A Harbinger of India’s New POK Policy
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A Harbinger of India’s New POK Policy

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A recent book, Forgotten Kashmir, The Other Side of the Line of Control, by former Ambassador Dinkar P. Srivastava seems to prepare the ground for a change in policy

by TP Sreenivasan

V.K. Krishna Menon is said to have remarked after his marathon speech at the UN Security Council in 1957 that he had said everything that needed to be said about Kashmir and that anyone, who wanted to know the Indian position, should simply refer to his speech. But millions of words have been spoken at the UN by succeeding generations of diplomats since then, just to point out that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. The unspoken position, however, was that India would be willing to turn the Line of Control into the international border, accepting, in effect, a division of Jammu and Kashmir. The two countries were close to signing of an agreement to this effect in Shimla in 1972.

There have been indications from the Indian leadership that, apart from the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the POK and other areas are also part of India and should be returned to it. For the first time, during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, India called upon Pakistan to vacate “all areas under its illegal occupation”, signalling a major change of policy.

A recent book, Forgotten Kashmir, The Other Side of the Line of Control (Harper Collins, Pages 439 INR 699) by former Ambassador Dinkar P Srivastava seems to prepare the ground for a change in policy. He examines the policy of Pakistan towards Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit- Baltistan over the last 70 years. His meticulous and painstaking research has brought out the perfidy of Pakistan in annexing these regions through a process of false legislation and use of force. Pakistan denied to the people of this region the same fundamental right to determine their future, which they appeared to champion for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a story of deception, discrimination, forgery and falsehoods. For his exposure of Pakistan, he has relied mostly on documents and sources from Pakistan, the West and the UN.

The book has a wealth of new information about the Pakistan strategy even before the accession of J&K to India. For instance, Pakistan developed the narrative that the Provisional Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was announced on 24 October 1947, though this was done only on 27 October. The date of accession was 25 October.

Considerable evidence is already available to show that the so-called tribal invasion was nothing but a Pakistan operation, authorized by the Pakistan Prime Minister. The author quotes Col Akbar Khan, who led the “tribals” under the pseudonym, Gen Tariq as having proposed an internal revolt, but it was turned into a tribal revolt at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Akbar Khan has dismissed the theory that some ex-soldiers had revolted against the Dogra government in Poonch. They had disintegrated as soon as they came close to danger. But astonishingly, India did not take the matter to the UN as an act of aggression under Chapter VII, but as a matter of dispute and referred to the invasion as “tribal” in certain documents. The Pakistani action failed to capture the Kashmir Valley, but it forced the Maharaja to accede to India and Pakistan got possession of a vast swathe of Indian territory—the Northern Areas.

Another revelation in the book relates to the Karachi Agreement of 1949 among Pakistan government, the Muslim Conference and POK government, which formed the basis of the division of functions among the three of them. The Agreement came to light only in 1993, when an Azad Kashmir High Court declared that the Muslim Conference’s ceding of the Northern Areas to Pakistan was a violation of the UNCIP resolution that required that status quo be maintained. The POK government was based neither on elections, nor on a constitution. It was a creation of Pakistan and run by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas. What is more, Sardar Ibrahim, who had declared a provisional government in October 1947, denied that he had ever signed the Karachi Agreement, making the whole POK saga not only illegal but also a deception. Sardar Ibrahim said publicly that he had made many mistakes, but not this one.

The commonly used, but much misunderstood concepts like self-determination, wishes of the people and plebiscite were used by Pakistan to suit its convenience without commitment to any of these. The author examines these in the context of the contradictory positions Pakistan has adopted in the case of POK on the one hand and the UN on the other. As far as POK is concerned, all actions of the Pakistan government were arbitrary and without any consultation with the people concerned.

At the UN, Pakistan espouses self-determination in various fora and a majority of states support the concept. India has maintained that self-determination applies only to areas under foreign or colonial occupation. Both India and Pakistan accepted the plebiscite. But the resolution laid down different obligations on the two countries and so far as the withdrawal of troops was concerned, there were differences. Pakistan was supposed to withdraw all its forces, after which India was to withdraw only the bulk of its forces from the state. It was also allowed to retain a minimum force that is considered necessary to observe law and order. This position meant the acceptance by the UN of the legality of accession. Bhutto had lamented in the Pakistan National Assembly that the UN resolution had thus jeopardized the right to self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir. It was evident that the plebiscite would not take place in these circumstances. But Pakistan keeps calling for the implementation of the UN resolutions just to deceive the world. The fact is that Pakistan was never confident of winning the plebiscite, as Benazir Bhutto confessed even in 1994. India’s rejection of the plebiscite on account of the changed times is a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. The author quotes Sheikh Abdullah from his book: “One of our activists, Ali Mohammad Tariq, asked Jinnah if the future would be decided by the people of Kashmir. Pat came the reply, ‘Let the people go to hell’.” That is the dictum that Pakistan has followed in its entire history.

The Sino-Pak Treaty of 1963 was another landmark in Pakistan’s disregard for the wishes of the people. Pakistan had no qualms in giving away a part of POK to China. The Karakoram Highway, which was built with Chinese funding, has been reinforced by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The projects designed by China are being built in total disregard of the autonomy of the region and the environmental damage they cause. No wonder, India has rejected China’s BRI on the ground that it has violated the integrity of Kashmir.

The book has much more evidence to show that “the web of knowledge, strategy and interests has condemned the people of POK and G-B to an uncertain future for an indefinite period.” The same applies to Pakistan itself. “The clock cannot be put back. But the pain could be lessened if the countries move towards regional integration within existing boundaries,” concludes the author. He implies that the return of all areas illegally occupied by Pakistan to India should be the first step in that direction.

As a serious researcher, Dinkar Srivastava has packed the book with legal and constitutional material, consciously avoiding anecdotes, except for a couple of them. But the facts are absorbing and revelatory enough to read it with sustained interest and to treasure it as a valuable historical document. For professional diplomats, who have a battle ahead to counter Pakistan’s propaganda at the UN and elsewhere, the book will be a boon as it contains enough ammunition to demolish Pakistan’s hypocritical position.

T.P. Sreenivasan (IFS 1967) is a former Ambassador of India and Governor for India of the IAEA

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