Kashmir on edge of precipice
By Asif Haroon Raja
Geographic aspects of J&K State
The State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is situated at the extreme western section of Great Himalayan Range where it merges with Hindu Kush, Karakorum and Central Asia. It borders for about 600 miles with Sinkiang and Tibet provinces of China in north and east, and in the south and west for 580 miles with Pakistan. A 30 miles corridor of Wakhan in Afghanistan separates it from Russia across Pamir Plateau. At extreme southeastern end, a narrow strip of few miles forms a common border with India, providing an excuse to claim territorial contiguity with the State. Mountbatten-Radcliffe duo had unjustly awarded Muslim majority Gurdaspur District to East Punjab which enabled India to gain land link to J&K as well as gain control of headworks of Rivers Sutlej and Ravi.
Background history of J&K State
J&K State came into existence in 1846. It included Jammu in south, Kashmir Valley with its capital in Srinagar, and Ladakh, a high plateau adjacent to China predominated by Buddhists. The Muslim heavy Kashmir Valley (94.96%), 25 miles wide and 84 miles in length, and a gateway to Kashmir, was romanticized by the Moghuls as paradise on earth. It was celebrated worldwide for its breathtaking beauty.
When the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India with 80% Hindu majority and Pakistan with over 90% Muslim majority in 1947, the outgoing British Viceroy Mountbatten and Boundary Commission chairman Radcliffe not only bisected Muslim majority Punjab to please the Sikhs, but also halved Muslim majority Bengal and made West Bengal and Assam less Sylhet part of India to please the Congress leaders. The Viceroy turned a blind eye when India annexed all the 565 Princely States including those wanting to join Pakistan forcibly. Among the Princely States, J&K was the only one contiguous to Pakistan and had over 80% Muslim population.
Kashmir’s Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to remain independent. He did however sign a standstill agreement with Pakistan on August 12, 1947. Earlier on, all elected members of Muslim Conference had unanimously adopted a resolution on July 19, 1947 for accession of J&K State to Pakistan. Reason given was geographic, economic, linguistic, cultural and religious commonalities. Azad Kashmir government was formed on October 24.
1947-1948 Kashmir war
Once the tribesmen from Pakistan (FATA) reached Baramula on October 26th 1947 to rescue the massacred by Dogra Army and RSS goons and Srinagar was within their grasping reach, Maharaja who by then had lost his writ upon the State signed an accession treaty with India on October 26 in exchange for military support. The accession letter gave control of defence, communications and foreign affairs only to India. India air landed one Sikh regiment at Srinagar on the following day and established an air bridge between Delhi-Srinagar to induct a division size force in quick time. It was obvious that it was a preplanned affair as was the creation of Defence Committee on September 30 which authorized the air move and military action.
Only the tribesmen and Azad forces confronted the aggression till December 1947. When one brigade of Pak Army was dispatched, it resulted into a war between India and Pakistan. Once Pakistan Army planned a counter offensive to cut off the main supply route of Samba-Kathua, bottle up Indian forces in Kashmir and to start a guerrilla war, Nehru rushed to the UN for help and sought immediate ceasefire. PM Liaqat Ali Khan agreed and thus Pakistan lost a big opportunity to liberate J&K.
Outcome of Kashmir war
The ceasefire line (CFL) where both countries’ armies stopped fighting in end December 1948 eventually formed the basis for a division of the state along what is today called the Line of Control (LoC). India ended up with 63% of total area (222, 236 sq km) of J&K comprising, Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir Valley. Pakistan held a stretch of one-third of land it renamed Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). The AJK has 599.1 sq km long border with China. The northern region of Gilgit and Baltistan (GB) is directly administered by Pakistan. Total area comes to 78,114 sq km.
Out of this, Pakistan ceded 5280 sq km of area to China under an agreement in 1963. Besides, China controls 37,555 sq km of area in northeast Ladakh, in Aksai Chin region. It smoothed the way for an alliance between Pakistan and China and the building of the Karakoram Highway between Sinkiang and GB. It is this road that forms the basis of the transport and trade links of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Pakistan had agreed to ceasefire on the express assurance of the UN and Jawahar Lal Nehru that right of self-determination will be granted to the Kashmiris and a UN supervised plebiscite will be held to determine whether the people would join India or Pakistan. All told 11 UN resolutions were passed, out of which 4 were plebiscite specific. However, neither India honored its given pledge nor the UN pushed India to do so and in the process the issue lingered on and gave rise to antagonism between the two archrivals.
To improve the movement of troops and supplies to Tibet, the Chinese built a road between Sinkiang and Tibet that ran through the Aksai Chin, an uninhabited patch on the fringes of Ladakh. The borders of Ladakh had never been agreed upon and India claimed the Aksai Chin as its own. The dispute, combined with tensions on the eastern end of the border, escalated into the 1962 war and a humiliating defeat for India. Pakistan failed to avail the opportunity to settle Kashmir dispute. The Aksai Chin remains in Chinese hands, while India continues to claim it as part of Ladakh. Latest skirmish is over Doklam Plateau controlled by China.
Heightened Indo-Pak rivalry
Kashmir dispute heightened antagonism and resulted in Rann of Katch conflict in April 1965 and war in September 1965. In both clashes, Pakistan had gained a definite edge over six time’s superior India. It was owing to unresolved Kashmir dispute and its humiliation in the two confrontations with Pakistan together with its disgrace in 1962 border conflict with China which impelled India to cut the eastern limb of Pakistan with the help of its mentor former USSR and restore its image through a combination of subversion, propaganda and military action.
After the tragic breakup of Pakistan into two in the 1971 war, Pakistan signed Shimla agreement in 1972 from a weak wicket. ZA Bhutto agreed to convert CFL into LoC and to resolve disputes bilaterally. Thereon, Kashmir issue was put on the back burner, till such time the Kashmiris themselves activated it by resorting to armed uprising in October 1989.
Gains of Gen Zia reversed
During the period from 1989 to 1991/92, India was faced with leadership crisis, weak economy, and dozens of insurgencies of which Khalistan insurgency was the most dangerous which was well poised to link up with Kashmir movement that had come as a bolt from the blue for India. India had lost Afghanistan and had no defence agreement with Iran or any Gulf State. Russian armaments and jets were unreliable. It was feeling orphaned on account of defeat of Soviet forces in Afghanistan and USSR and its probable fragmentation.
On the other hand, Pakistan was in a strong position since its economy was on sound footing and way ahead of India. Its image was sky high due to successful culmination of Afghan Jihad in which Pakistan had played a key role. Pakistan enjoyed best of relations with USA, China and Arab States. Gulbadin Hikmatyar had promised to send one lac fighters to free Kashmir. Pakistan military had improved its defensive and offensive capabilities by creating two strategic reserves and inducting Al-Khalid tanks, APCs, TOW missiles and tracked artillery and inducted F-16s. Had Gen Ziaul Haq been alive, there were big chances of J&K getting liberated and Khalistan becoming a reality.
All the strategic gains made by Gen Zia were overturned when Benazir Bhutto took over in October 1988. She not only closed the desks of Kashmir and Afghanistan in ISI to appease USA and India but also provided list of Khalsa leaders to Rajiv, enabling India to crush the Khalistan movement. ISI’s long arm was cut to size.
In order to overcome host of vulnerabilities, India hastened to fall into the waiting arms of USA and become its strategic partner. It also established diplomatic ties with Israel and the trio formed a strategic nexus to disable covert nuclear program of Pakistan. For that purpose, Pakistan was ditched and put under sanctions by USA. While India accused Pakistan of cross border terrorism in IOK, USA and the West supported its stance. Pakistan adopted a lackadaisical approach on Kashmir and made no effort to drum up the atrocities of Indian forces against Kashmiris. It got too involved in internal challenges and started piling up foreign debts.
9/11 brought Pakistan under a black star
9/11 came as a blessing in disguise for India but brought Pakistan under a black star. The new laws framed on terrorism coupled with Pakistan’s peace deal with India after its assurance that it will not allow its soil to be used for cross border terrorism, and letting India to fence the LoC tied the hands of Pakistan and took the steam out of freedom movement in IOK. These factors together with Pakistan’s policy of appeasement helped India to brand freedom fighters in IOK as terrorists and Pakistan as a terror abetting state.
This narrative was fully backed by USA and puppet regime in Kabul. Pakistan was accused of colluding with militant groups and providing them safe havens. Although Pak security forces did wonders in defeating and flushing out foreign supported proxies and rendered huge sacrifices to safeguard Pakistan, the government remained on the defensive and made no effort to frame a comprehensive Kashmir policy or to counter the narrative of terrorism.
Modi’s first tenure
By the time hardliner Narendra came on the Indian scene in June 2014, Pakistan had already been declared as the breeding ground of terrorism and the most dangerous country in the world. Modi won his elections on the slogans of Indian Muslims and Pakistan bashing, censuring secularism and eulogizing hard Hindutva. He also harped on the themes of Hinduising IOK by integrating it into Indian Union and changing its demography with the help of RSS as was done in Jammu in 1947. Between September and November 1947, 250,000 Kashmiri Muslims were slaughtered by RSS and Dogras in that part of Kashmir which was Muslim dominated and others were forced to flee to Pakistan. He also promised to lift the GDP to over 11% and create job opportunities.
Throughout his first tenure he maintained a highly aggressive posture against Pakistan and subjected it to varying punitive actions like continuous LoC violations, stepping up proxy war, escalating propaganda war, water terrorism, threatening to launch surgical strikes and limited war. Modi and other BJP hawks threatened to separate Baluchistan, to break Pakistan into four parts, to dry up Pakistan by revoking Indus Basin Treaty and closing water flow in three eastern rivers.
His regime intensified persecution of Kashmiris and authorized soldiers to use pellet guns against unarmed youth including children. All past records of state terrorism were broken after the martyrdom of freedom fighter Burhan Wani in July 2016. Modi brazenly talked of changing the demography of Kashmir Valley. He couldn’t make any substantial move in IOK except for establishing some residential colonies and cantonments for Hindi Pundits, retired armed forces personnel and refugees from AK because of lack of desired majority in Lok Sabha.
Pre-2018 elections in India
For his second term elections this year, Narendra Modi and his party leaders’ once again espoused hate based politics to attract 80% Hindu votes and indulged in hate mongering ideology against Indian Muslims and Pakistan. Mob lynching of Muslims in India by extremist Hindus became a norm. It was with an eye on May 2019 elections and desire to gain two-third majority that he took the route of Pulwama and militarily upped the ante. War hysteria also helped him in deflecting the attention of Indians from his dismal performance on the socio-economic front.
With full support of USA and Israel, it was easy for Modi to carryout air intrusion in Balakot on February 24 as a revenge for the false flag operation RAW had enacted in Pulwama on February 14. After the fiasco in Balakot where the intruders could only knock down few trees and a crow, India got a befitting response from PAF on the 26th in the form of carrying out three strikes very close to sensitive military targets deep inside IOK. In the air duel, PAF downed Indian Mig-21 and Su-30 and captured one pilot. In desperation, India deployed Brahmo missiles at Rajasthan airbase on the 27th to strike targets in Karachi and Bahawalpur, but buckled down when Pakistan threatened to hit 8 targets in India and deployed its missiles.
BJP’s Post-election jingoism
Although India suffered humiliations at the hands of Pakistan, but jingoism of Modi-Amit Singh-Rajnath Singh-Ajit Doval combine helped his party to sweep the polls. Modi enjoying the backing of USA and Israel then took the risky initiative in IOK and took Pakistan by surprise.
Demonic Modi inducted additional forces into the already over saturated Kashmir Valley and abruptly shredded international conventions and 18 UN resolutions on J&K, defied Indian Supreme Court ruling and J&K Legislative Assembly rulings, flouted 1972 Shimla agreement and Lahore Declaration of 1999 and robbed J&K of its special status.
Modi with his hands stained in Muslim blood is gleefully crowing over his so-called territorial victory in J&K after he brazenly abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution, and bifurcated IOK into Jammu-Kashmir Valley and Ladakh into two Indian Union Territories on August 5. Since then, IOK is under a clampdown and strict curfew and life is paralyzed.
Record breaking state terrorism in Kashmir Valley
Hindu terrorists and Indian military forces are on a rampage, slaughtering and raping Kashmiris caged in their respective houses for over two months. An iron curtain has been drawn on IOK and there is total blackout of news, phone and internet services. Screams of the dying, the tortured and raped victims cannot be heard by the outside world. Bleeding vale of Kashmir is bleeding profusely and the caged are choking and gasping for life. The paradise on earth turned into a hell since 1989 is on the edge of a precipice. No one from outside including the Indian politicians from opposition and US Senators are allowed to enter the world biggest open prison. Other than some token words of sympathy and concern, the world is watching the pogrom from sidelines. Pakistan itself has so far not taken any physical step other than stepped up diplomatic offensive to provide relief to the marooned Kashmiris.
The 10 million locked up and forsaken Kashmiris, men women, children and babies, devoid of food and medicines are looking for divine help. Young men and boys are being pulled out of their houses and put in overcrowded jails and many shifted to Agra and Tihar jails in India where they are tortured to death while others are killed fake encounters. Young women and girls are being kidnapped for carnal pleasures. Even political leaders have not been spared. These grisly acts are performed by 30,000 well-trained and uniformed RSS gangs equipped with spears, swords and rifles, specially brought in to change the demography of IOK. They are backed by the military which has taken over the civil administration as well as police stations.
Reasons behind August 5 action
• Highly disturbed internal situation of Pakistan due to political and economic instability, surged up foreign debts, polarized politics, divided society, ongoing acts of terror and tense geo-political environment encouraged Modi to take the risk.
• The other compelling factors were that both IOK and Afghanistan were slipping out of the hands of India and it had virtually been made irrelevant in Afghan affairs where it has invested more than $ 3 billion.
• Yet another worry is the embargo imposed by USA on oil imports from Iran and curtailment of Indian funding in development of Chahbahar Port.
• India as well as USA and Israel had become wary of the possibility of new emerging economic block comprising Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan under Taliban, Turkey, Central Asian Republics and Arab States veering towards CPEC. The trio’s global ambitions were being threatened.
• It was in the backdrop of these geo-political realities and implications which convinced Modi that it was right time to implement his plan in order to once again become relevant.
• Elbowed by USA and Israel, Modi impressed upon the world leaders that he intends to end terrorism in J&K, bring stability and once again make it a paradise on earth. He thus shrewdly convinced them that amalgamation of IOK and making it peaceful and prosperous will be for the overall betterment of Kashmiris as well as for the regional peace.
• I have a hunch that Modi must have assured China that its dispute in Aksai Chin will be taken into consideration and an amicable remedy found. He also might have indicated the danger posed by Uighurs in Sinkiang and the negative effects of upsurge in radicalism in IOK and impact of radicalised IOK on Uighur movement particularly if Taliban regain power in Afghanistan.
• These threats may also have been conveyed to Russia in the wake of the simmering insurgencies in Chechnya and Dagestan.
• I strongly feel that Trump while offering arbitration in Kashmir to the visiting PM Imran Khan (IK), had already hobnobbed with Modi to resolve the dispute on Indian terms and not on the basis of UN resolutions. After convincing IK of his good intentions, Trump would have given a green signal to Modi to go ahead with his plan.
• These assumptions stand to reason when seen in context with the world disinterest and woeful reaction and Modi brimming with confidence even after over 60-day curfew.
• India is still in aggressive mode as is seen from continued incidents across the CFL, and India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh haughtily stating that the only dispute left to settle is PoK. He also threatened nuclear war. There is no letup in the scorched earth policy in IOK.
• India is principally responsible for the 75000 fatalities incurred by Pakistan and the financial loss of $125 billion.
• In order to hide its sins in IOK and against Pakistan, India launched a well-orchestrated media war to paint Pakistan in black and to whiten its own sins.
• Our pacifist policy helped our enemies to place all their sins at the doorsteps of Pakistan and to make Pakistan a convenient scapegoat, a punching bag and a whipping boy.
• One-sided disinformation campaign helped India to convince the world that India is peace loving and Pakistan a radical country and anti-peace.
• Pakistan was squarely held responsible for the instability in Afghanistan, and terrorism in IOK and India.
• While the recent activation of diplomatic front by Pakistan though belated is an encouraging step, however, no amount of diplomacy, pleadings or threats would make Modi reverse his August 5 decision. Diplomatic and political moves are mere gimmicks and would not lead to a solution.
• India had managed to hoodwink the world and illegally retain IOK for the last 72 years. Why should it throw away its gains it has acquired without going to war with Pakistan, when politically, diplomatically and militarily it stands on a very strong wicket?
• Pakistan on the other hand stands on a weak wicket owing to frail internal front.
• Trump can put sense in Modi’s mind but he has no intention to do so as is evident from his demeanor.
• The UN is the handmaiden of USA and not much may be expected from it.
• OIC is a deadwood while the Muslim world is a house divided and has already shown its apathy.
• EU will stand by the US, while Russia may adopt a neutral stance.
• China, Turkey and Malaysia are the only three countries supporting the cause of Kashmiris, which is not enough.
• To once again lean on unpredictable and double dealing USA instead of gravitating towards Russia-China for support was unwise.
• Before the curfew, the Kashmiris were battling with the occupiers with sticks, stones and bare hands. The diehard freedom fighters in IOK that are in few hundreds are still defiant and have not been cowed down by the 950,000 Indian soldiers and RSS hooligans equipped with license to kill and rape.
• With death staring in their eyes and pushed against the wall, the only options available to 10 million caged Kashmiris are either to get slaughtered like sheep, or else die valiantly after killing few occupiers. Since the second option is more honorable and more likely, that is why IK reminded the UN and the world of the possibility of bloodbath once the curfew is lifted.
• This option is very much applicable to 180 million Muslims in India who are being systematically lynched or Hinduised under a calculated program to cleanse India of the Muslims, Christians and Sikhs by end 2021 and make India a Hindu State.
• The 4 million Assamese need to watch out since CM Assam and Central Government are building special detention centres for them on the lines of Nazis extermination camps for the Jews.
• Khalistan movement has got energized while Nagaland has declared independence which do not auger well for the integrity of India.
• In case India succeeds in digesting IOK on the Israeli model applied in Gaza Strip – West Bank, it will initiate covert operations and psychological operations in AJK and GB to create unrest. It has already planned to pushout about 4 million Kashmiris from J&K into a buffer zone or into AJK to create another set of problems for Pakistan.
• The US and Israel would support the plan since whole of J&K controlled by India would provide an ideal alternative military base to USA after its withdrawal from Afghanistan to keep a watch over all the regional countries.
• Indian controlled J&K might also tempt Trump to exercise this inhuman methodology in Afghanistan to convert his defeat into victory. Obama had initiated the drone war. Trump might escalate the military ladder by dropping series of mother of all bombs in eastern and southern Afghanistan as well as in FATA to crush the Taliban movement. He has given a hint in this regard after cancelling peace talks abruptly.
• Supporters of Kashmiris in Pakistan, particularly JKLF and reined in Jihadi groups are itching to cross the ceasefire line and rescue the agonizing Kashmiris. Their numbers have crossed 2, 50,000 and the figure is likely to swell. Their patience is fast wearing out.
• But for the electrified fence along the LoC which is reinforced by Israeli fitted radars and three-layered defence in depth – thanks to Gen Musharraf – crossing of the line would not have been a problem. It will be suicidal to puncture holes in the barbed wire and to breach the defences.
• The volunteers are, however, ready to go ahead in big numbers and their forays would become easier if the civilians stage a million strong march toward the CFL. They are waiting for a go-ahead signal from the government and are looking forward for the support of deployed troops along the dividing line.
• Kashmiris living abroad are staging protests and sending cash donations for the Kashmir cause.
• Fervor of the people has put IK in a dilemma since he is against this venture. Threat of lockdown of Islamabad by Maulana Fazlur Rahman on October 27 and crunched economy are other pressure points for the government.
• Diplomatic offensive must be kept at high pitch to fully expose the ugly face of fascist Modi and his extremist BJP pursuing Nazis ideology. There must not be any let up in this even if India tries to be friendly.
• It is an abnormal development and it warrants initiation of abnormal steps. There is an urgent need to reconvert unarmed resistance into armed insurgency as was the case from 1989 till 2009. It would require supply of arms to freedom fighters in IOK and activation of AJK as an operational base.
• There is a need to galvanize some of the 19 major separatist movements in India. Of these, Khalistan movement should be supported to pay India in the same coin as it had done in 1971.
• We now have a just cause to do away with defeatist defensive policy and opt for offensive defence and hit at right spots to cause maximum pain to India.
What are we waiting for? Are we waiting for India to take the next step of attacking AJK and GB and then respond? We must remember that due to our inward looking defensive policy, we couldn’t build perimeter of security. Today we are devoid of breathing space and we have allowed India to breathe fire on our necks. Iran on the other hand built a perimeter of security which has enabled it to keep US military deployed in Persian Gulf at bay since last May.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence and security analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, and Member Central Working Committee PESS. firstname.lastname@example.org