Sunday :: Jan 25, 2009

A Kashmir Question

by eriposte

In yesterday's post "The Holbrooke Charter", I took Joe Klein of Time to task for a couple of erroneous comments that, even if it was not his intention, revealed a lack of awareness of some actual history of the Kashmir issue. In response to the following observation in Klein's blog post (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

And it demonstrates just how difficult Holbrooke's brief is going to be: Obama was caught in the public commission of a truth--for Afghanistan to settle down on a long-term basis, Pakistan is going to have to turn away from sponsoring Islamic extremist groups...which won't happen until there is some resolution of the historic Kashmir mess

I said:

This claim does not state, but implies, that Pakistan has no choice but to support Islamic extremists until the Kashmir issue is resolved. This is really not the case. There are solutions to Kashmir that don't require any funding of Islamic extremists. For example, right after Partition and even just prior to Nehru's death in 1964, there was a path to a peaceful solution advanced by India.

In response to my comment, reader dcc asked: "What was the peaceful solution advanced by India?"

This is a very involved and complex topic stretching over decades and a single post cannot possibly do it justice. However, to briefly address this question, I'm going to provide one important example in this post which showed that India was operating largely in good faith during the earliest stages of the Kashmir dispute.

This example comes from R. Guha's book "India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy" (pages 71-72). Guha documents what is generally known to knowledgeable historians - the four options that Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru outlined in 1947 to Maharaja Hari Singh, the then-ruler of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) which had been invaded and occupied by Pakistani militants from the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan (under the tacit support of the Pakistani government). Those four options happen to be the most significant options still being debated today: (a) A plebiscite across the state to determine what the citizens want, (b) An independent J&K whose defense is guaranteed jointly by India and Pakistan, (c) A partition of the state with Hindu-majority regions (Jammu) going with India and the rest of the state (i.e., the Muslim-majority regions) going to Pakistan, and (d) Both Jammu and the Kashmir Valley being part of India and Poonch and beyond going to Pakistan. Nehru indicated he was leaning towards the last of these options at the time. However, in his letter to the Maharaja he also said (per Guha): is of the most vital importance that Kashmir should remain within the Indian Union...But however much we may want this, it cannot be done ultimately except through the goodwill of the mass of the population. Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while, a later consequence might be a strong reaction against this. Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel they will be benefited by being in the Indian Union. If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe or secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere. Our basic policy must keep this in view, or else we fail. 46

Nehru wasn't perfect and he made some serious mistakes in Kashmir (leading to repressive actions by the Indian government) largely due to the mostly unyielding position of the then-Pakistani government and the brutal actions of Pakistani militants in J&K. However, up until his death in 1964 he continued to look for an amicable, peaceful solution in J&K that would sit well with the people of Kashmir and was consistent with the principle that he fought for throughout his political life - that of the importance of secularism over religious nationalism. (In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that without Jawaharlal Nehru, a secular India might never have been possible).

I'll have a lot more to say on this in due course.

eriposte :: 9:15 AM :: Comments (6) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!