Seeking peace with India

COAS asks India to include China in talks on Kashmir

The Islamabad Security Dialogue conference was addressed, among others, by Pakistan’s COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also. His tentative proposal for peace with India suggested trilateral talks involving India, Pakistan and China to create an inclusive peace.

From several angles, China’s inclusion is vital to the success of talks. China will not be a third-party mediator but a party to the Kashmir dispute. China has a lingering boundary dispute, extended to the Aksai Chin, with India. To India’s chagrin, Pakistan, with China’s support, was able to convince the United Nations Security Council to discuss the India-Pakistan Question about the disputed Kashmir in an in camera session on August 16 last year. “The India-Pakistan Question” was first placed on the UNSC’s agenda on 22 January 1948. But it had been lying dormant on the agenda of the UNSC since December 1971.

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China’s initiative has potentially significant implications for India. Be it observed that China was represented permanently in the UNSC by the Republic of China (Taiwan). After replacing Taiwan on the UNSC, China became very assertive with regard to “The India-Pakistan Question”. To counter India’s actions during the December 1971 India-Pakistan war China cast its first veto against the admission of Bangladesh to the UN in August 1972.

Pakistan too had some differences with China on a territory in Kashmir. But, it amicably resolved the differences and reached an agreement. India trumpeted that Pakistan ceded territory to China. The factual position is quite different. A. G. Noorani points out, `In truth, China … got no territory. Instead, it was Pakistan which secured from China 750 square miles of administered territory (A. G. Noorani, Facing the truth, June 5, 2020, Frontline, Print edition: October 06, 2006).

India should stop harping the mantra that the disputed Kashmir is an integral part of India. It should restore the statehood and do away with all steps taken to alter the status of the state in consonance with the UN resolutions. Till India does so, it qualifies as a rogue state subject to international sanctions (pacta sunt seervanda, treaties are to be observed and they are binding on parties).

Abrogation of the statehood (Article 370) of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State, and the Kashmiris hereditary rights (Article 35A) violated the UN”s directive that the status of the state should not be altered.  Even a section of jaundiced media in India expressed ennui at India’s might-is-right initiative.  The Hindu dated 6 August 2019 commented in its editorial “Scrapping J&K’s special status is the wrong way to an end”:

Including China in trilateral talks on Kashmir could lead to a durable solution. As a permanent member of the UNSC, China could agitate the “The India-Pakistan Question” again at a time and manner of its choice.

“The mechanism that the government used to railroad its rigid ideological position on Jammu and Kashmir through the Rajya Sabha was both hasty and stealthy. This move will strain India’s social fabric not only in its impact on Jammu and Kashmir but also in the portents it holds for federalism, parliamentary democracy and diversity. The BJP-led government has undermined parliamentary authority in multiple ways since 2014, but the passing of legislation as far-reaching as dismembering a State without prior consultations has set a new low”.

Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram commented, ‘The government cannot modify Article 370 by using another provision of Article 370. By doing so it made a “fatal legal error” and it would discover this in due course.  The entire exercise of getting Article 370 of the Constitution effectively abrogated has been marked by executive excess’.

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There are several United Nations’ resolutions, mentioned heretofore, that corroborate that Kashmir is a disputed territory.

Between January 1948 and December 1971, the UNSC adopted 17 resolutions on “The India-Pakistan Question” and endorsed the 1949 Karachi Agreement which established a ceasefire line agreed to by India and Pakistan, to be monitored by the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. These resolutions include UNSCR 38 (Junagadh also requested to be included in scope), 39 (Pakistan again requested that the scope of the issue be expanded to include Junagadh and the treatment of Muslims in India). 47, 51, 80 (demilitarisation), 91 (forbade imminent accession by the Kashmir puppet constituent assembly), 96, 98, 122, 123, 209, 211, 214, 215, and 307 (UN Military Observer Group).

The plethora of UNSC resolutions confirms that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed state. Both at the UN and back at home Nehru kept saying that the accession by the Maharajah or the accession by the puppet Kashmir constituent assembly  does not amount to an accession by plebiscite as required by the UN. The UNSC itself forbade India from changing status of the state from the so-called accession by the puppet Kashmir assembly.

Avtar Singh Bhasin, in his book India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds has traced Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s perfidious ever-changing stands on Kashmir. Initially, Nehru forcefully expressed his resolve that plebiscite was the only solution to determining the future status of Kashmir. He told the Kashmiri leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah that independence would be acceptable to him if the Kashmiri people so desired.

Bhasin says , `On 7 August a day before his arrest, BBC reported a significant passage from his speech on the Martyrs’ Day in the previous month, which had been blacked out in the Indian press: `If I felt that by remaining independent, Kashmir would be well off, I would not hesitate to raise my voice in favour of complete freedom for Kashmir. If I felt that Kashmir’s betterment lay in its accession to Pakistan, no power in the world could silence my voice’.

Bhasin says Nehru addressed a lengthy letter to him [Sheikh Abdullah] on 25 August 1952 from Sonamarg, where he was then camping. He wrote, \‘If the people of Kashmir clearly and definitely wish to part company from India, there the matter ends, however we may dislike it ‘

Nehru banked on so-called Instrument of Accession and its authentication by the `Constituent Assembly. But in a strange quirk of volte face, Nehru declared, `after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices (p. 28 ibid.). He reiterated in New Delhi on November3, 1951 that `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’ Again, at a press conference on 11 June 1951, he was asked `if the proposed constituent assembly of Kashmir “decides in favour of acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?”’ he reiterated,  `We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question , and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimate flow from the Security Council proceedings’ . He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi on 3 November 1951. He said, “We have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations.”

It is flabbergasting that during the period 1947 to 1952, Nehru kept harping on commitment to plebiscite. Then there was a sudden metamorphosis in his compliant attitude.

Bhasin points out that `there was a perceptible shift in his [Nehru’s] stand on 24 July 1952  about the future of the State  `if the decision of the Security Council was at variance with that of the Constituent Assembly’. Nehru said, `Unless the Security Council functioned under some other Sections of the Charter, it cannot take a decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree ’.

Including China in trilateral talks on Kashmir could lead to a durable solution. As a permanent member of the UNSC, China could agitate the “The India-Pakistan Question” again at a time and manner of its choice.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
The writer is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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