Ambassador Dinkar Srivastava is an Indian career diplomat with a long involvement in representing the Indian point of view and interests on Kashmir in the United Nations and other forums. His book looks in detail at the Pakistani Kashmir: its history, politics and overall evolution. The most impressive feature of the book is that it relies heavily on Pakistani source material. Also referenced are reports of the International Criss Group (ICG). I checked some of the material used and found that the references to Pakistani and international sources were indeed correct.
The author argues that contrary to Pakistan’s very pronounced calls for a plebiscite on Kashmir, it has on several occasions in the immediate period after the 1947 partition and till well into the 1950s, spurned India’s willingness to hold the plebiscite. One major reason was that the key UN Resolution 47 of April 1948, which called for a plebiscite, recognises unequivocally India’s legal presence in Kashmir on grounds that the Maharaja of Kashmir had acceded to India.
The resolution laid down that both Pakistan and India were to remove their troops from Kashmir, but the order prescribed for the withdrawal required Pakistan to first withdraw the troops and vacate the territories of the princely state, followed by India which was entitled to maintain enough functionaries to hold the plebiscite.
Pakistan never complied with that procedure. Hence, notwithstanding the recurring calls for a plebiscite given by Pakistan, both sides maintain their presence in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control. This is indeed true and informed people are well aware of that.
Title: Forgotten Kashmir: The Other Side of the Line of Control Author: Dinkar P. Srivastava Publishers: HarperCollins, Noida Year: 2021
He notes that in early November 1947 when Mountbatten was in Lahore to discuss the Kashmir conflict, he proposed to Jinnah that a plebiscite be held in Junagarh, Kashmir and Hyderabad to ascertain the wishes of the people of those states as to whether they wanted to join India or Pakistan. Jinnah did not show any interest in it. Another reason was that the Kashmiris were estranged from Pakistan because of the atrocities committed by the tribals sent by Pakistan to liberate Kashmir. One can add that twice in December 1947, Sardar Patel proposed that Pakistan could keep Kashmir if it did not meddle in the affairs of Hyderabad State. It was Jinnah who once again showed no interest in such a bargain. Once a war took place and both sides dug in and consolidated their hold, there is no indication they would relent on that. This fact is missing in Srivastava’s book.
He claims that the people of Gilgit wanted to establish an independent United State of Gilgit but with the help of Major Brown that attempt was crushed. Regarding Azad Kashmir, he gives details of how Sardar Ibrahim, the first president of Azad Kashmir, and his numerous and powerful Sudhan tribe of Poonch, revolted against Pakistan because they wanted effective autonomy over the affairs of Azad Kashmir. Pakistan dismissed Ibrahim as Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir and responded with repressive measures to crush the Sudhan revolt.
Officially and in international forums, Pakistan took the stand that Azad Kashmir was an independent state. But it was under the complete control of Islamabad, where a Secretary for Kashmir Affairs practically controlled the affairs of Azad Kashmir. Indeed, in recent times the media has been reporting considerable commotion and protest in Azad Kashmir against Pakistan’s policies towards it. The current Azad Kashmir president was recently seen moved to tears at the gross mismanagement when it came to his people.
Another point underlined by the author is that in the UN resolution, there is no mention of the right of self-determination. What is mentioned is the right of the Kashmiri people – whether in territory held by India or Pakistan – and their choice between joining India or Pakistan.
Having said all this, he then points out that elections in Kashmir have never been respected and the Pakistani-administered Kashmir had fared poorly in terms of overall development as compared to the Indian-administered Kashmir.
Thereafter, the terms of the Simla Agreement to resolve the Kashmir dispute peacefully and through bilateral negotiations are presented by Srivastava.
In criticism of the book, one can point out that the author does not provide a faithful account of the way that the dispute evolved. What is missing altogether is any reference to the massive atrocities committed by the forces of Maharaja Hari Singh, the RSS and even Sikh forces from Punjab on the Muslims of Jammu. The Muslim population of Jammu province before the chain of violence broke out was 66%. During September to November 1947, more than 400,000 Muslims were forced to leave the province and those killed are estimated between 20,000 and 200,000 – depending on which figures one relies upon.
More recently, the Kasuri Plan, which President Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had agreed to – and the BJP, the Pakistan Army and Kashmiri leaders had also accepted – called for the Line of Control being declared as the international border for 15 years, and the future of Kashmir to be decided thereafter. It was sabotaged primarily by extremist Hindu nationalists.
It is not clear what resolution of the conflict the author offers. One can state that ex-prime minster Imran Khan had expressed a willingness to let the Kashmiri people opt for an independent Kashmir, but one wonders whether even the Kasuri Plan is no longer relevant for India, after the special status of Kashmir was abolished on 5 August 2019 by the Modi Government.
What the ambassador has not proposed, but what seems to be the only workable solution, is that India keeps what it controls and Pakistan what it controls, effectively. Once such an agreement is reached, then only can the battle for democracy and autonomy and a freer movement of Kashmiris on both sides and across the border be pursued by peace-loving people of both nations. The current standoff between India and Pakistan is pernicious to stability and prosperity in South Asia.