The Kashmir gambit

India’s efforts are in stark contrast to what Pakistan has done in PoJK

Lt Gen Prakash Chand katoch (retd)
Distinguished fellow, United Service Institution of India

WHEN Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared a unilateral ceasefire on April 21, 1948, despite the invaders fleeing, it gave Pakistan a border with China it never had. The British conspired in the invasion of J&K through Gen Rob Lockhart, Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army, and Gen Douglas Gracey, Pakistan’s army chief, keeping Nehru in the dark and Jinnah in the picture, to ensure that the Pakistan army got a foothold. Churchill instructed Gen Gracey to ‘keep a piece of India’ so that both countries would keep fighting in perpetuity. British officers of the Pakistan army led the infiltrators into Ladakh, but the Nubra Guards made them retreat. On Churchill’s instructions, Gen Gracey perpetrated a massacre and the fall of the Indian garrison at Skardu, which threatened Kargil and Leh, for which the Indian Army had to mount attacks, also to secure Zoji La, with more loss of lives.

The British plan was to keep Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan to fight the communist threat of Russia and China on the borders of Kashmir. The Gilgit Scouts head, Major WA Brown, defected to the Pakistani side, handing Gilgit-Baltistan over to Jinnah. It’s an irony that Pakistan today is a protégé of communist China, proliferated nuclear technology to North Korea and seeks a defence pact with Russia. In the wake of Pakistani aggression after Independence, the Maharaja of J&K signed the instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, and legally joined India. However, a unilateral ceasefire left 78,114 sq km of Indian territory in the illegal occupation of Pakistan or what became Pakistan-occupied J&K.  Of this, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km, comprising Shaksgam Valley to China in 1963, where it constructed roads and established garrisons and posts.

The historic revocation of Article 370 sent shock waves in the Pakistani establishment, opposition parties in India, J&K politicians and separatists. In imposing Article 370, Nehru also didn’t follow the democratic route, keeping his Home Minister in the dark.  Article 370 severely restricted the rights of migrants, denied voting rights and prohibited anyone from outside J&K from buying land or settling down there. Compare this with the rest of India where two migrants rose to become PM — IK Gujral and Manmohan Singh.  Pakistan’s effort to term the removal of special status of J&K as ‘illegal’ has been rebuffed. The UN rejected Pakistan’s plea to intervene, advising it to resolve the issue peacefully under the 1972 Simla Agreement. The Taliban, too, have rejected Pakistan’s efforts to link Kashmir with the situation in Afghanistan and the US pullout.

India’s action has opened up opportunities of investments, development and jobs. An investors’ summit is scheduled to be held in J&K by the CII under the aegis of the State Administration Council (SAC). The Trident Group has announced an investment of Rs 1,000 crore in J&K. More are likely to follow suit. Yet, the bogey of a deliberate demographic invasion of J&K is being raised. Ironically, no voices were raised when 4,000 Rohingya were settled in Jammu during UPA-II despite Article 370 and despite India not being a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees. There were no protests even after IB reports of involvement of Rohingya in terrorist acts, including the Pak-supported JeM terror attack on the Sunjwan Army camp in 2018.

Pakistan has accused India of changing Kashmir’s constitutional status, but the only remaining issue is that of PoJK, apart from the territories of the original state of J&K under China’s illegal occupation. The 1948 UN resolution, vide which Pakistan harps on plebiscite, is dead. This resolution required Pakistan to withdraw its security forces from J&K before the plebiscite, but Pakistan beefed up its forces. Moreover, this resolution stands superseded by the Simla Agreement. Following the 2004 ceasefire agreement, Pakistan moved terrorist training camps, comprising Sunnis, into Gilgit-Baltistan to change the demography and the Shia population has come down from 70% to 50%.

In 2009-10, Gen Pervez Musharraf engineered the first-ever opinion poll on both sides of the LoC, funded by Gaddafi’s son and conducted by the Royal Institute of International Affair, UK, in conjunction with King’s College. The results astounded Musharraf: 98% of the people in J&K didn’t wish to join Pakistan and 50% of the people in PoJK didn’t want to remain with Pakistan. As a prelude to signing the pact on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in April 2015, Pakistan is accused of having leased Gilgit-Baltistan (72,971 sq km of PoJK) to China for 50 years.

The China-Pakistan collusion in Gilgit-Baltistan has brought misery to the locals, many of whom petitioned the UN in 2009-10 that they should be part of India. In an open letter, they stressed that the territory is a ‘compelling part of the state of J&K’ and Pakistan’s status is only of an ‘assumed supervisor’. Dr Senge Sering, a prominent leader of Gilgit-Baltistan, has hailed the scrapping of Article 370.

Investment and industry in J&K will bring people from other parts of India to that region, which will boost development and national integration. By no means will it be akin to the demographic invasion of PoJK by Pakistan, or by China in China-occupied Tibet, overwhelming six million Tibetans with seven million Han Chinese.

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