Vajpayee Was Different From Nehru?
In all literature; history, memoirs, and travelogues, Kashmir is described as a country. Notwithstanding, being ruled by Moguls, Durranis, and Sikhs through their governors for exacting taxes to the extent of famishing people, it continued to be known as a country. It retained, this title even after India and Pakistan were born as an independent dominions. For the first time, it lost this title on 27 October 1947 when Indian troops landed in Kashmir. Since that day to 22 May 2004, that is end of premiership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India was ruled by fourteen prime ministers. Some of them like Mrs. Gandhi may find an important place in the history of India, but a larger number of them will hardly make it even to footnotes of in history of Kashmir. For being signatory to Shimla Agreement more particularly for reaffirming commitment ‘to the charter of United Nation” and in paragraph four of the agreement conceding to clause “without prejudice to the stated position of the two countries,” Mrs. Gandhi may makes it to the endnotes of Kashmir history. Equally, for major massacres in his 243 days premiership when the state was under the Central rule. V.P. Singh will also find his in history of ‘Kashmir Tragedy.’ He had appointed Jagmohan as governor of the state at the insistence of Mufti Syed. Jagmohan in his 127 days in brutal killing sprees like that of Gow Kadal and Islamia College Hawal carnages killed hundreds of people.
Of all the fourteen prime ministers, two Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee willy-nilly have got woven in the Kashmir narrative. One for being too wily, having mastered the craft of cunningness and rhetoric. In 1947, he had made an influential section of Kashmir leadership to sacrifice realities of history and logic for the sake of power. Second, for being too artful to sell clichés as resolution of the Kashmir Dispute and making the gullible as well as the reluctant Kashmir leaders to sing a song for him.
Jawaharlal was cradled into politics by his father Motilal Nehru, an important leader of the Congress. Mahatma Gandhi ‘foisted him on his nation’- some called him “Gandhi’s lotus-eating disciple.” Despite, draping Khadi, some ‘saw him a lackey of Western capitalism, mouthing socialist slogans’ to beguile teeming poor of India.’ Atal Bihari Vajpayee, from age of fifteen, i.e., since 1936 had been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and after finishing masters, he had begun to work full-time for the RSS and cast himself in the mold of Golwalkar-Savarkar. His speech to the BJP national executive meeting in Goa on 12 April 2002, which has been analyzed by a prominent Indian journalist Siddharth Varadarajan holds a mirror to his thinking about the Indian Muslims and Christens (The Wire 17-08-2018)
How the future historians will judge Nehru and Vajpayee is not subject of this column but, it will endeavor to look at their role in the resolution of the Kashmir Dispute, that has caused one after another war and converted South-Asia a nuclear flashpoint. Moreover, if at any point of time any of the two prime ministers have been sincere towards bringing lasting peace in the region. Even at a cursory look at the genesis of the Kashmir Dispute, Nehru emerges as the “deception incarnate”- who by playing fraud against the people of the state perpetuated it as festering wound in the region. As against him, Sardar Patel Vajpayee like many other Hindutva leaders looked as role model was not interested in seeing Kashmir annexed to India and candidly said to India’s Defence Minister, Baldev Singh ‘if Kashmir joins other dominion he would have no objection. (Shankar: My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel, 1974, p. 127 Rajmohan Gandhi: Patel: A Life, 1991, p. 439).
Nehru did not only betray people of Jammu and Kashmir but with his forked tongue, also hoodwinked the international community. On the one side, he repeatedly affirmed before the United Nations India’s commitment for holding a plebiscite in the state, one after another Indian representative assured the Security Council that country had nothing to do with the J &K Constituent Assembly of the National Conference and on the other side none, but he insisted the National Conference to get the “accession” ratified in the State Constituent Assembly- to tell people in India that ‘Pakistan was now out of court’. Through its resolution S/3779 of January 24, 1957, the UNSC declared the action of the State Constituent Assembly as ultra vires.
From 1948 onwards Prime Minister, Nehru and his counterparts in Pakistan had many meetings. The summits like one held from 17-20 August 1953, between him and Mohammad Ali Bogra had brightened hopes for conducting a plebiscite in J&K, but these were defeated after Nehru retracted on flimsy grounds. To recap all the meetings between India and Pakistan and how Nehru through his Machiavellian deceit ditched these is not possible in this article. Nonetheless, the negotiations on Kashmir in 1962-1963, in the wake of India-China Border War 1962 are a classic example of Nehru’ deceit and backtracking.
The crestfallen Nehru had sought President Kennedy’s intervention to dissuade Ayub Khan joining China in war by opening another front. To address Pakistan’s concern, Kennedy joined efforts with Harold Wilson to promote a Kashmir settlement. These efforts resulted in Swaran-Singh Bhutto talks. In the first few rounds, India suggested division of the state. ‘The Americans wanted Kashmir Valley to go to Pakistan, India should be guaranteed a corridor through the Valley to enable it to supply, a frontier area directly threatened by China.’ (Frank Morass: Witness to An Era p218). As the tension on borders with China lessened tone and tenor of New Delhi, in the meetings changed, after last meeting, Swaran Singh had talked to Prem Bhatia about Kashmir Dispute with total disdain.
History eloquently testifies Nehru at no point of time was sincere in talking to Pakistan about the settlement of Kashmir perhaps same cannot be said about Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Notwithstanding, being cast in the RSS mold we see him in different avatar in as much as his visit to Lahore and paying homage at the Minar-i-Pakistan- the place where the Muslim League adopted Pakistan Resolution in 1940. In spite of Lahore Declaration suffering its Waterloo in the Kargil War, his resolve for initiating a dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir and other allied issues did not dampen. This was manifest in the Agra Summit. But, for Advani playing spoilsport the treaty would was about to be signed. The longest standoff in 2001-2002, did not stop him from signing the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement, that made over two million people living along the LOC to live in peace for a decade. It did not deter him from working on the CBM’s like that ultimately led to the opening of the Jhelum Valley Road. Moreover, provided conducive atmosphere for 2004-2007 peace process that of course seemed a way forward towards the semblance of Kashmir resolution.
In as much as Vajpayee carrying forward dialogue with Pakistan despite setbacks, he puts Jawaharlal Nehru in dock.