Bilateral Negotiation on Kaskmir: Unlearnt Lesson

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A.G. Noorani[1]


(Territorial disputes notoriously arouse fierce emotions and are difficult to resolve. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The dispute has proved almost intractable unlike the disputes over the Saar, Trieste, Aaland Islands and South Tyrol. This essay explores the true reasons for the deadlock. They are not the ones commonly imagined or the ones the two countries would have us believe. –Author)

“Power, like sex, may be concealed and outwardly ignored, and in our society it often is; but neither in the one case nor in the other does this concealment save us from the destruction of our innocence or from the confrontation with the dilemmas these necessities imply. When the ambivalence of one’s virtue is recognized, the total inequity of one’s opponent is also irreparably impaired.”[1]

These words are no less true of India and Pakistan however much they profess to disavow power politics and dress themselves up in the shining cloak of superior virtue. Half-a-century of their feud shows no sign of abating, amidst a series of accords in other trouble spots in the world. Dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir stands out as an obscene symptom of their feud.

India was partitioned because the Indian National Congress led, effectively, by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi refused to share power with the All-India Muslim League, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, under the Cabinet Mission’s Plan of 16 May 1946. The two did not “part as brothers”; but in bitterness, vowing to do each other down. Now as independent states, neither media nor scholarship in either country has helped one bit to demonstrate in its own country “the ambivalence of one’s virtue” or redeeming aspects in the other’s “inequity.” The badge of patriotism is more prized than the accomplishments of scholarship.

This brief study of bilateral negotiations on the Kashmir dispute seeks to place those exercises in context; to draw attention to archival material disclosed in the last decade; to reflect on the potentialities and limits of summit diplomacy; and to point out the essential political pre-conditions for success in such exercises. In the process one also comes to grips with some nuances of the dispute one had overlooked.

The writer might well prepare the reader for the conclusion he has arrived at. The only time that there was any prospect of success in the talks was between 1-27 November1947. There was not the slightest prospect of success in any of the parleys that followed to this day, in September 2006. But if the lessons of these barren decades are learnt well, it would be possible for a summit to succeed in 2007, sixty years after the dispute erupted.

Four days before they published their Plan on British India, the Cabinet Mission had published a Memorandum on Indian States which pronounced the doctrine that, on British India’s independence, the princely States would attain independence as well; i.e., their rulers. They had, in truth, ceased to be independent by 1819 as Edward Thompson points out.[2] In regard to Kashmir, the British doctrine was particularly absurd. Maharaja Gulab Singh acquired it for Rs.75 lakhs by the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846 which Gandhi called “a deed of sale” which “would be dead on the 1st August” 1947.[3] In 1884 the British came close to taking over the State because of gross misrule there. “It may, indeed, be a question whether, having regard to the circumstances under which the sovereignty of the country was entrusted to the present ruling Hindoo family, the intervention of the British Government on behalf of the Mahommendan population has not already been too long delayed.”[4] Had this occurred, the criterion of religion adopted in the Partition Plan of 3 June 1947 would have unfolded a different future for the State.

When Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru met shortly thereafter, on 13 June, under the auspices of the Viceroy and Governor-General Lord Mountbatten, they clashed in suppressed acrimony. Nehru contended that while “any States could, if they so wished, join the Pakistan Constituent Assembly,” they could not be “allowed to claim independence.” Jinnah asserted that the States were free to join the Constituent Assembly of neither Dominion. “Every Indian State was a Sovereign State. Pandit Nehru said that he differed altogether. He spoke as a lawyer. Mr. Jinnah said he spoke as a lawyer also.”[5]

Two days later, the All India Congress Committee passed a resolution which said that the lapse of British Paramountcy did not lead to the independence of the States and that “the people of the States must have a dominating voice in any decision regarding them.”[6] On 17 June, Jinnah publicly declared his stand. “Constitutionally and legally, the Indian States will be independent Sovereign States.”[7] However on 11 July, while reiterating this, he urged the Maharaj of Kashmir “to realize the interests not only of the Ruler but also of his people.”[8]

The All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan on 25 August, expressing its dismay at this stand – “….therefore Kashmir can join Hindustan and Quaid-i-Azam cannot have any objection to it.”[9]

As a matter of fact, two parallel processes were at work independently of each other. Nehru and Vallabhai Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister, were fast sewing up arrangements for Kashmir’s accession to India even before Sheikh Abdullah’s release from prison on 29 September 1947 and well before the tribesmen from Pakistan entered Kashmir on 21 October. On 28 May 1947, Patel said “Kashmir remains within the Indian Union even if a division of India and partition of Punjab takes place.” This was before the Radcliffe award on Punjab’s boundary was published. It awarded to India, the sole Gurdaspur land link between India and Kashmir. On 3 July he wrote to the State’s Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak: “I realize the peculiar difficulties of Kashmir, but looking to its history and traditions it has in my opinion, no other choice” but to accede to India.[10]

Nehru wrote to Patel on 27 September “it is important that something should be done before these winter conditions set in.” In a comment that foreshadowed his and India’s later predicament, he added “Abdullah is very anxious to keep out of Pakistan….at the same time he cannot carry his people with him unless he has something definite to place before them.”[11] He was not sure of Abdullah’s popular support on accession to India. On 4 October a confidante Dwarkanath Kachru, informed Nehru from Srinagar “Sheikh Saheb and his close associates have decided to join the Indian Union.”[12] The Maharaja’s letters to Patel reflect a close relationship.

Regardless of these disclosures in 1972, one finds it hard to understand Jinnah’s confidence at the time of the partition that “Kashmir will fall into our lap like a ripe fruit.”[13]

Nehru warned Abdullah on 10 October “I doubt very much if it (Pakistan) can survive at all.”[14]

Jinnah had no such illusions about India. But he was much exercised over the imbalance between India and Pakistan, especially in view of the partition of Punjab and Bengal. In an interview to Doon Campbell of Reuters on 22 May, he stressed that Pakistan must be “viable” vis-a-vis India. His advocacy of the Rulers’ right to decide on accession stemmed from this approach. Had he succeeded, India’s unity would have been undermined gravely. In this he relied mainly on Hyderabad keeping out as the nucleus of a third force. Besides, he was willing to accept accession from any State. He held talks with the Maharaja of Patiala and offered a blank cheque to the ruler of Jodhpur to fill in the conditions on which he would accede to Pakistan. He was dissuaded by Mountbatten. He conceded his right to do so “from a purely legal standpoint” but cited “the principle underlying the partition of India on the basis of Muslim and non-Muslim majority areas.”[15]

As events unfolded after independence, each country adopted inconsistent stands on: (1) the worthlessness of the Instrument of Accession; (2) plebiscite; (3) territorial contiguity or the geographical factor; and (4) the religious factor. Both sides practiced deception. Both used armed force as an instrument of policy.

Members of the Indian Cabinet decided on 17 September “that military action was the only answer” to Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan.[16]

In a telegram to Liaqat Ali Khan on 12 September, Nehru proposed a referendum “under the joint supervision of the Dominion of India and Junagadh;” not Pakistan. Mountbatten’s telegram to Jinnah on 22 September repeated this offer and cited “the principles on which the partition was agreed upon and effected.”[17]

Documents in Volume VIII of Jinnah Papers contain proof of the Government of India’s complicity in the establishment in Bombay, of all places, of the “People’s Provisional Government of Junagadh” which marched into the State’s environs and paved the way for its military takeover by the Indian Army on 9 November. One of India’s most eminent lawyers, Sir Chimanlal Setalvad, strongly criticized these moves in a letter to The Times of India (3 October 1947). No less damning is evidence of the Government of Pakistan’s complicity in the tribal raid into Kashmir published in the Government of India’s White Paper on Jammu & Kashmir in 1948. The Chief Minister of the NWFP, Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, confided as much to the Governor, Sir George Cunningham, who, in turn, confided to his diary.[18] The States’ Minister, A.S.B. Shah, warned that it would provoke the Maharaja to accede to India, which he did on 26 October.

Fortunately, by now the leaders of India and Pakistan had established a practice of visiting each other freely and without fanfare. Liaquat Ali Khan was in Delhi on 16 August to receive a copy of the Radcliffe Commission’s Award on the Punjab and Bengal boundaries and was in Delhi again on 16 September. He was back in Delhi, yet once more, on 1 October to attend a meeting of the Joint Defence Council. This was after the Junagadh crisis had arisen, with Kashmir looming large in everyone’s mind. Mountbatten skillfully arranged for the Prime Ministers to discuss Junagadh and later joined them at this second summit on the States’ issue. The first was on 13 July – Nehru said that “in difficult cases like this the will of the people should be ascertained… a general election, plebiscite or referendum, provided it were conducted in a fair and proper manner.” Mountbatten drew Liaquat Ali Khan’s attention to the implications of this offer, “I said I was sure that Pandit Nehru would agree that this policy would apply to any other State, and that India would never be a party to trying to get a State to join their Dominion against the wishes of the majority. Pandit Nehru nodded his head sadly; Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan’s eyes sparkled; and there is no doubt that the same thought was in each of their minds: ‘Kashmir.’” [19]

Soon after Kashmir acceded to India, Jinnah suggested that a Special Conference on the crisis be held in Lahore on 29 October. India accepted the suggestion. But rumblings within the Cabinet prompted Mountbatten to propose that the meeting of the Joint Defence Council, scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 1 November, be held in Lahore, instead. Nehru did not accompany him to this meeting.[20]

With this summit between Jinnah and Mountbatten at Lahore on 1 November, we enter a decisive phase of negotiations on Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Had they but succeeded, the sub-continent would have been spared six decades of rancour and strife. The background to this encounter has been sketched, at some detail, advisedly. It helps to explain why success was possible and also why it was not accomplished.

A full account is available in a “Note of Discussion” by Mountbatten of his talks with Jinnah in the presence of Lord Ismay his Chief of Staff at Government House, Lahore.[21] The talks spread over three and a half hours, covered Kashmir (“most of the time”), Hyderabad and Junagadh.

Mountbatten offered a six para “proposals to form the basis of discussion.” It proposed plebiscite in Kashmir under the United Nations’ supervision and “a joint India-Pakistan force should hold the ring while the plebiscite is being held.” This was to form part of a wider accord on “procedure for accession of those States in which this matter is in dispute.” That was formulated in a draft which is quoted in extenso:

“The Governments of India and Pakistan agree that, where the ruler of a State does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong, and where the State has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is the same as the State’s, the question of whether the State should finally accede to one or the other of the Dominions should in all cases be decided by an impartial reference to the will of the people.”

It was a fair offer. The “communal factor” was untied by India. It was ignored by Pakistan only to rely on it later. It clearly had Nehru’s endorsement since he repeated this offer to Liaquat a week later. Mountbatten claimed that Jinnah considered plebiscite to be “redundant and undesirable” and proposed an outright exchange of Junagadh for Kashmir. “Mr. Jinnah then went on to say that he could not accept a formula if it was so drafted as to include Hyderabad, since he pointed out that Hyderabad did not wish to accede to either Dominion and he could not be a party to coercing them to accession.” Jinnah said that “there was no sense in having Junagadh in the Dominion of Pakistan.” He had accepted it reluctantly. He explained that he was opposed to a plebiscite in Kashmir because of the presence of Indian troops there and with Sheikh Abdullah in power.

We have an authoritative account of Jinnah’s counter-proposals in Liaquat Ali Khan’s telegram of 4 November to Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and to Nehru on 6 November. They are reproduced in full.

“(1) To put an immediate stoppage to fighting the two Governors-General should be authorized and vested with full power by both Dominion Governments to issue a proclamation forthwith giving forty-eight hours’ notice to the two opposing forces to cease fire. Governor-General, Pakistan, has no control over forces of Provisional Government of Kashmir or tribesmen engaged in fighting but he will warn them in clearest terms that if they do not obey order to cease fire immediately the forces of both Dominions will make war on them. (2) Both forces of Indian Dominion and tribesmen to withdraw simultaneously and with utmost expedition from Jammu and Kashmir State territory. (3) With sanction of two Dominion Governments the two Governors-General to be given full powers to restore peace, undertake the administration of Jammu and Kashmir State and arrange for plebiscite without delay under their joint control and supervision.”[22]

Nehru’s reply to Liaquat on 8 November renewed Mountbatten’s offer but omitted one element, “a joint India-Pakistan force should hold the ring while the plebiscite is being held”. He proposed: “(one) that the Government of Pakistan should publicly undertake to do their utmost to compel the raiders to withdraw from Kashmir; (two) that the Government of India should repeat their declaration that they will withdraw their troops from Kashmir soil as soon as the raiders have withdrawn and law and order are restored; (three) that the Governments of India and Pakistan should make a joint request to UNO to undertake a plebiscite in Kashmir at the earliest possible date.

“The above conclusions relate only to Kashmir, but it is essential, in order to restore good relations between the two Dominions that there should be acceptance of the principle that, where the Ruler of a State does not belong, and where the State has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is the same as the State’s,  the question whether the State should finally accede to one or the other of the Dominions should be ascertained by reference to the will of the people.”[23]

Mountbatten’s proposals were to be the subject of “a round table discussion at the earliest possible date.” That was held in New Delhi on 8 November when the Joint Defence Council met. The British High Commissioner in New Delhi, Terence Shove, reported to the Commonwealth Relations Office in London on 10 November: “Chaudhri Mohammed Ali and V.P Menon met in the presence of Lord Ismay, Mountbatten’s Chief of Staff and concluded a draft agreement on Kashmir that was acceptable to both sides: Both governments agree that all forces whether regular or irregular must be withdrawn from Kashmir soil at the earliest possible moment. The withdrawal will commence on the 12th of November and will be concluded by November 26th. The Government of Pakistan solemnly pledge themselves to do their utmost to assure that the tribesmen are withdrawn according to this programme and that they make no further incursions. The Government of India for their part undertakes to withdraw their forces according to programme”.

In reply to Mohammed Ali’s question, Menon said that “he entirely agreed that Kashmir would go to Pakistan but emphasized that in view of what had passed, a formal plebiscite was essential.” It was agreed that: “A plebiscite will be held as soon as possible under the aegis of two persons nominated by the Government of India and Pakistan with a person nominated by the Kashmir Government as observer. The plebiscite will be conducted by a British Officer.”[24]

Nehru rejected the draft. It was revised on 27 November following a meeting of the Joint Defence Council the previous day, hostilities in Kashmir would cease after the “Azad Kashmir” forces (not “raiders” as hitherto) withdrew, whereupon India “would withdraw the bulk of their forces, leaving only small contingent at certain points.” Next, the two countries would ask the UN to send a Commission to seek their views as also those of the Kashmir Government on conducting a plebiscite. Discussion of the details was postponed to the next JDC meeting due to be held in Lahore on 8 December.[25]

27 November marked the highest point. The draft served as a basis for the UN Commission for India and Pakistan’s (UNCIP’s) cease-fire resolution of 13 August 1948. But opinion on both sides hardened and it was rejected.

Jinnah “took strong exception to the proposal.” An entry of 30 November in his Notebook read: “Kashmir – no commitment – should be made without my approval of terms of settlement. Mr. Liaquat has agreed and promised to abide by this understanding” (emphasis in original). The next entry on the same page dated 16 December read: “Nehru’s proposal fundamentally different. There is no common basis or ground. There can be no solution of satisfactory nature unless the India D. (Dominion) agree to withdraw their troops and agree to replace the present administration by an independent and impartial regime and administration with international police and military forces to restore peace and maintain Law and Order. It is only then that the question of plebiscite will have to be considered”

On 30 December the Cabinet decided, as Hasan Zaheer records, that “no question of policy or principle would be decided except at a Cabinet meeting presided by the Quaid-i-Azam and that in the event of any difference of opinion between him and the Cabinet, the decision of the Quaid would be final and binding.”[26] Differences between Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan were known to British and American diplomats.[27]

Jinnah’s terms to Mountbatten on 1 November spelt, in effect, joint control of Kashmir ahead of a plebiscite. His views on 16 December were equally unrealistic quite apart from the fact that with each passing day, India’s military position improved and Nehru’s stand hardened.

Jinnah had invested heavily, emotionally and politically on Hyderabad. The record of his talks in New Delhi, on 4 August, with the delegation sent by the Nizam of Hyderabad as also the Nizam’s letter to Jinnah on 28 July reveal a lot. The Nizam defined his options and astutely pointed out: “When the British go….there would be no chance of making anything like so favourable arrangement with the Government of the Dominion of India, as would be probable on the present basis, if a settlement could be reached now.” He asked specific assurances of help “with arms and equipment and, if necessary, with troops”.

On 4 August, Jinnah evasively told the Nizam’s emissaries: “It was not possible for him at present to give any specific undertaking but that, generally speaking, he was confident that he and Pakistan would come to the help of Hyderabad in every possible way.” He read them a homily on the martyrdom “of Imam Hussain standing for what was right and giving his life for it.”[28] Understandably, having counselled as he did on 4 August, Jinnah told Mountbatten on 1 November that he “could not accept a formula if it was so drafted as to include Hyderabad.”

However, precisely around this time, Hyderabad emerged as a divide between Nehru and Patel as well. Nehru was obsessed with Kashmir. Patel’s concern was to secure Hyderabad. Chaudhri Mohammed Ali narrates the parleys on 8 and 27 November in his memoirs. On 8 November, “I was told that Mountbatten and Sardar Patel agreed to such a plan, but not Nehru, and I was advised to see him” which he did; in vain[29]

The formula of 27 November – which prompted Jinnah’s Notebook entry three days later – envisaged that “a plebiscite should be held in Junagadh to decide its future.” But Nehru was set against a plebiscite, he writes and proceed to record “In one of the discussions between the two Prime Ministers, at which Patel and I were also present, Liaquat Ali Khan dwelt at length on the inconsistency of the Indian stand with regard to Junagadh and Kashmir. When Liaquat Ali Khan made these incontrovertible points, Patel could not contain himself and burst out ”Why do you compare Junagadh with Kashmir? Talk of Hyderabad and Kashmir, and we could reach an agreement….Patel’s view at this time and even later was that India’s effort to retain Muslim majority areas against the will of the people was a source not of strength but of weakness to India. He felt that if India and Pakistan agreed to let Kashmir go to Pakistan and Hyderabad to India, the problems of Kashmir and of Hyderabad could be solved peacefully and to the mutual advantage of India and Pakistan.” There was a second round of talks between the two Prime Ministers in Lahore on 8 December, but they also produced no results, Nehru even backed out of the agreed proposal for a joint request to the UN to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir.[30]

Prof. R.J. Moore points out that Mountbatten’s proposal of 1 November “conceded most of his (Jinnah’s) demands” and “by refusing to probe the possibilities of diplomacy Jinnah overplayed his hand.”[31]

On 27 November 1972, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto told a tribal jirga at Landikotal that India’s first Home Minister and Minister of States, Sardar Patel, had, at one stage, offered Kashmir to Pakistan in exchange for Junagadh and Hyderabad. But, he added, Pakistan “unfortunately” did not accept this offer with the result that it not only lost all the three native States but East Pakistan as well. He was right. Patel publicly confirmed his offer in his speech at a rally in Junagadh on 13 November while there was time for Pakistan to accept it. Patel said that Pakistan raised Junagadh as a counter to Kashmir. “Our reply was that we would agree to Kashmir if they agreed to Hyderabad. Pakistan, however, pointed out that they had no say in the matter. Nevertheless, whenever Hyderabad had been in difficulties, there is always a trek of the leaders of the Iteehad-ul-Muslemin to Mr. Jinnah.”[32]

The minutes of meetings of 26, 27, 28 November and 8, 21, 22 and 28 December reveal that “the draft agreement” was discussed in earnest. On 28 November Nehru said that “Kashmir could be divided into four well defined areas” – the Valley, Poonch and Mirpur; Jammu and the Gilgit Agency. Each should “be given a very large measure of autonomy since they had very little in common between their peoples.”[33]

While on 5 February 1948 Mountbatten told Nehru that “there were no serious points of difference between the two Governments over the Kashmir issue,” on 11 January 1948 Nehru told Liaquat Ali Khan that “he felt certain” that it would be resolved in two months. These expressions of optimism were made despite collapse of the proposal for a joint reference of the dispute to the UN by 22 December. With India’s unilateral reference to the UN Security Council on 1 January and Pakistan’s reference on 15 January 1948, bilateralism was obviously wearing thin.

What was not apparent then was that the idea of a plebiscite was surviving fitfully and on borrowed time, Nehru was in two minds. He wrote to Sheikh Abdullah on 21 November 1947 that he was aware of “the strong feeling in the leadership of the National Conference against a referendum….In fact I share the feeling myself. But you will appreciate that it is not easy for us to back out of the stand we have taken before the world. That would create a very bad impression abroad and more especially in UN circles. I feel, however, that this question of referendum is rather an academic one at present…. There is no difference between you and us on the issue. It is all a question of the best tactical approach.  I would personally suggest to you not to say anything rejecting this idea of a referendum but to lay stress on the fact that the people of Kashmir, by their heroic resistance, are deciding the issue themselves; also that it is a little absurd for people to carry on a little war in Kashmir and, when defeated, to want a referendum.”[34]

This cold logic was repeated to the Sheikh on 12 January 1949 and on 25 August, 1952 with a consistency that only reveals the gravity of Jinnah’s errors in 1947. He was playing a weak hand. Diplomacy and bilateral negotiations – not the Commonwealth – were his only hope. A basis for success existed – principled application of the democratic principle to all States alike. He had missed the opportunity in July 1947. He missed it again in November 1947. It was never to return. For in 1948, unknown to him, the very idea of a plebiscite died an untimely death.

A letter from his daughter Indira Gandhi written from Srinagar on 14 May 1948 warned Nehru: “This is the talk of the town. They say that only Sheikh Saheb is confident of winning the plebiscite….Personally I feel that all this political talk will count for nothing if the economic situation can be death with. Because after all the people are concerned with only (one) thing – they want to sell their goods and to have food and salt.”[35]

Had India lost the plebiscite, its impact on Nehru’s authority if not survival as Prime Minister, would have been incalculable. Patel would have emerged more powerful. At the pinnacle of power the leader identifies himself with his ideology. Nehru thought of himself and the ideal of secularism for which he battled bravely, single-handedly.

Already by then the idea of partition of Kashmir was afloat. The British mooted it as far back as in November 1947.[36] In May 1948 Mountbatten tried to get Pakistan’s Prime Minister to visit New Delhi – to discuss partition. Maps were marked and discussed with Nehru and the Chief of Army Staff. Liaquat Ali Khan did not come.[37]

The UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) came to the subcontinent with a mandate to secure accord on a plebiscite. But at his very first meeting with its members on 17 August 1948 Nehru asked “if the Commission had any ideas regarding the general lines which a final solution might take. They got the point. One of them, Joseph Korbel, replied that the Commission “had no right to submit a solution on which the parties had not agreed. He said that the commission believed it possible that a solution different from that envisaged in the Security Council resolution might be worked out and that the commission would be quite willing to help in this respect.”[38]

Earlier, on 18 July 1948, one of the most active members of  UNCIP. Alfredo Lozano, had asked Pakistan’s foreign minister, Zafrullah Khan, whether “the question of partition of Kashmir would be considered.” On 19 August its chairman opined that their Resolution of 13 August “left it open to discussion as to what would be the basis for a fair settlement.”[39] Unknown to its people, when the ceasefire line was drawn across Kashmir in 1949, some of its architects meant to partition the State.

Nehru met Liaquat Ali Khan twice in 1948. At the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London from 11 to 22 October and in Paris later in the month. He informed Patel ‘that he had offered “either a full acceptance of’ the UN Commission’s resolution on ceasefire or a partition on the lines we have previously talked of about, i.e. Western Poonch etc., Gilgit, Chitral, most of Baltistan, etc. to go to Pakistan. Neither is acceptable to Liaquat Ali Khan.”[40] UNCIP’s resolution of 13 August 1948 envisaged a ceasefire and a truce agreement followed by plebiscite. It recorded agreement on the principle “that the future status of the State “shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people” but did not lay down the modalities of plebiscite. It provided instead for consultations between the parties and  UNCIP. India accepted the Resolution, Pakistan did not because of this lacuna. UNCIP’s Resolution of 5 January 1949, which both accepted, laid down the modalities.

However, on 12 January 1949 a week after this resolution, Nehru wrote reassuringly to Sheikh Abdullah: “You know well that this business of plebiscite is still far away and there is a possibility of the plebiscite not taking place at all (I would suggest however that this should not be said in public, as our bona fides will then be challenged).”[41]

In 1996 was published a Note Nehru had written to Sheikh Abdullah on 25 August 1952 from Sonamarg in Kashmir. It is a document of cardinal importance. It laid bare Nehru’s entire approach to the questions; his strategy and tactics. He revealed that “towards the end of 1948” he concluded that “there were only two possibilities open to us, continuance of the war in a limited way; (2) some kind of a settlement on the basis of the existing military situation”. He had accepted the UNCIP resolutions to get a ceasefire; not to hold a plebiscite. “We are superior to Pakistan in military and industrial power,” With the passage of time Pakistan will “accept a settlement which we consider fair, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere”.

He was not bothered about what “Pakistan did or what the United Nations might do.” But he was “worried to find that the leaders of Kashmir were not so clear in their minds about the present or the future.” He was not worried about the wishes of the people either. They were “not what are called a virile people. They are soft and addicted to easy living.” Like Indira Gandhi, he felt that they were interested in “an honest administration and cheap and adequate food. If they get this, then they are more or less content.” The State would retain its “autonomy in most respects.”  The leaders must shed doubt as doubt “percolates to their followers.” His recipe was clear. “Make the people think that the association of Kashmir State with India is an accomplished and final fact, and nothing is going to undo it.”[42]

Clearly, from 1948 there were two discourses on Kashmir; the public one concerned plebiscite while the secret one concerned partition. It doomed Indo-Pak negotiations to certain failure. UNCIP reported failure by the end of 1949.

The UN’s Mediator, Sir Owen Dixon, arranged a summit, without aides, in New Delhi from 20 – 24 July 1950. It failed. But a constructive idea emerged – the Dixon Plan. It assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern areas and Azad Kashmir to Pakistan, split Jammu between the two States and proposed a plebiscite in Kashmir Valley. However, ahead of the talks both Nehru and Patel were agreed “that a plebiscite is unreal.”[43] Not surprisingly Dixon’s Report to the Security Council recorded his failure (S/1791). It is a classic in elegance of style, candour and realism.

At an Informal Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London on 9 January 1951 Nehru argued against “an upsetting of the somewhat unstable equilibrium” that had been established.[44] Liaquat Ali Khan proposed a plebiscite held separately in the distinct areas of the State “At no time, however, did he accept the idea of a partial plebiscite,” Nehru recorded “It is moot whether he would have accepted such an offer had it been made.”

The format for negotiations was set. India would negotiate only on the basis of the status quo; on adjustments in the ceasefire. It would not countenance plebiscite. The three “Interim” Reports of UNCIP on the cease-fire, truce agreement, and modalities of plebiscite; not at “the end of 1948” as he said but, the record suggests, earlier is the year. The Reports were made on 9 November 1948, 19 January 1949 and 5 January 1949. [45]

They were lesser men who came after Sir Owen Dixon. The charade that followed need not detain us. This is, in any case, a brief study of bilateral engagement. Dr. Frank P. Graham submitted six Reports from 15 October 1951 to 31 March 1958, well after Nehru had ruled out international mediation. In between Gunnar Jarring gave his Report on 29 April 1957. General A.G.L. McNaughton had tried his hand first on 3 February 1950.[46]

The bilateral talks that followed were all doomed to failure; two in 1953 at Karachi and New Delhi; at Murree in 1960; the Swaran Singh-Bhutto talks 1962-63; at Tashkent in 1966 and its follow up that year; at Simla in 1972; at Islamabad between the Foreign Secretaries in January 1994, their Joint Statement at Islamabad on 23 June 1997; the Lahore Summit in February 1999; and The Agra Summit in July 2001.

The process was interspersed with summits in 1985, 1997 and continued after 2001; notably at Islamabad in January 2004 and New York in September 2004. Since 1972 the effort was to evolve a mechanism for solution rather than settle the dispute itself at the meetings.

Meanwhile the situation in Kashmir had changed fundamentally. Since 1952 Sheikh Abdullah was faced with growing pressure from Nehru for closer integration with the Union while his own popular base in the State had begun to erode. The Delhi Agreement of July 1952 failed to allay disquiet on either side. In May 1953 the Working Committee of Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference decided to put an end to the uncertainty. Till he died he did not reveal Nehru’s Note of 25 August 1952. It could not have failed to alarm him. The minutes of the Committee’s meeting on 9 June 1953 show that even his opponents in the party Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed and C.M. Sadiq favored a plebiscite.[47] Writing to the Chief Minister of West Bengal, B.C. Roy on 29 June 1953, Nehru confided “If there was a plebiscite, a great majority of Muslims in Kashmir would go against us.” They had “become frightened of the communal elements in Jammu and in India.” He had “this feeling of our losing grip in Kashmir.”[48]

Nehru received a warm welcome when he went to Karachi for talks with Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Bogra from 25-27 July 1953. The Joint Communique of 28 July said that “the Kashmir dispute… was examined in all its various aspects.” The Governor-General Ghulam Mohammed also participated. “Their appeals to me were quite plaintive and almost pathetic….I said that the only safe solution was to accept the status quo with minor modifications….Mohammed Ali did not think that he could put this through,” Nehru informed Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed on 30 July. He mentioned also that communication with Sheikh Abdullah had ceased.[49]

The very next day Nehru gave a directive to his Private Secretary M.O. Mathai which, in guarded language, envisaged Sheikh Abdullah’s dismissal from office as Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir and his arrest.[50]

The coup was carried out on 8 August 1953. Mohammed Ali Bogra rushed to New Delhi and the result of the talks from 17-20 August was a surprising accord on holding a plebiscite. “The plebiscite Administrator should be appointed by the end of April 1954” the Joint Press Communique declared.

It seemed that the two sides were edging towards a regional plebiscite.[51] In its aftermath there was much regret that Pakistan’s acceptance of US military aid upset a most promising development in bilateral relations since December 1947. The 24th Volume of Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru(SWJN) published in 1998 corrects this impression. Nehru informed Bakshi that he had told Pakistan’s Prime Minister that plebiscite “should be on a regional basis.” The results would differ. “Inevitably one has to keep partition in view though we need not talk about it directly…..such a partition will mean the fixation of an international boundary” (SWJN p.329). To Bogra he said on 17 August “Most people were hardly political and only cared for their economic betterment.” He spoke of plebiscite and partition. But would Nehru have countenanced plebiscite in the Valley now that he had lost the Sheikh’s support as well?

His explanations to Bakshi and to the Sadar-e-Riyasat Karan Singh, who had sacked Abdullah, suggest otherwise. Both were “stunned” by the accord. He assured the former: “A lessening of tension between India and Pakistan will inevitably lessen tension internally in Kashmir and give you that chance of working which you must have” (SWJN. Vol. 24 p.341). The latter was reminded that, “Recent events in Kashmir have had a very powerful reaction in other countries. This is against us completely. I am not referring to Pakistan which has grown madly hysterical. If this hysteria continued, it would inevitably produce reactions in Kashmir among the pro-Pakistani elements and their sympathizers. The result would be no period of quiet at all and constant trouble.

“But for some kind of an agreement between us and Pakistan, the matter would inevitably have been raised in the UN immediately and they might well have sent down their representative to Kashmir. All this again would have kept the agitation alive and made it grow… the circumstances, this is a good statement and helps us in trying to get a quieter atmosphere.” ( SWJN, p.347) On this issue Nehru was decisive. He refused to allow Maulana Masoodi to meet Sheikh Abdullah in prison ( SWNJ, p.359).

Mohammed Ali Bogra visited New Delhi again; this time with the Minister for Interior, General Iskandar Mirza. Maulana Azad and G.B. Pant joined Nehru in the talks that were held from 14-17 May 1955. Nehru proposed on 15 May partition of Kashmir and “a final settlement now” in one go. A map was produced. Nehru was against war though “the Indian Army was stronger than the Pakistan army and we would win in the end.” Both visitors said that public opinion in Pakistan would not accept such an accord. On the last day they proposed partition along religious lines and produced their own map. Nehru refused to go beyond Poonch and “a bit of Mirpur.”[52] This was in keeping with his stand that “India would gladly discuss the question of partition” provided Pakistan was agreeable to it. Nehru said this as far back as on 3 May 1952 to US Ambassador Chester Bowles who was reminded on 8 July 1952 that “India had always been interested in partition possibility as outlined in Dixon Report,” provided that it did not affect continuance in office of Abdullah’s Government.[53] Indeed he had told Bogra himself in London in June 1953 that he was against any decision that would “upset present conditions.”[54]

The next landmark is the summit which President Mohammed Ayub Khan organized at Murree on 21 September 1960 when Nehru visited Pakistan to sign the Indus Waters Treaty with the President at Karachi on 19 September 1960. Ayub’s focus was on Kashmir. He had altered Pakistan’s stand fundamentally and publicly ahead of the talks and reiterated it later as well.

On 12 March 1960 Manzur Qadir, the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan, made a pronouncement which marked a radical break from his country’s past stand on Kashmir. In an address to the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs he said that if somebody has a solution “other than ours, let him suggest it. We can at least start thinking about it.” It serves to tabulate the statements for they reveal a line which is of the utmost significance in the present context.

30 June 1960: Dr. Raghu Vira, MP, said at New Delhi, after meeting President Ayub in Karachi that the President no longer insisted on plebiscite as the only solution. Some other “mutually acceptable” way could be found which could “save the face” of both the countries.

22 March 1961: President Ayub said, “If there is any other reasonable solution as would satisfy the people of Kashmir we should be prepared to listen.”

26 March 1961: Foreign Minister Manzur Qadir at Calcutta said, “In a mood of conciliation and for the sake of settlement” Pakistan was willing to consider fresh proposals acceptable to all the three parties.

8 July 1961: Lt.Gen. K.M. Shaikh told newsmen at New Delhi that Pakistan was prepared for a solution other than a plebiscite but such a suggestion should come from India.

But Ayub Khan drew a blank. His memoirs do not provide details of any proposals he might have made. Nehru offered no proposals of his own beyond of course, the status quo.[55]

Anglo-American mediation after the Sino-Indian War of October 1962 arranged for the two leaders to meet again. A joint statement issued on 29 November 1962 recorded agreement on a renewed effort at resolving “differences” on Kashmir and other matters. The talks would “be conducted initially at the ministerial level. At the appropriate stage direct talks will be held between “Nehru and Ayub Khan. The words used were “discussions” and “talks,” not “negotiations.”

This was the genesis of the Swaran Singh – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto talks which were held in six rounds from 26 December 1962 to 16 May 1963. They ended in failure. The talks centered not on plebiscite but on drawing an international boundary through Kashmir. (vide Y.D. Gundevia; Outside the Archives; p.248  He was Foreign Secretary. Brig. D.K. Palit, Director, Military Operations gives details in his memoir War in High Himalayas; p.393). Swaran Singh asked Palit “If I could consider offering a little more of Kashmir Valley because Pakistan’s acceptance of partition would hinge on how much of the Valley we were willing to give up.” Palit demurred to this but Swaran Singh was all for it. He went so far as to offer “the Handwara area” in the northwest of the Valley to Pakistan. Bhutto asked for the entire State bar Kathua.

India was in earnest The Cabinet endorsed the proposal for partition (Palit, p.392.) On offer were around 3,000 square miters of territory, Swaran Singh said on 16 May (The Times of India, 17 May 1963).

On 2 April, 1963 just before the fifth round due on 22 April, American and British envoys in Karachi and New Delhi received a set of instructions containing draft proposals for presentation to both sides, entitled, Elements of A Settlement. The text is reproduced here in full:

“Neither India nor Pakistan can entirely give up its claim to the Kashmir Valley.

(1) Each must have a substantial a position in the Vale.

(2) India and Pakistan must both have assured access to and through the Vale for the defence of their positions to the north and east. These defence arrangements must be such as not to impede a disengagement of Indian and  Pakistani forces   followed in three stages.

(3) Outside the Valley, the economic and strategic interests of the two countries should be recognized, e.g., India’s  position in Ladakh  and Pakistan’s interest in the development of water storage facilities on the Chenab.

(4) The position of the two countries in the Valley must be such as to permit (a) clearly defined arrangements for sovereignty and for the maintenance of law and order; (b) political freedom and some measure of local self-rule for the inhabitants; (c) free movement of the people of the Valley throughout the Vale, and their relatively free movement to other parts of Kashmir and to India and Pakistan; (d) the rapid development by India and Pakistan of tourism in the Kashmir area –  with its important foreign exchange potential for both countries; (e) the effective use in Kashmir of development funds, available from external sources, for such purposes as improving water and forestry resources, the development of communications and small industries, and improving the health and welfare of the people”[56]

This implied a partition of the Kashmir Valley with Pakistan securing the Riasi headwaters of the Chenab. In contrast, the so-called “Chenab solution” is virtually a shorthand for the partition of Kashmir on religious lines. Three of the six districts of the Jammu Province (Doda, Rajauri and Poonch) have a Muslim majority. There are Muslim majority areas in other districts as well and Hindu majority areas in three districts, for instance, Banihal and Gool Guylab Garh in the Udhampur district have a Muslim majority.[57]

The US Ambassador J.K. Galbraith favoured a line “somewhere between Wular Lake and Srinagar.” It is not unlikely that, if pressed Nehru would have gone beyond the Handwara salient and accepted partition of the Valley if it left Srinagar on the Indian side. The obscenity was averted; mercifully.

In Pakistan frustration, impatience and alarm at India’s growing military strength, unrealistic assessment of Pakistan’s strength and underestimation of India’s will and capabilities combined to inspire the military ventures of Operation Gibraltar and Grand Slam. Bhutto’s letter to Ayub Khan on 12 May 1965 spoke of “the relative superiority of the military forces of Pakistan in terms of quality and equipment….this does not mean that there cannot be a general war of limited duration….India’s capacity increases with the passage of every single day…..”[58]

The war that ensued ended after the Security Council adopted resolution (S/Res./211 (1965) on 20 September 1965. Para 4 envisaged “steps….to assist towards a settlement of the political problem underlying the present conflict.” No such assistance was offered. Mediation by the Soviet Union was accepted by both sides. The upshot was the Tashkent Declaration of 10 January 1966 which recorded that “Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and each of the two sides put forth its respective position.”

Pakistan’s recourse to war in order to force India to settle the dispute had failed. Its negotiating strength declined. India’s stand, difficult at best of times, hardened. At Tashkent, Bhutto sought “self-executing mechanism” to resolve the dispute which implied readiness on both sides to work it; to compromise. India offered a no-war pact and a Treaty of Friendship pledging the two sides to resolve disputes “by peaceful means” and “nominate representatives” who would “endeavour to reach agreements and report to their respective Heads of Government.” Bhutto rejected it.[59] C.S. Jha, India’s Foreign Secretary, revealed that it was sent on 4 January but “within an hour it was bodily (sic.) returned to us” (From Banding to Tashkent; p.231).

In October 1966, during the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly, Swaran Singh made the following proposal to the Pakistani Foreign Minister for resuming the effort to resolve India-Pakistan problems:

“(1) that ‘technocrats’ of the two countries meet in Geneva to hold talks on Kashmir, arms reduction, the Farraka Dam problem, economic co-operation and also to reach an agreement on rotation  candidatures in UN elections beginning with Pakistan’s support for a Security Council seat for India that year. In return India would support Pakistan for the seat to be vacated by Japan the following year, and

“(2) that meetings should be held in complete secrecy.”

At the post-Tashkent meeting in Rawalpindi in March 1966, Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmad had suggested to the Indian side the idea of holding meetings on Kashmir in secret in case it wanted to avoid problems with public opinion. President Ayub had indicated to Indira Gandhi that if India was shy of holding open talks on Kashmir, Pakistan would consider any other procedure that India might suggest. It got bogged down on primacy of Kashmir over other issues.

In the beginning of 1967, speaking at the Institute of International Affairs in Karachi, Ayub Khan suggested that India and Pakistan would do well to agree on a mutual reduction of their armed strength. Taking this up, the new India Foreign Minister, Muhammad Ali Chagla, wrote to his Pakistani counterpart Sharifuddin Pirzada, proposing talks on the subject. Pakistan responded by asking for simultaneous talks on Kashmir, a reaction that cannot have surprised India. The Indian Foreign Minister treated it as a rejection of his proposal, but declared nevertheless that India was ready to discuss all questions between India and Pakistan, including the Kashmir question, at any time and place mutually convenient.

Chagla proposed the following wording: “Talks would be earnest and meaningful and on a confidential and continuing basis. A sincere effort would be made by both sides in a friendly spirit and in conformity with the Tashkent Declaration to seek solutions of various problems existing between the two countries including Jammu and Kashmir which Pakistan regards as a basic dispute between the two countries.”

Pakistan’s High Commissioner instead suggested the following: “Talks would be earnest and meaningful and on a confidential basis. A sincere effort would be made by both sides to seek a solution of various disputes and problems existing between India and Pakistan including the basic dispute regarding Jammu and Kashmir, in a friendly spirit.”

In an excellent account of these exchanges, Iqbal Akhund asks “was this an opportunity lost? It may seem that the distinction between describing Kashmir as a ‘problem’ or a ‘dispute’ was a quibble, but against the background and history of India-Pakistan negotiations on the subject, these were code words that indicated whether India was prepared to negotiate a settlement of the dispute or merely hold a general discussion on the issue. It is another question whether we were right in linking the subject of arms reduction” with Kashmir.[60]

The Simla Agreement of July 1972 marks another important landmark; sadly after yet another war, which concerned East Pakistan. But at the outset Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said on 24 November 1971 that India would not enter into “another Tashkent type agreement” while on 21 December Foreign Minister Swaran Singh spoke of “some” adjustments to the ceasefire line.[61] On 17 January 1972 Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram demanded “a permanent international border with Pakistan” (Indian Express, 18 January 1972).

Out of the blue, in 1978, Foreign Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee alleged a secret oral agreement between the leaders at Simla for his own partisan reasons. It is beyond the purview of this essay to go into this. The issue was revived by P.N. Dhar, Indira Gandhi’s  Principal Secretary then, in an article in The Times of India on 4 April 1995. He repeated his version in his memoir.[62] The core of his thesis is that Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met at 6 p.m. on 2 July. India sought to raise the cease-fire line “to the level of a de jure border.” The article claimed that Bhutto had “also agreed that the line would be gradually endowed with the characteristics of an international border. The italicized words are direct quotes in the article as well as in the book. Abdul Sattar, former Foreign Minister who was present at Simla, contested Dhar’s version in a detailed account with texts of rival drafts.[63]

In this writer’s opinion a secret oral understanding was concluded; but, by its very terms, it did not partition Kashmir. To say that A has “the characteristics” of B is, indeed, to imply and assert that A is not B. Moreover the accord was manifestly a provisional one to be ratified at another summit. That never took place. Para 6 of the Agreement is explicit. “Both Governments agree that their respective Heads will meet again at a mutually convenient time in the future and that, in the meanwhile, the representatives of the two sides will meet to discuss further the modalities and arrangements for the establishment of durable peace and normalization of relations, including the questions of repatriation of prisoners of war and civilian internees, a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir and the resumption of diplomatic relations.”

If “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir” was confidently linked to a host of other issues, including resumption of diplomatic relations, it was because the parties had struck a deal; but it was yet to be finalized. “Heads of Government will meet again.” Bhutto repeatedly pleaded that Indira Gandhi visit Pakistan, the last such plea was made on 18 December 1972. Ahead of the Simla Pact, Sheikh Abdullah had on 5 April 1972 opposed partition of Kashmir. He also objected to the absence of Kashmir’s representatives at Simla. That was on 20 June and 4 July. Indira Gandhi denied Vajpayee’s version on 15 April 1978. So did the Ministry of External Affairs on 10 April 1978.[64]

The oral understanding was of the kind common in diplomacy. It was of limited import and was contingent. The Simla Pact did not settle Kashmir nor did the oral understanding. The Pact was a “do-it yourself” kit. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan told the National Assembly on 3 June 1986 that neither side invoked Para 6 to propose talks on Kashmir (Pakistan Times; 4 June 1986). In India’s eyes it froze the status quo. In Pakistan’s eyes, it acknowledged the need for “a final settlement.” Simla became a myth and a mantra.

Pakistan invoked it for the first time formally on 14 July 1992 in a letter by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao, twenty years after the pact and three years after militancy had erupted in Kashmir. Popular alienation was created by India; the arms and training came from Pakistan. A responsible Pakistani journalist M.A. Niazi revealed in the Lahore daily The Nation that in embarking on this course Gen. Zia had reckoned with the possibility of war with India. It was a cold-blooded decision. Reporting from Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), in the issue of 21 May 1990, he wrote that its ruling party “credits Zia with laying the foundations for the present uprising” in Kashmir. On 31 May he reported that the “operations mounted during the late President Zia-ul-Haq’s time caused fierce debate in policy-making circles with opponents warning that such activities would cause war.” Rao’s answer was to invite attention to the Simla Agreement’s insistence on peaceful methods.

On 24 November 1993 India and Pakistan agreed that Foreign Secretaries should meet when “all aspects of Jammu and Kashmir will be discussed.” The Non-Papers they exchanged in January 1994 reflected the old divide.

However, the Kashmir question, dormant since 1972, had now become alive. There was no mistaking the self-assertion of the Kashmiris. In its wake followed three major events.

On 23 June 1997 at Islamabad, the Foreign Secretaries agreed “to set up a mechanism including working groups at appropriate levels” to address eight specified issues “in an integrated manner.” Peace and Security and Kashmir were to be dealt with by the Foreign Secretaries. (The Hindu, 24 June 1999). The rest comprising Siachen, Sir Creek Wular Lake etc., were to be dealt by others. Prime Ministers Inder Gujral and Nawaz Sharif had met earlier at Male on 12 May and agreed on a working group on Kashmir. Gujral developed second thoughts on return to New Delhi. Eventually even the watered down accord of 23 June was not worked out. At Lahore on 21 February 1999, Prime Minsiters Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif issued a Declaration and a Joint Statement on CBMs while pledging themselves to resolve Kashmir. A back channel had been instituted in September 1998 comprising R.K. Mishra and Niaz A. Naik. The Kargil crisis overtook the Declaration, before its hollowness could be exposed.

The Agra Summit in July 2001 did not seek to settle Kashmir. But in line with earlier efforts since 1966, it sought to evolve a procedure for its solution. A format for talks from heads of government downwards on all issues was laid down. It was wrecked when India changed its mind on Para 1 of the Draft Declaration agreed between Foreign Ministers Abdul Sattar and Jaswant Singh. In his forthcoming book on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, to be published shortly by Oxford University Press, Karachi, and excerpts from which the author Abdul Sattar kindly let this writer read, there is a full, incontrovertible account of this sorry episode. The agreed revised para read: “Progress towards settlement of J & K issue would be conducive towards normalization and will further the establishment of a cooperative relationship in a mutually reinforcing manner.” This writer published the documents in Frontline of 29 July 2005 in an article entitled “The Truth about Agra”.

President Pervez Musharraf gave a detailed account of Agra in his interview to this writer (Frontline, 25 August 2006). The President and Prime Minister Vajpayee agreed to resume the dialogue on 6 January 2004. In May 2004 the Congress returned to power. In a major pronouncement the new Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told  Jonathan Power in an interview, published on the very day he took oath of office, “short of redrawing of boundaries, the Indian establishment can live with anything”.(The Statesman, 2 May 2004). He has since elaborated on his criteria of accord. President Pervez Musharraf has done likewise in a series of pronouncements. They agreed at New York on 24 September 2004 “that possible options for a peaceful negotiated settlement” of Kashmir “should be explored in a sincere spirit and purposeful manner.” Already on 18 December 2003 President Musharraf had said he was willing that the UN resolutions be “left aside” in the talks. He has proposed ideas on demilitarization, joint management, self-governance and the irrelevance of the Line of Control. In his interview to this writer on 1 August 2006, he elaborated on his ideas,. The gap between them and those expressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Amritsar on 24 March and at Srinagar on 25 May is pre-eminently bridgeable. For the first time since December 1947, there is a real prospect of a successful summit.

It is perfectly possible to reconcile the vital interests of each side. In 2006 no Government of India can possibly allow Kashmir to secede and survive in office. That is true also of a Government of Pakistan which settles on the basis of the Line of Control. Kashmiris yearn for reunion. Reconciliation is possible by India accepting Pakistan’s juridical, as distinct from territorial, interest in Kashmir’s self-governance as the writer has defined in  “A Working Paper on Kashmir” (Frontline; 10 March 2006). The criteria formulated by the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India are reconcilable.

But there are six pre-requisites for success; Will and goodwill at the top; determination to overcome obstacles; diplomatic creativity; patience in a long process; political stability of both governments; and skill in forging a domestic consensus.

Above all, both must shed self-righteousness. The Kashmir story has no heroes and no villains; only victims – two generations of people of the sub-continent, if not more in the days ahead. The leaders were great men but the abnormal times warped their judgment.

Cynicism on both sides was rife at the outset. There was not a spark of even enlightened self-interest. Playing a weak hand, Jinnah sought the impossible. Nehru rushed into Kashmir knowing that for all his popularity Sheikh Abdullah could command little support on accession to India. To his friend and India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Sir Prakasa, he admitted on 25 December 1947 “the fact is that Kashmir is of the most vital significance to India as well as to Pakistan. There lies the rub.” He added; “Kashmir is going to be a drain on our resources but it is going to be a greater drain on Pakistan. In a military sense we are stronger.”[65]

Little did he realize that it affected secularism in both countries, promoted chauvinism and created myths which his successors could not dispel whenever they tried, however, gingerly to settle the issue. Both sides tried to settle Kashmir by war and failed; in 1965 and 1972.

Where the future status of a territory is in issue, the accepted mechanism is plebiscite. Elections are no substitute, least of all rigged ones. Witness the referenda in European countries on the constitution of the European Union. It is another matter that 1965 rendered plebiscite impossible. India did hold a plebiscite in Junagadh on 20 February 1948, and one in Sikkim (the special poll”) on 14 April 1975. But, not in Kashmir as it had pledged. Exasperated, Pakistan went to war in 1965.

Now plebiscite is dead. But not the pledge to abide by the people’s wishes in the conditions of 2006 bearing in mind the equities that have arisen.

It is easier to come to terms with realities if one realizes that both sides failed in their strategic aims and erred tragically in their tactical calculations. Jinnah failed to secure a Third Force of Princely States, independent of India and Pakistan. India emerged far stronger and united after resolving the issues of Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir by armed force. It succeeded in the first two, but failed in Kashmir. Nehru’s Note of 25 August 1952 was based on the assumption that, with time both Pakistan and the people of Kashmir will acquiesce in the status quo. Fifty years and more neither of them accepts the status quo. India has, of course, the fig-leaf of legality here, to cover the nudity of force. It is only fair to recall that this fig-leaf of the Instrument of Accession was generously – thoughtlessly – presented to it by none other than Mohammed Ali Jinnah as the Muslim Conference of Kashmir warned in 1947. There is no sign whatever of the people’s alienation abating. They yearn for an Indo-Pak settlement and for the State’s reunification.

Tactically, too, both sides erred tragically. Pakistan took over Jinnah’s legalism and what Kennan called “the moralistic – legalitic” approach. Time was running out but its Foreign Minister Sir Muhammed  Zafrullah Khan reveled in nit-picking on the UNCIP’s proposals. Till 1951 the record on rejection of the UNCIP and the UN Mediators’ proposals shows the honours to be evenly divided. In a real sense Zafrullah Khan was Pakistan’s Krishna Menon. Exasperated, Pakistan adopted “confrontation,” a concept borrowed from Sukarno’s approach towards Malaysia, and eventually went to war in 1965. The contrast with Austria’s subtle diplomacy with Italy on South Tyrol is glaring. A militarily superior India should not have been expected to yield to such tactics. Defeat in plebiscite would have been humiliating. A policy of conciliation, coupled with relentless plea for a Kashmir settlement was a better course. But, of course, here also, as the record shows, there was slender prospect of success; for Nehru had ruled out plebiscite in 1948. He effected a retreat in four stages. First, nit-picking on UN’s proposals discarded privately in 1948. Next, plebiscite was rejected publicly in 1955- 56. Then mediation was rejected. “These things must be discussed only by the two parties concerned” (2 February 1962). In the last stage, even meaningful bilateral talks were ruled out. The status quo must be accepted.

Here is the forty years’ record of mindless intransigence:

  1. 1. Nehru and Ayub Khan agreed to talks ( 29 November 1962). The very next day Nehru rejected “anything that involved upsetting the present arrangements.”
  2. 2. 6 May 1967; India was “ready to discuss all questions….including the Kashmir question.” Four days later, Indira Gandhi said: “There is nothing to negotiate on Kashmir.”
  3. 3. The Simla Agreement (2 July 1972), para 6 envisages “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir.” But that is the name of a State of the Union of India. The expression makes no sense because  omitted were the words that could have invested it with sense: “dispute,” “issue,” “problem” or “question” is what you settle.

For two decades neither side touched para 6 and demanded negotiations.  As P.N. Dhar has noted: “The Simla agreement got gradually eroded” (The Telegraph; 13 July 2001). We were told Simla ordains bilateral talks on Kashmir but it is not a subject for negotiations.

  1. 4. On 24 November 1993, it was announced that foreign secretaries would “meet and all aspects of Jammu and Kashmir will be discussed” – its history, demography, and so on. The D-word was kept out.
  2. 5. The joint statement issued in Islamabad on 23 June 1997 listed eight issues and envisaged “a mechanism, including working groups at appropriate levels to address all these issue in an integrated manner.” To foreign secretaries were assigned “Jammu and Kashmir” and “Peace and Security including CBMs (Confidence Building Measures),” besides monitoring of progress on the rest which other officials were to discuss.

India refused to set up a working group on Kashmir or even hold a substantive discussion on it at a session proper. It insisted, instead, on talks in a “meeting” in a “session” which tackled all the issues in one go – anything to avoid a substantive discussion of Kashmir as a political problem by itself. Following talks between Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif in New York on 23 September 1998, the 1997 accord was made “operational.” Talks were held in November 1998. The Lahore Declaration of 21 February 1999 reflected some progress though only in the preamble – “the resolution of all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, is essential.” So, Kashmir was an “issue” after all whose “resolution is essential” for peace between India and Pakistan. Since no other “issue” was so characterized, it is hard to contest the obvious – the half-century-long “dispute” is very much the “core” or main issue. Vajpayee also agreed to set up a back channel specifically on Kashmir.

Fifty years had been wasted in an intransigent resolve to refuse any substantive talks on Kashmir. Therein lies the significance of the Joint Statement by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at New York on 25 September 2004. “They also addressed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed that possible options for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issue should be explored in a sincere spirit and purposeful manner.” Both sides have since defined criteria for accord in a constructive spirit. Considerable common ground has been developed. Now is the time to return to the path of conciliation.

Initial failures should not daunt. A framework, once settled, can help later even if rejected instantly. Summitry has its dangers but as Henry A Kissinger points out “The advantage of a summit meeting is that the participants possess the authority to settle…..the possibility of using summit conferences to mark a new departure in the relations of states should not be underestimated.”

[1] The author is an eminent Indian Scholar, legal expert and columnist.

[1] George F, Kennan, Russia and the West, p. 372, Mentor, 1961 (emphasis added).

[2] Edward Thompson, The Making of the Indian Princes, p. 285, 1943

[3] D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma, Vol. 8, p. 79.

[4] Accounts and Papers, East India;  Papers relating to Kashmir. C. 6072 LIV Lord Kimburley, the Secretary of  State for India, to the Governor General, on 23 May 1884.

[5] Jinnah Papers, First Series; Volume VIII, Editor-in-Chief Z.H.Zaidi, Qaid-i- Azam Papers Project, Government of Pakistan, distr. Oxford University Press, Karachi, p.14,

[6] The Times of India, 16 June 1947, quoted in A. G. Noorani, “The Kashmir Question,” p. 23, 1964.

[7] Jinnah Papers, Vol 8, p. 31

[8] Ibid., Vol 9, p. 178

[9] Ibid., p.215.

[10] Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Vol, 1, “New Light on Kashmir,”  p.32, edited by Durga Das.

[11] Ibid., pp. 45-46.

[12] Ibid., p.54.

[13] Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, The Emergence of Pakistan, p. 297,  Columbia University Press, 1968.

[14] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol. 4, p.269,  edited by S. Gopal,  Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, distr. Oxford University Press.

[15] V. P. Menon, The Story of the Integration of the Indian States, p.113,  Orient Longmans.

[16] H.V.Hodson, The Great Divide, p.431, Oxford University Press, Karachi.

[17] The Kashmir Question, edited by K. Sarwar Hasan, pp. 16-17, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

[18] R.J. Moore, Making the New Commonwealth, P. 50, Oxford University Press.

[19] Jinnah Papers, Vol. VIII, p.322.

[20] Alastair Lamb, Incomplete Partition, p. 209,  Oxford University Press, Karachi.

[21] The full text is reproduced in Sardar  Patel’s  correspondence vol. 1 pp. 72-81.

[22] The Kashmir Question, p. 76.

[23] Ibid., p. 86.

[24] Robert A. Huttenback, Kashmir and the Raj 1847-1947, p. 174,  OUP, Karachi, vide also Lamb, Incomplete Partition, p.220.

[25] Ibid., p. 226 vide also Alan Campbell Johnson, Mission with Mountbatten, pp. 250-251.

[26] Hasan Zaheer, The Times and Trial of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy 1951, p. 121, OUP, Karachi vide p. 120 for the entries in the Notebook and footnote 188 at p. 159 for the archival reference.

[27] Ibid., p.121.

[28] Jinnah Papers, Vol. IV, pp 41-48 and 195-197, respectively.

[29] Chaudhry Muhammad Ali , The Emergence of Pakistan, p. 298.

[30] Notebook pp.299-300.

[31] R.J. Moore, Making the New Commonwealth, pp 57-58.

[32] For a United India: Speeches of Sardar Patel 1947-1950, p.11, Publication Division Government of India.

[33] Larry  Collins & Dominique Lapierre, Mountbatten and Independent India 16 August 1947 – 28 June 1948. The minutes cover the period 26 November 1947 – 19 March 1948, pp. 141-178. Nehru’s remarks are at p.146.

[34] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol. 4, p.337.

[35]Edited by Sonia Gandhi,  Two Alone, Two Together: Letters between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehre 1922- 1964, p. 517, Penguin Books (suspension marks indicating deletion are in the original.

[36] Alastair Lamb, Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir 1947, pp. 143-144,  Oxford Books.

[37] Hodson, The Great Divide, p.474.

[38] UNCIP’s First Interim Report, s/11oo p.107

[39] Ibid., pp. 93 and 98.

[40] Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, vol. 1, p. 249.

[41] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. 9, p. 198, ed. S. Gopal, Nehru Memorial Fund, OUP, Second Series.

[42] Ibid, vol. 19, pp.322-330.

[43] Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, p. 317, Patel’s letter of 3 July 1950,

[44] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. 15, part II, p.281.

[45] Kashmir Papers: Reports of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (June 1948 to December 1949), Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, India.

[46] Reports on Kashmir by United Nations Representatives, Government of Pakistan.

[47] For details vide A.G. Noorani’s The Kashmir Question 1964, pp.63-64.

[48] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehro, vol. 22, pp.204-5.

[49] Ibid., vol. 23, pp. 300-303.

[50] Ibid., pp 303-5., vide the writer’s article “How and Why Nehru and Abdullah Fell Out,” Economic and Political Weekly, 30 January 1999.

[51] Kashmir: Meetings and Correspondence between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, Government of India.

[52] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol.. 28, pp. 246-263.

[53] Ibid., vol. 18, pp. 392 and 430.

[54] Ibid., vol. 22, p. 194.

[55] Ayub Khan, Friends Not Masters, p. 125.

[56] Foreign Relations of the United States; South Asia; 1961-1963, vol.  xix p. 534.

[57] K. Sarwar Hasan’s compilation  The Kashmir Question has the text of the joint communiques and statements by both sides after the talks ended pp. 397-404. Neither side erred on the side of candour. D. C> Jha’s Indo-Pakistan Relations (1960-1965) has an extremely useful record of  press reports of the talks.

[58] White Paper of the Jammu and Kashmir Dispute, p.65,  Government of Pakistan, 1977.

[59] Ibid., p.82.

[60] Iqbal Akhund, Memoirs of a Bystander, pp.49-51, OUP.

[61] Bangladesh Documents, vol. II, p. 547, Government of India.

[62] Indira Gandhi ‘The Emergency’ and Indian Democracy, pp. 189-197, OUP, 2000.

[63] Simla Pact: Negotiation under Duress, Journal of the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad, Autumn 1995, vol. xii, No. 4, pp. 28-57.

[64] A. G. Noorani,  “Myths and Mantras on the Simla Pact, 1972, Frontline, 14 July 1995.

[65] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. 4, pp. 346-7.

A. G. Noorani is a celebrated Indian columnist and author.

2 Comments on Bilateral Negotiation on Kaskmir: Unlearnt Lesson

  1. Excellent post. Must be bookmarked:)

  2. Really good article. People should read this.

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