Our Pakistan and Kashmir strategies over the years have really been ramshackle and ad hoc down the ages. With so many blunders one really wonders at how we have still managed to hold on to J&K firmly right from Independence to 2016.
A look at successive strategic blows that kept weakening our position vis-à-vis Pakistan down the years...
1. Gandhi’s fast unto death
When India and Pakistan got Independence, Kashmir refused outright to join Pakistan. Instead of accepting that, Pakistan immediately made plans to annex it. At that time India had a trump card. After Partition, we had to give Rs 75 crore from our side to Pakistan. Rs 20 crore had been given off and Rs 55 crore was pending. The Government was of the opinion that this amount should be withheld till Pakistan behaved itself and kept off Kashmir.
It was a brilliant strategy and would definitely have worked. Pakistan was a new poor nation and desperately needed that money without which it would have gone bankrupt. It would have fallen in line. However Mahatma Gandhi went unto a fast over death over communal harmony, no war with Pakistan and mainly a release of funds to Pakistan. India had no choice but to release the money and lose its strong strategic advantage over Pakistan.
2. Nehru’s dithering on Kashmir
Just because we lost the Rs 55 crore advantage—it didn’t mean that all was lost. We still had the intelligence reports and a stronger army. But suddenly the Kashmiri Pandit, lover and champion of Kashmir showed absolutely no interest. Nehru indicated that he didn’t want Kashmir! Field Marshall Manekshaw (who was then in the Directorate of Military Operations) has gone on record saying this and claims that the actual order to secure Kashmir was given by Sardar Vallabhai Patel.
Patel’s order saved Kashmir Valley, Jammu & Ladakh, but Nehru’s dithering cost us PoK which served as a strategic advantage to our enemy and more importantly a huge morale booster for the Pakistanis for decades to follow.
3. Turning down a UN Security Council Seat
After the formation of the United Nations in 1945, China quickly became a pariah when Mao Zedong took over the country. The consensus was that Mao shouldn't be given a permanent seat in the Security Council. In fact that seat went to Taiwan (to the Chinese government in exile there, actually) but this was untenable.
So there was a proposal to offer India that seat in the 1950s. Imagine if it had accepted! India would have been in a position to veto both Pakistan and China and clip their wings in the United Nations! But in one of the many strategic blunders of his life, Nehru nipped the proposal in the bud and turned down the offer.
Mainland China finally made peace with the UN and got the seat only in 1971.
4. Signing the Indus Water Treaty
In 1960 Nehru signed a very magnanimous Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan and why he chose to hand over almost all the water to our enemy remains a mystery to this present day. In that year Kashmir was still disputed. Had Nehru asked for the return of PoK in return for the Indus treaty, it would have made sense, but nothing of the sort happened.
Nehru was a foreign policy novice who believed in the sweet words of Pakistani and Chinese leaders over cold hard facts. He was stabbed in the back by China in 1962. India was stabbed in the back by Pakistan in 1965.
5. No Nuclear treaty with Kennedy.
US President John F Kennedy offered nuclear help to India. Had Nehru accepted then Indian might have become a nuclear power before China and our nuclear energy programme would have really got kick-started in the 1960s itself. China would have been checkmated and arguably even Pakistan’s nuclear programme could have been monitored more closely and we might have able to even have nipped it in the bud.
Alas, that alternative reality never happened thanks to Nehru’s foolishness.
6. Nothing out of Tashkent
India got nothing out of the Rann of Kutch Conflict peace treaty of 1965 and yet was magnanimous. The same thing happened with the war that year at the end of which we got zilch. Pakistan attacked us. We lost many lives. We signed a Tashkent Declaration that really offered nothing to us.
To make matters worse we even lost one of our best Prime Ministers to that treaty (Lal Bahadur Shastri) and that continued the rule of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
7. Nothing out of Simla too
Indira Gandhi liberated Bangladesh. The Indian Army captured huge swathes of Pakistani land. They captured close to a lakh Pakistani prisoners of war. The Indian Navy decimated the Pakistani Navy. Pakistan had been split into two and was in shambles. But what did we get out of that? Nothing yet again! The Simla Agreement was a joke and there was nothing in India for it. Pakistan continued to retain PoK and spew venom at India.
8. Dismissal of a popular government
In 1983, Indira ran a very divisive and communal campaign for the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly elections. She whipped up a frenzy of a “Muslim invasion” in Jammu and many there were shocked at the tone of the campaign. It paid huge dividends for the Congress and they went up from 11 to 26 seats. However the National Conference went down just one, from 47 to 46 to retain power.
Indira never accepted the verdict and dismissed it all the same in 1984 despite the fact that National Conference had 60% seats in the Assembly. A succession of unpopular governments with allegations of booth capturing killed governance in the state. We lost the goodwill of the Kashmiris during this period.
9. Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits
There were tensions between the Pandits and Muslims in the Valley in the past but it never got as bad as this in what followed after the above chain of events. The exodus was in the tune of lakhs and the very nature of the Valley changed.
The hardline elements took over. It was just a matter of time before the separatists started calling the shots and the militants or terrorists began their operations.
10. Fiddling during Kashmir terrorism
Kashmir terror attacks continued in 1989 and the death toll peaked in the 1990s and 2000s. Thankfully they are less in the 2010s, but the Valley has been ravaged and normalcy is a rarity. Successive governments dithered and did nothing. The terror attacks continued unabated. No government was able to rein in Pakistan and there were no major development projects. The government even refused to call it terrorism using words like militancy and insurgency instead. The decline of the death toll in the 2010s can actually be traced to Pakistan terror groups slowly turning inward post 9/11.
While India goofed up, Pakistan goofed up on a larger scale.
That neatly sums up the Kashmir problem!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here