Seeking an End to the Kashmir Quagmire: Can India and Pakistan Be Brought to the Table to Resolve the Conflict That Has Been Ongoing for More Than Half a Century? (Worldview)

By Indurthy, Rathnam | USA TODAY, July 2003 | Go to article overview

Seeking an End to the Kashmir Quagmire: Can India and Pakistan Be Brought to the Table to Resolve the Conflict That Has Been Ongoing for More Than Half a Century? (Worldview)


Indurthy, Rathnam, USA TODAY


SINCE THE PARTITION of British India into India and Pakistan in August, 1947, the Kashmir dispute between the two countries has become an intractable one. They fought wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971, and 1999, but have not been able to resolve the issue, as India and Pakistan, like the Israelis and Palestinians, claim the same territory. The conflict revolves around the issue of self-determination for the Kashmiri Muslims. While Pakistan insists that India must honor the commitment it made to the United Nations Security Council, India claims that circumstances have changed and that Kashmir is an integral pan of its nation. Hence, the conflict continues.

When British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, Hari Singh, the autocratic and unpopular Maharajah of Kashmir and Jammu, a predominantly Muslim state, resisted the pressure to accede to either Pakistan or India, hoping to seek independence or autonomy from both countries. To buy time and to accomplish this goal, he signed a stand-still agreement with Pakistan on Aug. 16, 1947, and was seeking to sign a similar one with India. Following the partition, communal rioting erupted in Punjab among Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims as this state was divided between India and Pakistan. In September, the rioting against Muslims spilled into Kashmir. In Poonch, in the southwestern part of Kashmir, Muslim insurgents, supported covertly by the Pakistani army with arms, transport, and men, rebelled against the Maharajah and established their independent (Azad) Kashmir government. By Oct. 22, the insurgents had pushed within 15 miles of the state's capital city, Srinagar. Alarmed by this invasion, Singh sought India's military assistance, but the latter refused to help him unless he signed the instrument of accession, a standard procedure under which other princely states had acceded to India or Pakistan.

India agreed to accession after receiving the consent of Sheikh Abdullah, the secular and popular leader of the National Conference (NC) party in the state. Following Singh's signing of the accord on Oct. 27, Indian armed forces entered Kashmir to repel the raiders. Local Muslims, mostly members of the NC, provided the logistical support for the Indian troops. This intervention by India infuriated Pakistani Governor-General Mohammed Ali Jinnah. On the evening of Oct. 27, he ordered Lt. Gen. Sir Douglas Gracey, chief of the Pakistani army, to dispatch regular troops into Kashmir, but, persuaded by British Field Marshall Claude Auchinleck, the Supreme Commander of the transition period, Jinnah withdrew his orders. However, in November, Jinnah sanctioned the transfer of military supplies to the invaders while also sending Pakistan regular troops to join their effort in early 1948 as "volunteers," though not admitting its direct involvement until July.

As the fighting continued, on Jan. 1, 1948, on the advice of British Governor-General Lord Louis Mountbatten, though opposed by Deputy Prime Minister Sarder Patel, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru lodged a complaint with the Security Council by invoking Articles 34 and 35 of the UN Charter (that calls for pacific settlement of disputes) against Pakistan, suspecting that it was behind the invasion. In the complaint, as it had already been pledged by Mountbatten in his letter to Singh on Oct. 26, India reiterated its vow of conditional commitment to a "plebiscite or referendum under international auspices" once the aggressor was evicted--a pledge which India later regretted and that continues to haunt it to this day. Following the passage of Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir, the UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) made several attempts to conduct it from 1948 to 1958, but to no avail, as India and Pakistan had disagreed on the conditions and modalities of the implementation of the resolutions. The stalemate, therefore, led to another war provoked by Pakistan in September, 1965. …

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