The irresolvable Kashmir ROW

The most devilishly complex issue is Kashmir. Broadly speaking, Pakistan has, with the help of the US, played its Kashmir card better than India

There seems to be no cure-all solution that can undo the strained historical dynamics of Indo-Pak relations

At the moment, Indo-Pak relations are under a severe strain. Having been ambassador to Pakistan in the early 1980s, I have retained a deep interest in the developments in that country.

While writing about Pakistan and India relations, one must keep three things in mind. Indo-Pak relations are accident prone. The future of Indo-Pak relations lies in the past. Finally, there is no solution to Kashmir even in the distant future.

All well-meaning Indians wish for cordial relations with Pakistan. In Pakistan, there is a chronic syndrome of distrust. This is not so in India. The reason: India is at least five times the size of Pakistan, and our neighbour is not yet a nation. It is a country. Our dollar reserves are three trillion. What is almost incurable is our neighbour’s huge inferiority complex vis-à-vis India.

The nonsensical talk about Ladke lia hai Pakistan, hanse ke lainge Hindustan was not heard after its defeat in Bangladesh. Still, nonsense about pie in the sky did not stop: “One Pakistani soldier is equal to ten Indian soldiers.” This has also stopped. It got them nowhere. Then we were given the absurd dose of “Five Thousand Years of Pakistan”. This too has been buried.

Pakistan has one power centre and only the Army. It has a permanent veto on the civilian government even when elected. India is exclusively the concern of the Army. In 1971, the Pakistani Army got a thorough drubbing. Yet, no one dares openly blame it. After the birth of Bangladesh, the defence responsibilities of Pakistan were reduced by almost 50 per cent, yet not one regiment was reduced. I once asked former President (Late) Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, “Sir, why do you need such a large army after 1971?”. His answer, “Kanwar sahib, we will never forget what you did to East Pakistan”. What does this mean? “We will take revenge.”

There exists tens of millions of Pakistanis who do not think in this manner. They know the reality and respect it. I have several close Pakistani friends. One was at Cambridge with me. He now heads the Pakistani cricket establishment. The other is a former foreign minister. The third is a couple who divide their time between Islamabad and Dubai. We are constantly in touch. Our minds meet, but unfortunately not our hearts.

I knew Begum Nusrat Bhutto and her daughter reasonably well, and met them several times. The Begum in Islamabad and Karachi twice. Benazir three times, in Islamabad, Kuala Lumpur, Karachi and Delhi. She came to Delhi to offer her condolences to Sonia Gandhi after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. She was endowed with exceptional good looks and style. Her father Zulfikar Bhutto was the only charismatic leader Pakistan has produced. He was a brilliant foreign minister, pulled China away from us. He loathed India. I saw him perform at the UN Security Council on Kashmir. He was ill-tempered, abusive and effective. At Simla in 1972, he got the better of both. Indira Gandhi and PN Haksar. The Simla Agreement is now in cold storage. President Zia-ul-Haq was disdainful both of the Agreement and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The most devilishly complex issue is Kashmir. Broadly speaking, Pakistan has, with the help of the US, played its Kashmir card somewhat better than us. It is no small achievement to keep Kashmir on the Security Council agenda for 70 years. Now, however, at the UN we see ‘Kashmir Fatigue’.

Jawaharlal Nehru was by any standard a great, and good, man. On Kashmir, he was misled by Lord Mountbatten who persuaded him to take the issue to the UN Security Council. That too under Chapter VI of the UN Charter that deals with disputes and not under Chapter VII, which deals with aggression. Although Sardar Vallabhai Patel was Deputy Prime Minister and minister for Princely states, Kashmir, was the exclusive responsibility of Jawaharlal Nehru. Mountbatten was playing a perfidious game. On the one hand, he was advising PM Nehru, on the other hand, he was using the British High Commission in New Delhi to keep British Prime Minister CR Attlee informed about India’s Kashmir policy. Nehru at one time even suggested a plebiscite to resolve Kashmir. That would have lost us Kashmir. He was persuaded not to do so. If Pakistan had taken the initiative to go to the UN, it would resulted in a similar stalemate.

Conclusion: Keep talking to Pakistan, but never lower your guard.

K NATWAR SINGH – The writer is a former Union minister

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