India’s kerfuffle on Trump’s mediation offer

Trump’s offer irked, nay chagrined India. His offer blows up India’s stand that Kashmir is her integral part. India never wanted to hold a plebiscite there. But it disguised its ambition in initial years.

Till 1952, India was, at least verbally, committed to the plebiscite. On Nov 2, 1947, Nehru declared in a radio broadcast that the government of India was “prepared, when peace and order have been established in Kashmir, to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations.” I am quoting from Chaudhri Mohammad Ali’s The Emergence of Pakistan. There are some 30-odd Nehruvian pledges on plebiscite from 1947 to 1953. Patel concurred publicly. Here is a sampler of five pledges: (a) “Our assurance that we shall withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order are restored and leave the decision about the future of the State to the people of the State is not merely a pledge to your government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world.” White Paper on Kashmir, page 51. (b) Vallabhbhai Patel said in a speech at a public meeting in Bombay on October 30, 1948: “Some people consider that a Muslim-majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realise that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be here, we shall not be there even for a minute.”(c) Nehru said in a speech at Calcutta on January 1, 1952:

“There is no doubt about it that he is the leader of the people of Kashmir, a very great leader. If tomorrow Sheikh Abdullah wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan, neither I nor all the forces of India would be able to stop it because if the leader decides, it will happen…. Since the matter has been referred to the U.N., we have given our word of honour that we shall abide by their decision. India’s pledge is no small matter and we shall stick by it in the eyes of the world (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Volume 17, pages 76-78). (d) Nehru said in Parliament on June 26, 1952: “And I say with all respect to our Constitution that it just does not matter what your Constitution says, if the people of Kashmir do not want it, it will not go there.”(e) Nehru said in Parliament on August 7, 1952: “… `ultimately—I say with all deference to this Parliament—the decision will be made in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Kashmir, neither in this Parliament, nor in the United Nations, nor by anybody else.”

In subsequent period, India made frantic efforts to warp the UNO. Displace UN Observers, and woo the USA in her favour.

UN observers on LoC

The United Nations’ Military Observers’ Group on India Pakistan came into existence between 1949 and 1951 to maintain sanctity of the ceasefire line drawn between India and Pakistan after the war of 1947-48. The first group of United Nations military observers arrived on 24 January of 1949 to supervise the ceasefire. The UN spends US$ 40 million each year to keep them up.

India is wary of their presence. It asked them to vacate their residence at 1/AB, Purana Qila Road, Connaught Place, Delhi – 11000; from where it has been functioning since 1949 (India asks UN team on Kashmir to leave Delhi, Reuters July 9, 2014). It even harassed `Three members of the United Nations Military Observers Mission for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) had a close call along the restive Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops shot at and injured two locals who were briefing them on the situation prevailing in the wake of ceasefire violations’ (Indian troops fire across LoC in presence of UN observers, 2 injured, March 14, 2018).

Nehru’s perfidy

On July 24, 1952, a reporter quizzed him about his statement in Parliament about Delhi Agreement. The reporter asked him what would be status of the Kashmir state if decision of the Security Council was at variance with Kashmir constituent Assembly resolution. Nehru replied, `Unless the Security Council functions under some other sections of the Charter, it can’t take any decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree’ (Nehru’s letter No. 1529-PM dated December 23, 1948 to Gen. Roy Bucher, Haksar Papers. Also quoted at page 56 of Avtar Singh Bhasin’s India and Pakistan: Neighbours at odds). At the same press conference (July 24, 1952) when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got the constituent assembly, he replied `Maybe, theoretically, you may be right. But we have given them an assurance, and we stand by it’ (Nehru Papers, folio16-II, p. 370. Also, Avtar p. 57 ibid.).

Nehru’s plan was outlined in a secret note he wrote to Sheikh Abdullah from Sonamarg on Aug 25, 1952. It was to end the dispute unilaterally. He had ruled out a plebiscite in 1948, he revealed; the public pledges notwithstanding. On July 31, 1953, he wrote out instructions for his private secretary M.O. Mathai to imprison the Sheikh after ousting him as premier. The army’s role was indicated. That was on Aug 8, 1952. This explains why the Kashmir dispute is not solved.

During temporary absence of Pakistan’s rep, India tried to get the `India-Pakistan Question’ deleted from the UN agenda. India based her plea on Security Council’s informal decision, dated July 30, 1996, about deleting dormant questions. The Question was deleted during the Pak rep’s absence, but was restored to agenda upon his arrival.

USA’s position

Again, at India’s behest, US Congressman Stephen Solarz elicited the statement from Bush-administration high-level diplomat, John H. Kelly, that plebiscite was no longer possible in Kashmir.

Avid readers may refer to Solarz-Kelly conversation and corrective policy action taken by the US State Department in Robert G. Wirsing’s book India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir Dispute, published by Macmillan Press Limited, London in 1994. They may also see Mushtaqur Rehman’s Divided Kashmir: Old Problems, New Opportunities for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri People (London, Lynne Reinner Publishers, London, 1996, pp. 162-163). Here is an extract of Solarz’s grilling questions and the gullible answers thereto.

Mr. Solarz: What is the position of the United States with respect to whether there should be a plebiscite?

Mr. Kelly: First of all we believe that Kashmir is disputed territory…

Mr. Solarz: Well, how did we vote upon that resolution at the U.N. back in 1949?

Mr. Kelly: In favor, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Solarz: Right. So at that time we favored a plebiscite. Do we still favor a plebiscite, or not? Or is it our position now that whether or not there should be a plebiscite is a matter, which should be determined bilaterally between India and Pakistan?

Mr. Kelly: Basically, that’s right, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Solarz: So we are no longer urging a plebiscite be held?

Mr. Kelly: That’s right.

To India’s chagrin, John R. Mallot, the US State Department’s point man for South Asia in 1993, corrected Kelly’s faux pas. He told the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific on April 28, 1993 that John Kelly ‘misspoke’ in 1990 when he said that the United States no longer believed a plebiscite was necessary in South Asia. Mallot clarified that Kelly made his comment after ‘continued grilling’ by the panel’s (pro-India) chairman, Stephen J. Solarz of New York.

Because of India’s perfidy, India-Pakistan dialogues never progressed towards solution of the Kashmir tangle. India’s former foreign secretary, J.N.Dixit was of view that both countries should think beyond legal rigmarole. 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 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’ (V Schofield, Kashmir in the Crossfire).

When does India beg for `mediation’?

All Kashmiri leaders welcomed US president Trump’s offer for mediation on Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah (National Conference) said, “Any mediation in conflict resolution is not a new approach; it is one of the traditional means of diplomacy that affords the two conflict-ridden countries reach a suitable solution”. During his visit to Kashmir, Robin Raphel, a senior State Department official in the first Clinton Administration asserted that for the United States, Kashmir was ‘disputed territory’ and that it had offered to help resolve it (Indian Express July 24, 2019). In 2008, when Barack Obama was a candidate for his first term in the White House, he told Time, “Working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve Kashmir crisis in a serious way… [is among the] critical tasks for the next administration. Kashmir in particular is an interesting situation where that is obviously a potential tar pit diplomatically. But, for us to devote serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in there, to figure out a plausible approach, and essentially make the argument to the Indians, you guys are on the brink of being an economic superpower, why do you want to keep on messing with this? India invariably shrugged off Britain’s and Norway’s efforts to mediate on Kashmir. Last year, following UN Human Rights Council’s stinging report on Kashmir, former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik visited Srinagar, met with the Hurriyat leaders there.

History tells that India spurn off peacetime mediation offers. But, it begs for external mediation when helpless. Jawaharlal Nehru begged United Nations and other countries to deal with `raiders in Kashmir’ in 1947. The UN missions emanated from the Dixon Plan of 1950 for partition of some areas of Jammu & Kashmir between India and Pakistan (Ladakh to India, Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas to Pakistan, with Jammu divided between the two), plus a plebiscite in the Valley (A G Noorani on Dixon Plan, Frontline, October 12-25, 2002). In 1999, the year after India and Pakistan went nuclear; it was US intervention that brought the Kargil crisis to an end. The Vajpayee government had been in touch with the Clinton Administration to get the Nawaz Sharif government to call off the intrusion in Kargil, even as the Indian Army fought the Pakistani forces. Again, the US averted Indo-Pak war that could have happened owing to India’s bellicosity in wake of attack on its parliament. India plodded the US to force China to agree to designating Jaish chief Masood Azhar as `terrorist’. Most recently, badgered by India’s requests for two years, US got Hafiz Saeed arrested.

India should accept Trump’s mediation offer (though partially retracted). Or, alternatively, wait for divine intervention, or a nuclear Armageddon, by way of a solution.

While continuing its terror in Kashmir, India avoids dialogue with Pakistan. Simultaneously it assured the world that it is open to bilateral talks, deadlocked for years. India needs to shun hypocrisy.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. His article `Rampant corruption in India’ is archived with Transparency International, `Belt-Road initiative moderndiplomacy.eu‘, with Kennedy Centre, USA, `Chanakya’s Misprint on India’s foreign policy” with People’s Review Nepal.