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The Rediff Special/Colonel John Taylor (retd)

India, Pakistan cannot afford war

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The war in Kargil will always be etched in the memory of the nation, though as a military conflict it was on a much smaller scale than the other four wars fought earlier (1947-48, 1962, 1965 and 1971), both in terms of forces involved and casualties suffered. The IPKF operations were also of a much larger scale. Thanks to the media, especially television, the nation watched in awe at the inhospitable terrain our army was fighting in, the freezing temperatures, inferior equipment, outdated weapons -- this was not the Kashmir they always imagined and hoped to holiday in! This was terrible.

That is why, seeing their acts of bravery, their professionalism, the national integration they represented, the nation stood and applauded as one. The unfortunate part is the question -- how many times do we have to sacrifice the cream of our youth to a problem that has no solution?

Historical Background:

The problem dates back to 1846 when Raja Gulab Singh of the Dogra kingdom of Jammu became the ruler of the Kashmir Valley. His great grandson, Maharaja Hari Singh (Dr Karan Singh's father), was the ruler of the state of Jammu and Kashmir at the time of Partition. J&K compromised three regions -- Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir (the valley and areas presently occupied by Pakistan). It may come as a surprise to some that though 70 per cent of the region of Kashmir is Muslim, the language and ethnic composition of the valley and POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) is very different.

All the princely states were given the following options by the British at the time of Partition:

a. Join the Union of India.

b. Join Pakistan.

c. Maintain the status quo.

The ruler of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, had the choice. He opted unconditionally and voluntarily for the Union of India. J&K was attacked by hordes of raiders (infiltrators, who were in reality the Pakistani army). At the Maharaja's request, India retaliated by sending in her armed forces and the raiders were driven out.

Just when the Pakistani army was on the run, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru succumbed to world opinion, and took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations, which promptly ordered a ceasefire. This suited Pakistan who not only avoided being totally defeated, but were also able to hold on to areas from where they were not driven out. Thus the Kashmir problem was born.

Mistakes of the Past:

Having gone to the UN to obtain justice, India found herself in a very awkward position when the Security Council passed a resolution calling for a plebiscite in the entire state of J&K. The state was to be cleared of invaders and the governance of the entire state handed back to the lawful government of Kashmir. The ceasefire was enforced, but Pakistan refused to pull back from the rest of Kashmir. The stalemate continues even to this day. The following points are pertinent:

a. There was no need for India to have said that the issue of accession should be decided by reference to the people of J&K. This was uncalled for as no such provision exists in either the Indian Independence Act of 1947 or the Government of India Act (to consult the people in matters related to accession). There was no need to go to the UN, when our army was poised to throw out all the invaders from the state of J&K.

b. Agreeing to hold a plebiscite in a territory that had already become an integral part of India.

c. Our thoughtless decision of returning some strategic areas like the Haji Pir Pass and Uri-Poonch bulge, captured after heavy fighting and at considerable cost.

d. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, a very shrewd statesman and the then prime minister of Pakistan, knew that Pakistan could not acquire Kashmir by force. He accepted all the terms of agreement of the Simla Accord. He should have been forced to agree to vacate POK in exchange for the 95,000 prisoners of war held by India.

e. What we won on the battlefields in 1948, 1965 and 1971, we lost at the negotiating tables.

Is there a solution?

Not having learnt from our past mistakes let us at least now wake up to the fact that nothing can be gained in Kashmir by war. Pakistan has been trying to settle the Kashmir issue by all out wars. By sending in infiltrators and Mujahideen, waging a war by proxy, only to find herself militarily humiliated and diplomatically isolated. Pakistan has gained nothing by war. On the contrary she has been dismembered -- losing her entire eastern wing (now Bangladesh).

Both India and Pakistan are aware of the perils that must be avoided now that both have nuclear capabilities. Both countries live in the same subcontinent, are immediate neighbours, share a rich cultural and historical heritage, and have common ethnic roots. No two countries have so much in common! There is still a good deal of goodwill between the two people.

The two countries cannot afford a war. Pakistan is financially in doldrums, reeling under a foreign debt she cannot pay back. Even the Kargil misadventure has sent her financially on her knees. Both countries must accept the realities. Instead of an arms race, they must vigorously pursue a policy of economical development. Nuclear bombs will not feed their millions but a strong economy will definitely help.

Let us accept the LoC as the ultimate international boundary -- the hawks will scream on both sides. Let them. Every inch of our land is precious -- yes it is! What of the areas given by Pakistan to China in the Aksai Chin (Karakoram Pass)? Like POK, we must accept the status quo and build cordial relations with China. Our economy and especially our trade will get a much-needed boost. Our exports will increase and our economy will stabilise. After that build your army. Make it strong, equip it well. Modernise your air force and navy. Get better guns and clothing for the jawans. Nobody will dare to challenge us then.

As for Pakistan, if she continues to pursue her stupid policy of sending foreign Mujahideen into the valley, she will burn her fingers. You always do when you play with fire. The world is against terrorism. Osama Bin Laden is a marked man. It is a question of time. Both countries need to find some way of living together. It is in the interest of both.

The Rediff Specials

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