Kashmir: Dusting archive to know more
June 5, 2018
Views from Srinagar
Z G Muhammad
Sometimes a new book for its contested contents makes one dust the archives and look for answers and explanations for the controversies raised in the newly published work. In a situation like that of our where people caught up in a morass of political uncertainty are struggling for ending it many times books are sponsored by the establishment to cloud the historical realities. Or books are written to dampen the resolve of the people for realizing their cherished political goals by creating alternative discourses suggesting the futility of chasing their cause. Two weeks back, a new book based on ideas exchanged by tow spymasters of unfriendly countries; sharing a bitter history of four wars, hundreds of wars and conspiracies against each other hit the stands in India.
Last week, I wrote in this column, about the book ‘Spy Chronicles, ISI and Illusion of Peace’ by A.S. Dulat and Assad Durrani published in India. I did not review the book in its entirety but tried to make some points about the implications of the discourse set into motion by the freewheeling discussions by the two for spies and recorded by journalist Aditya Sinha. The journalist has also co-authored A.S. Dulat’s earlier memoir, ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee years. In January 1996, when New Delhi was still toying with the idea of holding the Assembly elections in the state and working on bringing into electoral arena one or two “separatist” leaders with high media profile his book ‘Farooq Abdullah, Prodigal Son of Kashmir: A Biography’ hit the newsstands. This book caused a renewed debate in the power centers of New Delhi about Farooq Abdullah relevance in the given situation. The New Delhi was convinced instead of trying “separatists” in the given situation Farooq Abdullah was the only choice for watching India’s interest in the State. The elections in the State was over two months from September–October 1996. How these elections were conducted in the state has been documented by many. The two senior bureaucrats directly connected with these elections in their self-congratulatory book while narrating how the exercise was carried in itself expose these farce these election. However, these have passed into the electoral history of the state as yet another sham elections.
Since the publication of my column many reviews have been written on the book, and perhaps many more will appear in the coming days. Seen, in its totality the discourse though revolves around peace between the two neighbors countries, it subtly pleads to maintain status quo in Jammu and Kashmir as the only route available for peace. Like all books of the hour, the euphoria this book has generated is short-lived, but the debate between the two spymasters will leave behind some questions that will occasionally engage the attention of analysts, researchers, and academia. Nonetheless, it is not various discourses that the authors have endeavored to bring into the public domain that attracted my attention. It is the controversy that this book generated in Pakistan – the country putting Assad Durrani on the exit list that made me visit archives to know if some other generals like Assad Durrani have ruffled feathers in their country.
Lots of Pakistan army officers including some generals after retirement have written their memoirs. For sharing their experiences, many have used official language Urdu as a medium. Only a few out of plethora have reprinted in India by publishing houses like Vikas in India. Since the birth of the two nations as Independent countries, the non-resolution of the Kashmir has been the core issue that has bedeviled the relation between New Delhi and Islamabad and caused one after another war.
From Akbar Khan’s, “Raiders in Kashmir” to General Pervez Musharraf’s ‘In the Line of Fire’ Kashmir has largely been the central theme of most of the memoirs. Dusting archives took me to a memoir ‘General in Politics – Pakistan 1958-1982’ authored by Air Marshal Asghar Khan (He died on 5 Jan 2018 at 96). In his 220 page book published in India by Vikas, in 1983 he is highly caustic about Pakistan Kashmir policy. He writes, ‘except for the first year or two, after the creation, when Pakistan was prepared to risk a military adventure with her more powerful neighbor over the issue, no government has since been serious about doing anything more than paying lip service to the cause of Kashmir.’ Critical of his country for depending too much on the United Nations, despite knowing that this organization had substantially done nothing for Kashmir he provides us insight into the genesis of the ‘Operation Gibraltar” of 1965. That neither General Mohammad Ayub Khan gives in his biography, ‘Friends Not Masters’ nor Altaf Gauhar gives in ‘Ayub Khan: Pakistan’s First Military Ruler.’ To gather more support for the settlement of Kashmir, delegations were sent to various countries. He writes ‘one delegation led by Khawaja Shahabuddin in the early sixties was sent to the Middle East and North Africa. Khawaja Shahabuddin pleaded his case with Ahmed Ben Bella, at that time the President of Algeria. When the head of Pakistan finished his lengthy discourse, Ben Bella beckoned the Pakistani minister to a window in his office. The view of the vast cemetery as the Pakistani minister viewed the scene of the martyrs’ graveyard. Ben Bella had told the minister, “Words alone will get you nowhere and speeches and talking will not get you Kashmir. And asked him to build a cemetery like this in Pakistan.” The first real attempt at following Ben Bella advice was 1965.’
The book makes one realize that many a Pakistan Generals have been yearning for resolution of Kashmir Dispute not through war but peace. Many of us, believed that the Musharraf’s ‘Four Point Formula’ was inspired by some columns on Kashmir by Eqbal Ahmad ’s in the dawn newspaper. Not agreeing with my friends, I looked at paper prepared by CPR on Kashmir in the early nineties- as debated in Pran Chopra Book, India, Pakistan and Kashmir Tangle as its basis. Asghar Khan writes that he had once suggested to Ayub Khan that in his view, ‘Constructive and practical solution would be converting the whole of Jammu and Kashmir into a condominium with India and Pakistan both being responsible for its defence. The state could have a single legislature and government. Both the countries could keep minimum troops in the State.’
One may agree, or one may not agree what Asghar Khan had proposed to Ayub Khan, but it does speak that even those who have been part of Pakistan’s establishment have been looking for a solution of Kashmir outside the stated policy of their country. But, on our side, people, whether part of military or outside has, got stuck up at Nehru’s doctrine ‘procrastination’ is the only way forward.
— Courtesy: Greater Kashmir.
[Z. G. Mohammad is a veteran writer of comments and author of several books of regional and international interests. He is based in Srinagar].