Kashmir issue: Back to the future?

Fissures in Gupkar alliance after Kashmiri leader’s Delhi visit
[The so-called Gupkar Alliance of J&K parties]

On Thursday June 24, the leaders of all political parties active in Jammu & Kashmir, but especially the Srinagar Vale, will gather in Delhi at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There will be the old knowns — the Abdullahs (Farooq & Omar) of the National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but also smaller outfits such as Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party. Apni Party, in particular, promises political fireworks in the future. It has been building up its cadre and engaging in mass contact programmes before 5 August 2019 when Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution were abrogated, earning for the dissenting top echelon of the NC and PDP a longish stint of house arrest. It cleared the political space for Apni Party to put down roots. Bukhari hopes to do in the Valley what Aam Admi Party of Arvind Kejriwal did to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress in the capital — decimate them, and force their dynastic leaders into retirement, replacing them with grassroots representatives who have found their voice and a role unconstrained by the activities of the usual favour seekers and entrenched supporters of the NC and PDP.

Having participated virtually lastweek with the G-7 leaders meeting in Cornwall, UK, who emphasized the importance to international peace and order of democratically-run states, Modi wanted to be on the same page as them. Never mind that democracy may not be faring all that well in the West! The defeated Donald Trump’s residual but resilient support in America is combining with the doggedly uncooperative Republican party in opposition to erect institutional and procedural barriers to voting by minorities in all American elections. The French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face when gladhanding in a crowd, etc. Modi could have wagged a finger at them. Instead Modi addressed the unease in certain American circles about the Kashmir issue, by now calling an all J&K parties’ meeting and, as goodwill gesture, even released an aide of Mehbooba Mufti’s, Sartaj Madni.

Pakistani press and even some sections here have interpreted this Modi initiative as a precursor to the BJP government restoring the status quo ante in Kashmr with Art 370-35A back in place and a return of the tried, familiar and failed situation of the past. See https://tribune.com.pk/story/2306115/restoration-of-old-iiojk-status-on-cards. This is a gross misreading of the political tea leaves, and underestimates Modi’s nous.

By junking 370, India had passed the point of “no return” the day it was abrogated. Pakistan, the Abdullahs and the Muftis, however, have been slow to catch on. What the Prime Minister has in mind with the June 24 meeting is to encourage all the parties to participate in the separate elections in the three units — Valley, Jammu, and Ladakh, of what once constituted Indian J&K. There are no problems with Union Territories — Jammu and Ladakh.

The Valley potentially posed a problem but not anymore. That is because of a new party in Kashmir affairs, the Apni Party, which has gained traction. Without Bukhari’s outfit in the political mix NC and PDP had negative leverage in terms of the Abdullahs and Mehbooba refusing to fight elections. But with Apni Party eager to test its budding political support in the Valley, NC and PDP cannot afford to sit out an election and lose what chance they still might have to reestablish their political bonafides, presence and even their duopoly in the Muslim majority Srinagar region.

Nothing has so decisively helped Modi to advance his plan of permanently trifurcating not just J&K — ridding the system of the Art 370 anomaly was only the first step, but the politics of J&K than the emergence of Bukhari’s Apni Party.

A former Finance and Education minister in Mehbooba Mufti’s government, Bukhari was kicked out, in 2019 perhaps, because of his ambitions, and promptly founded the Apni Party which won almost instant support from the BJP. So, it is not unfair to conclude that Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari and his party are beneficiaries of Modi’s calculus. Apni party spun off from the PDP in March 2019. But Bukhari has denied he is in cahoots with the BJP. Indeed, he has publicly made common cause with the NC and PDP on the matter of restoration of statehood of J&K. He explained his two meeings with Modi — once in 2019 and another a year later as an attempt by him to convince the PM to fill the vacant government posts in J&K with locals, and to finesse the domicile rights to prevent the unhindered influx of “outsiders” into the province.

Restoring J&K’s status as a single state entity is unachievable, but even more so is the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A, which are history. But Bukhari has been careful not to demand the latter! In real terms though Bukhari is likely to accept the formal territorial and political trifurcation of J&K, if he can assume the “gaddi” in Srinagar (with no latitude for the Valley government to move to Jammu in the winters!). Whether just the Valley will be designated ‘Kashmir’ is a loaded issue, but one that Modi and Amit Shah can use as leverage against the NC and PDP leadership — better to be elected and referred to as Chief Minister of Kashmir than Chief Minister of ‘Srinagar Valley’, surely.

This is precisely the denouement Islamabad fears the most, the reason for Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi repeatedly internationalizing the Kashmir issue and especially the possibility of Delhi reconfiguring Kashmir demographically by settling outsiders in the Valley to tip the balance against the Muslim population, and demanding that the UN Security Council take up the matter and bar India from proceeding to do what’s in Modi’s mind to do.

The trouble is Pakistan cannot reasonably make that case because the only relevant Security Council Resolution No. 47 of April 21, 1948 requires as prerequisite for holding a “free and impartial plebiscite” the removal of all Pakistani natives — military, police and others as of date from the erstwhile ‘princely kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir” inclusive of Hunza, Gilgit and Baltistan (since referred to by Pakistan as ‘Northern Areas’). The second step was for India to remove its military but to maintain a skeletal police force to carry out constabulary functions (law & order). The final step was for a plebiscite under the UN’s aegis to ascertain the will of the peoples of all of J&K including Northern Areas. Pakistan never removed its armed forces then or at anytime soon thereafter, until now, 70-odd years later, when that prior condition, because it cannot be met, has rendered Resolution 47 moot.

In fact, in the early 1950s — I think it was 1954 — General Ayub Khan issued orders for the ‘Azad Kashmir forces’ (AKF) to be regularized and integrated into the Pakistan army. The special status of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the validity of UN Resolution 47 ended then and there. The August 2019 Art 370 abrogation only belatedly completed that process begun by Ayub Khan. This was so because AKF were made up by large remnants of the tribal Pashtun ‘raider’ force who never returned to their homes in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and settled down in POK. This raider force under then Brigadier Akbar Khan, it may be recalled, invaded the princely kingdom at Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s behest in September-October 1947. And then the worst thing that could happen from India’s point of view, happened. As advised by his nominee as free India’s first Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru decided senselessly to refer the dispute to the UN for resolution. That fatal decision is mainly to blame for the mess India finds itself in. It owns a truncated J&K minus the strategically significant Northern Areas.

For the Pakistan Foreign Office, therefore, to keep squawking interminably about getting the UN to compel India to respect and to comply with the provisions of that outdated Resolution would be understandable if Pakistan government agreed somehow and credibly to rid POK of 30%-40% of its population which can be traced genealogically to the original raider force members. How that’s to be done is anyone’s guess! Once that happens India can agree to the UN-mandated plebiscite which, given the disaffection of the mostly shia peoples of Hunza, Gilgit and Baltistan, will result in most of that population voting to merge with India. Along with the bulk votes from the Ladakh and Jammu areas, the results of the plebisite will be in India’s favour — assuming every last vote in the Valley goes Pakistan’s way.

But the orginator of the idea to treat the different regions of the 1947 J&K as discrete geographic units for the purpose of ascertaining the wishes of the various peoples is not Modi but rather, Sir Owen Dixon — an Aussie judge appointed by the Security Council to obtain conditions on the ground to facilitate a plebiscite. Dixon suggested that for the ease of conducting it, it be carried out in geographically distinct territorial blocs. He concluded after touring both sides of Jammu & Kashmir that a majority of the people in Muzaffarabad and adjoining areas and in the Northern Areas were inclined to join Pakistan, while Ladakh and Jammu were for merging wth India, and the population of the Srinagar Valley was undecided but leaning towards India. Other than the changed attitude of the people of Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan, plebiscite votes 70 years later would generally fall along the lines Dixon foresaw!

Incidentally, India agreed to Dixon’s plan of thus electorally demarcating J&K for the purposes of the plebicscite, Pakistan opposed it on the grounds that Nehru had promised a plebiscite “in all of Jammu & Kashmir”!

This bit of history is to highlight the sheer ridiculousness of Pakistan’s demand. But it has not kept Qureishi and his predecessors in office from periodically making it. The Permanent Five, including Pakistan’s so-called “iron brother” China, in the Security Council are aware that this is an insurmountable problem and Resolution 47 is a dead letter, a no-go solution, and that no one can do anything about it other than to carry on disregarding Pakistan’s case for a defunct Resolution. It is akin to a hopeless and futile effort to disinter the body of a long dead relative, and to try and revive it! Then again Islamabad apparently believes in miracles! Apni Party, National Conference and the People’s Democratic party too, but for different reasons, would have to do the same — believe in miracles — to think Modi will return J&K to its status and condition prior to August 5, 2019.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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36 Responses to Kashmir issue: Back to the future?

  1. Amit says:

    Pakistan is a pawn now in China’s hand for the most part. Their economy is so bad that they need China and China will extract a pound of flesh for supporting it. Even though normalising relations with India is in both countries’ interests, Pakistan will never do that while it believes in its fantasies about getting J&K back. The narratives in Pakistan are just too strong for anyone to sell what Musharraf and Vajpayee had proposed (or at least that’s the impression I get by reading the Dawn’s columns for the most part). So the only option for India is to go ahead with its plans for trifurcating the region according to its wishes and bring back political normalcy, whatever that may be.

    Of course this means that the collusive threat from China and Pakistan will increase and become more real. However, an economically strong India can handle that. Along with alliances for the oceans and ISR. So once again, if India needs to do what it wants, it absolutely has to grow economically strong. Then, it can take punitive actions against both China and Pakistan as they become more aggressive with India. Otherwise, we are in for some dangerous times.

  2. Rudra says:

    Can India produce 9seater regional plane like the – tecnam p2012?

    Sir, do you know any Indian company(except HAL dornier) ?
    If so we should scale production for our AMRUT cities with no airport

    • Mahindra have produced a small aircraft with its own design. That’s a start, better than all the license manufacture of Dornier and every other aircraft by HAL.


    Your analysis on Corporatisation of OFBs???

  4. Debanjan Banerjee says:

    Thanks a lot for your analysis Mr Karnad. However dividing the territory into three parts based on religious lines could prove that ultimately the two-nation theory correct. What are your views on that?

    • No, the trifurcation is more along the lines of geographic distinctness and to empower the Buddhist majority in Ladakh and to give the Hindus of Jammu a say in their own governance.

  5. Sankar says:

    “… because the only relevant Security Council Resolution No. 47 of April 21, 1948 requires prerequisite for holding a “free and impartial plebiscite”-

    Why there is no mention here or anywhere else in this writeup of the “Shimla Pact (ShP)” which Indira Gandhi imposed on Bhutto in the aftermath of the the1971 war which clearly stipulates that there is no “third party” involvement between Pak and India regarding “J&K dispute”, let alone the Security Council (SC)? In my understanding of international politics as a layman, the ShP has made the SC Res47 defunct(unworkable) post-1972.

    The same stand here for Delhi apropos ” … Sir Owen Dixon — an Aussie judge appointed by the Security Council to…”. In any event, it will be naive to believe that there is an honest broker in international politics.

    “Jawaharlal Nehru decided senselessly to refer the dispute to the UN for resolution” –

    to my search and reading of India’s 1948 Kashmir war, Nehru did not refer the dispute to the UN for resolution – Nehru had complained to the SC about the Pakistani aggression in J&K. But the international power politics play turned it as a “plebiscite” to be held on J&K to decide the future of J&K. In fact, there is no record of Pak claiming J&K as its sovereign land lodged in the SC, Pak has been insisting just a plebiscite to be held.

    In any event, the independence of the original “India as a British Dominion” happened according to the principles agreed upon by Congress, Muslim League and the Colonial Power (Britain) – there was no so-called plebiscite held anywhere. This issue of the plebiscite is a red-herring so far as the emergence of the Indian Union is concerned. The Maharajah of Kashmir had signed the same document of accession as all other Princes at the time, albeit a delay. Hence, from the point of law, the original Kashmir of Maharajah falls under India’s sovereign jurisdiction. India has no case to answer to the international world. Professor Christine Fair (US) has made extensive research on this J&K issue as an international expert in politics. Please refer back to her studies (some of which are available on the web – the rest in international journals).

    I am really astounded why the Indian mindset is so defensive on J&K in the international arena instead of standing up for their legitimate historical case.

  6. Deepak says:

    Sir,looks like a secret deal achieved between india and pakistan to keep currently held areas as permanent border settlement without formal agreement to not disappoint public in both the countries.what is your thoughts on this?

    • Well, that was the only feasible solution on the table — the basis of the 2007 Musharraf-Manmohan Singh deal.

      • Sankar says:

        The Kashmir file (re Plebiscite) lies dormant in the UNSC for a long time. In my understanding, a “solution for India” could be achieved only when that file will be closed by SC. But for that to happen, it needs to be voted again in the UNSC. And there sits now China as a permanent member who for sure will use her veto power to block the closure, even if other members agree will be in favour to close it.

        Thus Delhi is caught in limbo whatever an Indo-Pak deal is contemplated in future notwithstanding the sacrifice of Indian sovereignty over POK. Remember that not only POK, Aksai Chin was under Maharajah’s State also, not to mention Karakoram Pass which all are under China’s occupation. It boils down to the fundamentals of the international political world, that boundaries between nation-states are created by fighting wars, not by compromising on sovereignty. I believe this realization has dawned on the policy makers in Delhi belatedly, and Modi & Co are completely at a loss on how to move forwards. But Indira Gandhi was clear about this and never vacillated in dealing with Pak-China forcefully.

  7. ranjith says:

    Perhaps this is the first time that a Pakistani civilian govt is trying to corner the army leadership with a hawkish stance on Kashmir. Imran is using the Kashmir & 370 issue to protect his crown and use it as a cudgel in case the army deposes him.

  8. whatsinitanyway says:

    1. Any document other than the one dealing with accessation is just a page torn out of a good fiction.
    2. Armies are standing on the ground and to my rudimentary mind armies only move during wars.

    Yeah in aviation sector the supply is lagging behind. Damn it we even use the American standard to certify planes. So when they think 737 Max can fly we say it can also fly as if we, knowingly and they unknowingly are involved in an endless game of ‘chidiya udd’. Getting slapped in the form of fuel price hike, mockery from buffoons or engineers at Boeing(737 max).
    On the other hand when they say turboprop are unfit we being the ‘u’ in every word starting with ‘q’ follow them naturally even if it means more fuel high cost.

  9. Received by email, from G. Parthasarathy, currently Chancellor of the Central University of Jammu and former High Commissioner to Pakistan:
    Gopalaswami Parthasarathy
    June 22, 2021
    A very well-written and perceptive article, by Bharat Karnad.


    • V.Ganesh says:

      @BharatKarnad I’m not questioning the capabilities and credentials of Mr. G. Parthasarathy. But, him becoming a Chancellor from High Commissioner, makes me wonder if such appointments are completely political in nature [including some form of reward by the government of the day] with a specific objective to be achieved by the government of the day?

  10. V.Ganesh says:

    The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] Swayamsevak-turned-Pradhan Sevak of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India has taught the Muslim political parties of Jammu and Kashmir an unforgettable lesson by stripping Jammu and Kashmir of Article 370 and Article 35A and by removing the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir. These parties were never loyal to India.. They think they’ve some God-given inalienable right for Jammu and Kashmir to be a Muslim-majority state. They didn’t give people from other states of India any rights, yet, they wanted all rights for themselves from all the other states in India. This is hypocrisy. And since, India was partitioned on religious lines with India being for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims, why should Muslims be allowed to stay in India? The Hindu-majority Jammu and the Buddhist-majority Ladakh should be granted statehood whereas the Muslim-majority should contine to be a Union Territory. The Government of India [GOI], the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS], the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] and Narendra Modi should follow Israel’s example and steadily displace the Muslim population of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh by giving the maximum possible incentives to Hindus from all the states in India to settle in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh thereby reducing the Muslim population to a minority. That way, Pakistan will no longer be able to claim Jammu and Kashmir citing a Muslim-majority state.

    • Sunil Kumar says:

      V. Ganesh@ — Shall we kill 200 million Muslims? If yes, what’re your industrial scale logistics?

    • Saladin says:

      V Ganesh@ — There is hindoo terrorism intent on pogroms, lynchings and other forms of genocide, covert and overt. You even seem to be advocating genocide!! Should armageddon arrive, it will be because of such thinking. The only thing is you’ll be cowering under your beds against the mighty Chinese.

      Also, it is amazing that Karnad does not even attempt to you in your place for such a hateful post, and in fact even acknowledges you in another post below, like you even deserve to be acknowledged. I know he is hard right wing, but by remaining silent he may be signalling acquiescence to such thoughts.

      • Saladin@ — Agree that I was remiss in not responding to V Ganesh@. It may have sent out wrong signals. Have done so now. Thanks.

      • V.Ganesh says:

        Saladin@ – The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS], the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP], are not terrorist organisations nor has any government declared them so. But, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other Sunni Muslim Islamic terrorist groups, and the the Shia Muslim Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah, have been declared terrorist organisations.

        And, it’s Hindu, not, Hindoo. Talking about pogroms, lynchings, genocide and the like the world has seen how Islam and Muslims peacefully spread across the world using the sword, forcibly converting people to Islam and imposing the jiziya tax. As for cowering against Commie China, everyone knows how the Muslim Arab world including the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] goes dumb about China’s persecution of the Uyghur Muslims. As for terrorism, the majority of the terrorist groups in the world today are Islamic.

    • V Ganesh@ — Remiss in not replying to this response-post (about Indian Muslims) earlier. India is better off as a quilt work of disparate peoples and communities but woven together in a collective national identity as is the case now. It should not be sundered nor anything be done to weaken it.

      • V.Ganesh says:

        @BharatKarnad I disagree with you on this. If India was partitioned on religious lines with India being for Hindus and if Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews can have their own nations with Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism as the official religion and the state religion, then, India too should be made a Hindu Rashtra, a Hindu nation with Hinduism as it’s official religion and state religion.

      • India is a Hindu majority state — does anyone question this fact? In the event, there’s no need to shove this identity down everyone’s throat.

      • Sunil Kumar says:

        Bharat, this chap is a waste of time. Let’s not confuse his right to speech with him having a right to be heard. That said, I do understand if not challenged, they run the narrative. Hence, dealing with such worthies becomes rather tricky. One way is to first allow them speak long enough to make a fool of themselves and then clobber them with hard-hitting counter arguments. They cannot be reformed, but this way they don’t hijack the narrative.

  11. V.Ganesh says:

    This so-called Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration [PAGD] is nothing but a Pakistani Alliance for Gaddari Declaration [PAGD].

  12. V.Ganesh says:

    @BharatKarnad In view of this https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/chinese-s-400-systems-across-lac-forces-india-to-rethink-air-defence-101624417959950-amp.html, will the Indian Air Force [IAF] Hammer missile, if I may say so, be able to hammer the S-400 Triumf missile system that the Commie Chinese have now deployed?

  13. V.Ganesh says:

    @BharatKarnad I didn’t understand your comment “Garud – not genuine SF”. Are you saying that the Indian Air Force [IAF] special forces commando unit Garud isn’t a genuine SF?

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