,000 crore allocations for submarines). The integrated battle-groups are being prepared to strike deep inside Pakistan. India’s army chief thinks that Pakistan’s A-bombs and Nasr missile (tactical nuclear weapon) are just a bluff. And conventional confrontation will not flare up into a nuclear Armageddon.

India claims to have carried out surgical strikes earlier on September 29, 2016. The strikes are celebrated as a national event. However, opposition, media and architect of the strikes, Lt Gen DS Hooda, now retired, considers it over-hype. In an editorial, Hindustan Times dated January 28, commented that army-chief’s statements `provided Pakistan with an excuse to build short range, nuclear-capable missiles, like Nasr, to target Indian formations undertaking conventional strikes’. `Pakistan is now flaunting Nasr’. Besides Nasr, Pakistan now has 52 Chinese Sh-15 Howitzer Guns (American equivalent M-777). These guns could fire nuclear tactical-nuclear-weapon projectiles up to distance of 53 kilometers. India is unmindful of possibility that envisioned strikes could lead to a nuclear confrontation.

A dialogue, not more strikes, is the way out. Let India listen to its own four foreign secretaries, if not to Pakistan. They see no military solution to Kashmir imbroglio.

Views of India’s Foreign Secretaries

Shiv Shankar Menon

First, India’s former foreign secretary and national-security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, ruled out `a military solution’ as option to settle India-Pakistan disputes. Memon said so while participating in a panel discussion alongside Pulitzer Prize winning American author and academic Steve Coll and US journalist and author Peter Bergen. His remarks are an affront to civilian hawks and its army chief’s gung-ho statements.

Jagat S. Mehta

Secondly, foreign secretary Jagat S Mehta understood India’s abhorrence to word ‘plebiscite’. So he presented some proposals to serve as requirements for evolving a solution after a period of ten years. His proposals are contained in his article “Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s” Some points of his quasi-solution are: (a) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached. (b) Conversion of the LoC into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…” (c) Immediate demilitarization of the LoC to a depth of five to ten miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a “cold freeze”) for an agreed period. Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G Wirsing, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press, New York pp. 225-228). Let me now quote another foreign secretary JN Dixit from Victoria Schofield’s book Kashmir in the Crossfire. He says ‘it is no use splitting legal hair. “Everybody who has a sense of history knows that legality only has relevance up to the threshold of transcending political realities. And especially in inter-state relations… so to quibble about points of law and hope that by proving a legal point you can reverse the process of history is living in a somewhat contrived utopia. It won’t work.”

Krishnan Srinivasan

Let us now listen to the third foreign secretary, Krishnan Srinivasan. In an article, he outlines ‘Lessons for Kashmir from the Kuriles’ (The Hindu dated January 7, 2019). Srinivasan points out ‘Russia has for long been Japan’s hypothetical enemy’. But, the two countries are no longer at daggers with regard to Kurile Islands dispute. Four islands in the Kurile chain are claimed by Japan but occupied by Russia as successor state of the Soviet Union. ‘Despite the passage of over 70 years, this dispute has defied solution and prevented the conclusion of a Russo-Japanese peace treaty to draw a final curtain over the detritus of the war’. The Russians have deployed submarines and missile systems in disputed islands to preclude American intervention.

Moscow erects its claim on the post-war settlements of Yalta and San Francisco. Japan bases its claim on Russia-Japan treaties of 1855 and 1875.

After Mr. Putin’s visit to Japan in 2016, both leaders embarked on some joint undertakings on the islands without delving into entrenched legal position. They agreed to joint field surveys, joint economic activities and three levels of supervision. The cooperation covers marine species and aquaculture, greenhouse strawberry and vegetable cultivation, tourism, wind power generation, the reduction and disposal of garbage.

The cooperation, despite US reservations, is amazing. Moscow fears: (a) Tokyo amending Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which disallows Japan from maintaining or using a military force to settle international disputes, (b) Japan is among the world’s biggest spenders on defence. It plays host to American bases and missile systems, and plans to spend $240 billion up to 2024 on cruise missiles, missile interceptors, fighter jets and aircraft carriers.

Both Japan and Russia are pursuing greater collaboration, despite US displeasure at Japan’s accommodating attitude towards Russia. Srinivasan observes ‘although no two international problems are analogous, there are important lessons to be drawn from the manner in which traditionally hostile neighbours can identify common interests and explore unorthodox avenues along which to proceed in search of innovative solutions to apparently insoluble disputes. This requires strong leadership and a bold imagination. Neither India nor Pakistan lacks either attribute’.

JN Dixit

Foreign secretary JN Dixit, also, advises nuclear-capable India and Pakistan to avoid legal rigmarole on Kashmir issue. He says, ‘it is no use splitting legal hair. Everybody who has a sense of history knows that legality only has relevance up to the threshold of transcending political realities. And especially in inter-state relations… so to quibble about points of law and hope that by proving a legal point you can reverse the process of history is living in a somewhat contrived utopia. It won’t work.” This is a quote from V Schofield’s Kashmir in the Crossfire.

Kashmir: A prison

Not to speak of resuming dialogue with Pakistan, India is furious even about our foreign minister’s phone call to Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Farooq. . That lends credence to AG Noorani’s observation that Kashmir is a prison. Noorani, a suave lawyer and writer, says `It is unfortunate that the world is blind to see Kashmir as what it is, `a prison’ (Dawn January 12, 2019).

History tells when negotiations stall, war results. After the war, most warriors realize that it could have been avoided. India and Pakistan could learn this bitter reality from Europe that had been at war or daggers drawn for so long.

Resilience: VP Menon offers Kashmir in exchange for Hyderabad

India is impervious to its own resilient history. At the time of partition, India faced insurgency in many states (North-East, East Punjab, and Dravidian South, besides Naxalbari movement). India agreed to insurgents’ demands for creation of new states. Just recall number of Indian state at partition and now. India’s Governor General Mountbatten offered a plebiscite in Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh (November 1, 1947, at Government House, Lahore). Around that time, India’s secretary, ministry of states, V.P. Menon, offered: `Kashmir to Pakistan; Hyderabad to India’. However, Pakistan, at its firebrand foreign minister Sir Zafarullah’s insistence, missed the offer. In later period, also, India’s foreign minister Swaran Singh, and Ayub Khan discussed some conciliatory proposals that died with Nehru’s death.

Historical lesson

The historical lesson is that Pakistan lost Hyderabad and even Eastern wing because of its rigid policies. India stayed afloat because of flexibility. Zafarullah believed we could have Kashmir and remote control Junagadh and Hyderabad.

India’s kerfuffle about Pakistan’s foreign-minister Qureshi phone call to an occupied Kashmir leader is unfounded. India is rueful that Qureshi talked February 5, 2019 Kashmir Day. Such solidarity days, originating in undivided Punjab, were observed even during dogra raj since 1932. February 5 has no poignant history like another day, 13 July, observed all over the world. On this day, in year 1931, 21 Kashmiris sacrificed their lives to protest despotic dogra rule.

India is strangulating imprisoned Kashmiris not only politically but also economically. Kashmir is a veritable prison. Even the dogra and their British overlords did not stop Kashmiris’ trade with Russia and Central Asia. Foreign merchants exchanged merchandise (textiles, Kokandi silk, Bukhara handkerchiefs and coral) for Kashmiri shawls and woodwork. . Trade from British India flowed through Kulu via the Chang Chenmo route to Yarkand, bypassing the maharaja’s customs officials in Leh. In 1870, a special treaty signed in Sialkot in 1870 by the viceroy Lord Mayo and Maharaja Ranbir Singh elevated this route to the status of a ‘free highway’. The route, known as the ‘treaty route ‘had supply depots and rest houses jointly supervised by British and Kashmir officials. Haj pilgrims from Central Asia passed through Kashmir to board ships at Karachi or Bombay.

Nasr and Sh-15 Howitzer stall India

Pakistan army now has Chinese Sh-15 Howitzer (TNW) Guns (American equivalent M-777), besides Nasr missiles. India cannot defeat Pakistan even in a conventional war. Clinging to Kashmir, engaging in other war with Pakistan may result in breakup of fragile Indian union, held together through political resilience.

Indomitable fighting spirit

To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the dogra (1846-1947) punished even Kashmiri children who played with fork-slings (ghulail in Urdu) and stones (Muhammad Yousaf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom, vol. 1, p. 50). Under the dogra rule, the Kashmiri were treated no better than beasts of burden. Instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used to transport goods across Gilgit, Leh and Skardu. They carried luggage on their backs across glaciers as high as 17,000 feet. Thousands of them perished along the way each year owing to frost bites, fall from a precipice, and hunger or sickness. Besides performing the forced labour, the Kashmiri had to pay heavy taxes. Whole of their produce was confiscated by the dogra. Little was left for tillers and their children to eat (ibid. p. 280-81). The regressive revenue system resulted in a famine during winter of 1877. People began to die of starvation. Saraf writes: “Whole boat-loads of starving people have been conveyed by the Maharajah’s officials to the Woolar Lake, and there drowned” (ibid. p. 294).

The reign of terror by Indian forces (now estimated at over seven lac regulars and security personnel) who replaced the maharajah’s constabulary on October 27, 1947 is no less gruesome (abductions, custodial deaths, rapes, and pellet shelling)

Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory suggests that oppressed people become apathetic if a challenge is unbearable. But, neither Indians, nor the dogra could gag the Kashmir’s fighting spirit. The struggle for freedom goes on. Even if India wins a nuclear war, the victory would be a Pyrrhic.

Inference

Will Pakistan be a silent spectator to India’s strikes at 25 visualised targets? Will not the strikes escalate into a nuclear Armageddon? Talks are the way out.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad. He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. And specialises on India, Kashmir, and peripheral states.