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A New Strategy for the LoC &
Low-intensity Warfare in Kashmir
Bharat Karnad*

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Consul of Rome in the reign of Julius Caeser, pronounced on an elementary truth about inter-state relations when he said that between war and peace there is nothing. Either two countries live amicably with each other or they engage actively in hostilities geared to achieving complete military victory. In the latter case there is a winner and there is a loser and little doubt about which side is what.

By the 17th century, however, in a Europe ravaged by religious wars things were not as clear cut any more and a third, very contemporary, alternative to war or peace, namely, neither peace nor war gained international sanction. The Dutch jurist, Hugo Grotius, in attempting to codify the "rules of just warfare"1  first made the distinction between declared and undeclared wars, deeming the former legal and the other as not necessarily illegal.2  The "undeclared war" option, whose ambit covers most of what has come to be identified as low intensity conflict and proxy wars, moreover, received approval in treaty law in 1868 with the St. Petersburg Declaration on the basis of the by then well established principle of ‘military necessity’or kreigraison.3 

On the other hand, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 380 (V), 1950, condemned as a form of aggression the "fomenting of internal strife". Some twenty-four years later, the UNGA, vide Resolution 3314, seeking to define aggression, further elaborated (Article 3) that "the sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another state of such gravity [such as invasion, bombardment, blockade] or its substantial involvement therein" amounts to aggression. The same Resolution also expressly outlawed military assistance to insurgents – a prohibition contained in an earlier UNGA Resolution 2625, as well.4  Thus, the conclusion from just these two sets of laws is that aggression of the covert, less conspicuous and formal kind indulged in by sovereign states is at once justified and banned!

This opening digression on international law was necessary to indicate that like any other law, the law of war too is an ass. It confounds more than it clarifies. In attempting, for example, to safeguard the sovereign prerogative of states to pursue national interests by any and all means at their disposal, under the rubric of military necessity, international law undermines the very concept of sovereignty by approving instrumentalities that would put nation-states, especially those that are socially and ethnically heterogenous, at grave risk.

Such contradictory laws would be of no great account were it not that the Government of India’s entire approach to outstanding territorial disputes with its two neighbours, Pakistan and China, is overly legalistic and politically naïve. It exposes the country’s position on Kashmir, for instance, to the vagaries of a manifestly jumbled set of laws, thereby increasing the country’s vulnerabilities. Worse, it seems unmindful of the basic fact of international life that powerful countries make the laws and, when it suits their purposes, twist them to subserve their interests. In the event, sticking to the letter of the law, as New Delhi has done has only produced perverse results: it has turned the "correlation of forces" in the subcontinent on its head; the lesser state is in the driver’s seat. Pakistan has ended up enjoying the power of initiative, the power to direct the course of events in Kashmir and the decisive power to engineer a denouement to its exclusive satisfaction even as the Government of India (GOI) is locked into a mainly reactive-defensive-passive mode and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) harps unconvincingly about the legalities of accession, the conditionalities imposed by the 1949 UN Security Council Resolution and the bilateral obligations under the 1972 Shimla Agreement. Underlying the official Indian thinking is the presumed rigour and efficacy of international law, which in real terms is non-existent.

As may be readily seen, Pakistan has cannily exploited precisely this grey area. Incapable of military victory over India, it has chosen over the last twenty years to wage an undeclared, relatively low-key conflict in the hope that this will progressively weaken the Indian grip over Kashmir and, by raising the cost in human lives and in material terms, New Delhi’s will to hold on to that province. Kargil suggests a further honing of the Pakistani strategy into a two-pronged approach of applying pressure from the inside by orchestrating sustained insurgent activities within Kashmir, complemented by the external pincer constituted of military actions by regular forces, but in mufti, to capture territory along the Line of Control (LoC) with the aim of slowly nibbling away at the Indian portion of Kashmir and pushing the LoC eastward. Nuclear weapons in its inventory, Islamabad was apparently convinced, would serve (1) as adequate deterrent against India responding forcefully to neutralise violations of the LoC and, in case full-fledged war broke-out, (2) as a low ceiling beyond which India would think it imprudent to escalate, bringing the fight quickly to a standstill and (3) to precipitate mediation by the US and the West.

It is another matter that Pakistan’s plans did not pan out. In part because the GOI did not keep to the Pakistani script and ordered a massive conventional parry and thrust to rollback the incursion in the Kargil sector without crossing the LoC, which might have brought the Pakistani armed forces more fully into the war and led to unpredictable turn of events. And because, the GOI simply refused to rise to the nuclear bait dangled by Islamabad and studiously ignored the nuclear threats emanating from high sources there.  The dismissal of the Pakistani talk of using nuclear weapons as sheer "lunacy" was particularly telling.6

This is what unhinged the Pakistani game-plan, which depended centrally on the threshold being speedily raised to the nuclear eye-balling level.7  At this stage, Islamabad hoped that the Americans and their Western cohorts, frightened out of their wits by the prospect of a South Asian atomic brushfire war, would impose a peace inclusive of a settlement of the Kashmir dispute congenial to its interests.

What happened instead was that while fears were voiced in Washington and elsewhere about the India-Pakistan imbroglio escalating into a nuclear confrontation,8  New Delhi’s measured, responsible and reassuring stance, both with regard to nuclear weapons and its conduct of military operations in Kargil, increasingly marked India out as a mature country. This impression was reinforced by the fact that this response came notwithstanding the political uncertainties attending upon a caretaker government in New Delhi. On the other hand, Pakistan stood out as an unstable nuclear trigger-happy state, egged on by extremist Islamic elements within its fold, and spoiling for a fight. Western fears of nuclear escalation, in the event, boomeranged on Pakistan, and firmed up Western opinion behind the restoration of the LoC as the basis for any negotiated settlement.9

The all-round success attending upon the Kargil episode may well be due to the fact, as the Minister for External Affairs, Jaswant Singh stated, that the challenge of "turning back the aggressor, in defeating all his designs, in reversing the aggression but with the maximum of restraint" was met.10

However, if this success is looked upon as validating India’s longstanding, mainly reactive, policy on Kashmir, and, thus, as a justification for its continuance into the future, then the country will be condemned perennially to dealing with the Pakistanis on their terms.

Pakistan obviously means business. India’s conditions for resuming a dialogue – affirming the inviolability and sanctity of the LoC and ending "sponsorship of cross-border terrorism"11  – have been summarily rejected.12  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s threat of "many more Kargils" made during the Kargil episode has been followed up by his confidante and Information Minister Mushahid Hussain revealing that all that has happened after the mujahideen "disengaged" from the embattled sector was that they "relocated their positions… [and being] mobile…can surface in Baramulla tomorrow, Doda or Srinagar."13  Moreover, by advancing the fiction of the mujahideen as having taken on the Indian Army in Kargil,14  he has the larger purpose, which is revealed in the interview, of etching the supposedly close similarity between Kosovo and Kashmir on the minds of opinion-makers, especially in the West. The onus of pressurizing India is thus, cleverly placed on the US/NATO, who are coming off a successful operation to "demilitarize" Kosovo and to restore, to the Muslim minority, human rights imperiled by the majoritarian excesses of a Milosevic.

Again, it is the same pincer policy at work, except now external pressure is sought to be generated within the international community. Simultaneously, the bilateral track has been rubbished both in terms of its efficacy and the prospect it holds for a Kashmir solution. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed, for instance, has charged that New Delhi uses "dialogue" as only "a tactical ploy" and demanded "an interpreter, as we speak different languages",15  which last was a riposte to Jaswant Singh who, some time back, propounded a thesis that India and Pakistan, because they share the same cultural space, can do without third party mediation or even umpiring.

Even as India is wallowing in a euphoria of sorts, Islamabad is already on to beefing up its policy of obtaining a Kosovo-like situation within Kashmir by inducting more mujahideen, this time, into Jammu & Kashmir,16 supported from the outside by a Kosovo-type system. At the same time, no opportunity is spared to internationally project a grim picture of human rights, abuses. The Pakistani game-plan is clever, clear and ambitious.

But is there an Indian counter-plan? ‘More of the same’ is not the answer. It has failed over the last fifty years to pacify the Kashmiri people, or to prevent Pakistan from meddling in the state’s Kashmir’s affairs. Worse, it has cost the country dear in terms of financial, human and military resources. Nor is relying on American/Western goodwill, seeded by the Indian policy of restraint in Kargil, going to serve any purpose. This goodwill is ephemeral at best and is, in any case, tasked for use as a vehicle for the US counter-proliferation agenda, of which the prime objective is to secure New Delhi and Islamabad’s signatures on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.17  It is a design inadvertently furthered by Pakistan’s imprudent nuclear sabre rattling at the time of the border skirmish. So, what is the answer?

A new approach to solving the Kashmir problem, premised on significantly raising the costs to Pakistan of persisting in its present policy of non-acceptance of the de facto partition of Kashmir, of the LoC as the international border, and of aiding and abetting Kashmiri insurgent activities, was recently outlined.18  It recommends that (a) the Pakistani strategy be reciprocated in its entirety, requiring (b) forthrightly taking on Pakistan in the political-ideological realm, (c) informally issuing a brief to the Army to mount sustained small unit and commando actions all along the LoC to establish newer Lines of Control and to otherwise enlarge the Indian sphere at the expense of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and its Northern Areas; and (d) launching an extensive programme of covert assistance to all manner of malcontents within Pakistan.

Some of these and other relevant points will be elaborated upon here, as will the case that an ideological-military offensive is mandated by circumstances, and that this will convince Pakistan that freezing the LoC into an international border is the best possible solution. What is suggested here goes well beyond what is being sold as a "proactive" policy by other strategic analysts, which emphasizes measures including permitting the international Press to cover any hostilities unhindered; highlighting the abysmal human rights conditions in PoK and the Northern Areas; projecting the clandestine trade in sensitive technologies engaged in by Pakistan with North Korea and China; heightening the fear of a "crumbling" state in Pakistan and the threat posed to international security by its inventory of missiles and nuclear weapons; and asking for "a detailed discussion on security issues" with Pakistan as part of the Lahore process.19  These measures are all very well, but by themselves will not make much of a difference to the course Pakistan has adopted. The iron that needs to be inserted into a genuinely proactive policy is of a different kind altogether.

A New Strategy

In international law, the Line of Control is only a Cease Fire Line (CFL). As a product of a war kept in suspended animation, it carries the expectations of both sides that a final and satisfactory settlement can be obtained if not through negotiation than by force of arms. It is this logic which under-girds Pakistani justification for trans-LoC military actions, like those in Kargil.

What are the chances that consequent upon the military reverses in Kargil, and the virtual American demarche to respect the LoC, the Pakistan Government will hereafter cease and desist from waging low intensity warfare in Indian Kashmir, or from initiating a Kargil-like misadventure in future? Nil. This is so because of the balance of forces in the Pakistani polity. The Punjabi-dominated military, civil services and legislature have set the agenda and the increasingly active religious Right provides the motivational force and, in war-like situations with India, the sheer numbers of indoctrinated cadres who take to the streets, mobilise popular resentment and otherwise preempt any radical change in a policy centred on Kashmir and enmity with India.

Kargil has also brought to a head the disjunctions within the Pakistan Army. The Army Chief, General Parvez Musharraf, and his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Mohammad Aziz, both with Special Forces background, as well as the Special Service Group (SSG), have now to contend with the differing perspectives of the corps commanders of the field army. The differences apparently came to a head around the last week of June 1999 when an infantry brigade was detached from the Pakistani I Corps, an armoured strike formation stationed at Mangla, and moved to the Skardu plains to stiffen the defences in case the Indian Army attacked across the LoC in the Kargil sector. The fear of the nine Corps Commanders was three-fold: that by thus denuding their units of fighting forces, the GHQ, Rawalpindi, was imperilling war plans, i) by weakening the ability of the mobile strike formations to go on the offensive-defence, i.e., fighting defensively to protect the Pakistani Punjab, but on Indian territory; ii) by making the country as a whole vulnerable to attacks by India’s "poised to strike" three armoured corps; and iii) by stressing gains in a lesser theatre, putting the heartland at risk.

These factors suggest that the mainstream Pakistan Army may be unable to resist the popular demand for helping the mujahideen wage war in Kashmir but, at the same time, are unwilling to prosecute a full-scale war in PoK and the Northern Areas if this means putting at risk the defence of Punjab. Also, the inherent tensions between the SSG and the Corps Commanders can be sharpened by the Indian Army pressing across the LoC in an unconventional war-fighting mode. The three Indian Strike Corps (I, II and XXI) can "fix" the bulk of the Pakistan Field Army south of Suchetgarh. This would free the Indian Mountain Divisions, in small components, to adopt a policy of "grab as grab can" – a peak here, a Pakistani post there – across the LoC, in order stealthily but steadily to push the Line westwards in the Poonch and Rajouri sectors, northwards in the Kargil sector, and northwestwards in the undemarcated glaciated regions beyond Point NJ 9,842. The Pakistani ruse of dressing up regulars in mufti and deploying them across the LoC is an excellent example to follow for all actions across the Line. The Pakistani military establishment would certainly find the prospect disconcerting if Indian "irregulars", for instance, in slow stages capture one ridge after another, until they sit astride the mountains overlooking Skardu, Forces Command Headquarters, Northern Areas; or sit atop hills looking down on Domel or Muzzafarabad. This would, in effect, impose "Siachenisation" on the Pakistan Army, which would have to scramble to build up all-weather defences and to garrison strongly-held lines in the mountains.

Such a policy, however, will require the GOI to rid itself of its several inhibitions about what it believes the Shimla Accord enjoins. Its view that senior Indian and Pakistani army officers, deputed by their respective Governments, cartographically marked out the LoC, and, therefore, that there is an implicit ban (perhaps formalised by a 28-year old custom) on the use of conventional armed forces across the CFL will have to be tempered by reasons of "military necessity". The "hot pursuit" option abjured so far by the Indian armed forces, but permissible in international law under the principle of droit de voisinage or nachbahrrecht,20  will have to be activated.

Such a course of action will open up opportunities for territorial augmentation because the logic of the CFL/LoC offers it. The trouble is this logic seems to be better appreciated by Pakistan than by India. Once Islamabad had determined that there was no chance of peacefully wresting Kashmir from India, its actions – whether in support of the low intensity warfare waged by ‘freedom fighters’ in the Valley or of the trans-LoC aggression in Ladakh – have been in tune with the longstanding Pakistani conviction and policy that Kashmir rightfully belongs to them, and that they mean to secure it, come what may.

The same cannot be said about India. Prime Ministers, beginning with Indira Gandhi, including Narasimha Rao and right up to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, have in response to the Pakistani stance that Kashmir constitutes the "unfinished agenda" of Partition, claimed mostly for effect that the only unfinished part of that wretched business remains the return of PoK to India. And that there was nothing else to negotiate. But these were statements devoid of serious intent and designed merely to protect leaders against the charge of selling-out. In the event, the Indian Government has ended up treating the LoC as sacrosanct, at great cost to the country.

That the Indian leaders are periodically compelled to take this inane position is traceable to the fact that Indira Gandhi, as the leader of the victorious country in the 1971 War, deliberately forsook the last legitimate chance afforded by international law of imposing a peace which might have included the conversion of the LoC into an international border at Shimla. She failed to press home the advantage because, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and all the Indian and Pakistan leaders since, she, too, feared a political backlash for ‘giving away’ territory and retaining only a part of Kashmir.

Over time, this political compulsion has turned into complacency vis-a-vis the LoC, leading to contradictory Indian policies. For example, the pronouncements of Indian leaders if taken at their face-value would mean that New Delhi is as keen in absorbing PoK as Islamabad is in taking over the Indian part of Kashmir. In that case, the LoC loses its standing of inviolability any way, which New Delhi swears by. Because the Pakistanis are no more likely to amicably hand over PoK and Northern Areas to India than India is likely to transfer J&K to Pakistan, the disputants are left with only two alternatives: go to war and risk an attendent catastrophe now that the milieu is nuclearised, or engage in low-level but sustained military actions – grabbing a peak here, a post there – aimed at continually increasing the size of the real estate in their possession.

Islamabad has cannily opted for this last, risk-free, option; risk-free because the Indian Government, 1972 onwards, has stood national security interests on their head in choosing to regard the LoC as a de facto international border and in accepting in its train a whole lot of obligations that are not mandated by international law with regard to a CFL. A shackled Indian military, moreover, is stuck with the difficult task of dealing with well-armed Pakistani troops and guerillas-for-hire after they infiltrate en masse, as in Kargil; their difficulty enhanced further by the GOI’s unmerited respect for the LoC. The military’s frustration is, perhaps, what boiled over into the Chief of Army Staff, General V.P. Malik’s plea to the government to rethink its attitude on cross-LoC operations.

Whatever we understand the obligations of the bilateral agreements and understandings between India and Pakistan to be, the fact is that most of the world considers the LoC as nothing more than a CFL pending a final solution. This is the political and ground reality and it is this status that has the sanction of international law. The most obvious manifestation of this is the continuing presence of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) set up as a result of the original 1948 UN Security Council Resolution. India has, of course, unilaterally decided that the UNMOGIP’s functioning is invalidated by the Shimla Accord, and has restricted its working to a closed compound in Srinagar.21  But this position is not agreed to by Pakistan nor supported by any major country.

It is this status of the LoC, for instance, which is the basis for the growing Western view voiced by former American diplomats Teresita C. Schaffer and Howard B. Schaffer – each of whom headed the Bureau of South Asian Affairs in the US Department of State – in favour of freezing the LoC into an international boundary.22  New Delhi will have no trouble backing such a proposal, because that is what, without putting it in so many words, it has been working to realize these many years. The problem is how to persuade Pakistan that this is the only feasible way out of the quagmire?

Talking alone will not do. Experience shows that Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary-level meetings are all very well but that these have so far resolved nothing except issues on the margins. Nor will ill-considered actions, like striking conventionally across the international border, do anything other than possibly prompt nuclear weapons use by Pakistan. The real challenge is to provide negative incentives to the Pakistanis to settle along the desired line, because positive incentives, such as promises of hugely beneficial trade and economic ties and of cultural exchanges, etc., have failed to convince Islamabad.

The track guaranteed to fetch results is to informally order the army to keep pushing the LoC outwards. Sustained and relatively inconspicuous military actions by small sized units and commandos backed up by the occasional battalion-strength operation, at varying depths in PoK, recommend themselves as the obvious instrumentality for a policy of incremental additions of territory to the Indian Kashmir. Like its counterpart in Pakistan, the Indian government can, in the meanwhile, offer political cover for such activity by continuing to harp on the Shimla Accord, the LoC, etc. and to simply deny any evidence of the LoC-changing measures.

The optimal use of military manpower in this "slow creep" policy will ideally mean reorganising the army in such a way as to create a Special Forces Command headed by a Lieutenant General-rank officer, the equal of an Army Commander. This has become an imperative both because there is an immediate necessity for such a structure to prosecute sustained actions in hostile territory as envisaged in this paper and, more generally, because future wars are likely to resemble small-scale operations which are best prosecuted within the Special Forces ambit,23  rather than as a lesser branch of conventional warfare characterised by masses of men and machines rolling across plains or fighting uphill in mountainous terrain, as is the present case. All operations to be carried out across the LoC and possibly the Line of Actual Control (with China) would be the responsibility of the GOC-in-C, Special Forces Command. He would have under him fighting units, most of them extracted from existing Mountain Divisions and, by way of integrating all the available fighting assets when necessary, the paramilitary police forces, such as the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, et al. As an opposition Member of Parliament, Jaswant Singh, in fact, suggested just such a scheme some four years back.24

With the hindsight of what worked, it will be preferable to have units in the proposed Special Forces Command recruited from among mountain-folk. The singular successes notched up in the Kargil heights by elements of the Naga Regiment, the Garhwal Regiment, the Gurkha Rifles, the Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry, and the Ladakh Scouts indicate that the onerous high altitude acclimatisation regimes can be short circuited when it comes to soldiers who are highland natives. (It takes upwards of three months to properly recondition troops from the plains for fighting in the mountains.)

The other prong in this more aggressive approach will require external intelligence agencies methodically to assist discontented groups within Pakistani society, starting with those in PoK and the Northern Areas – which should not be difficult since the latter are denied basic human rights even according to a judgement handed down by a Pakistani High Court Bench.25  The Mohajirs in Karachi provide a second fertile ground.26  Destabilising Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital and the source of most of its tax revenues, and the Sindh province at large, can be facilitated by linkages with the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). Similarly, the Taliban in Afghanistan and their offshoot in Pakistan can be distracted and neutralised by reviving the independent Pakhtunistan movement, and by installing some kind of an air-bridge for military supply of the ousted Rabbani government, comprising the Northern Afghan tribes and factions who are fighting Kabul. Cooperation with Iran to assist the Afghan Hazaras can also be diligently pursued. Separatists in Baluchistan were brutally crushed in the Seventies. Judicious aid could easily resurrect their movement as well.

Such policies are not merely a mirror to the Pakistani role in Kashmir and other parts of India. They serve two specific purposes: first, to demonstrate to Islamabad that, as in the conventional military sphere, India has a decisive edge in the unconventional military field as well. Second, and more important, to compel the Pakistan government and elites to rethink their risk calculus.

The objective simply would be to make Islamabad fully comprehend the costs, both in terms of domestic disorder, and the ever-shrinking territory it would control in Kashmir, as well as the unaffordably high bill it will have to pay to finance military and police effort to tackle such Indian initiatives. Islamabad is already reduced to surviving from one World Bank tranche of credit to the next. It sequesters in excess of 90% of its annual budget on debt repayment and the maintenance of its military and civil service. Even if it wished to, it cannot spend more on internal and external security, short of inviting complete economic collapse.27 

The beauty of this tit-for-tat policy is that Pakistan will not be able to match the Indian effort in either the conventional or the unconventional/covert spheres. Ultimately the Indian weight of numbers and the disparity in all kinds of resources, including military and economic, will begin to tell. In case a frustrated Pakistan, in this pressure situation, hints at using nuclear weapons, the threat will be as incredible and infructuous as a like Indian threat would have been in the Kargil crisis. Such a threat would also have the world opinion ganging up full square against Pakistan.

Islamabad will then be faced with some severe options: to settle permanently for PoK as its part of the final Kashmir bargain, formally accepting the LoC as an international border, or gradually losing strategic portions of the State it now holds and steadily getting enervated economically and internally, in terms of law and order. However, a promise can be held out as a further incentive to Pakistan that in case it agrees to settle on the LoC as the international boundary (rationalization of the border apart), the LoC prevailing at the time of the Shimla Accord would be the settled border, and that India would surrender any territory captured/occupied by its "irregulars".

An activist policy cannot now be avoided. Kargil has fired up the people, so much so that even conservative journals have called editorially for "Avenging our dead."28 If Pakistan follows through on its avowed policy to nurse the insurgency in Kashmir back to life, then, in international law, this will amount to animus belligerendi – conclusive behaviour from which the intention to wage war can be inferred. This, in turn, may be a casus belli, justifying almost any Indian counter measures, including resort to use of force or to stratagems of the kind discussed above. The policy fleshed out here will, above all else, satisfy the punitive mood of the people and advance Indian interests in Kashmir without precipitating a general war. Unfortunately, the core problem is something more troubling.

The Ideological Divide

Distrust is endemic to India-Pakistan relations.30 Its sheer intensity is an intimation of a graver, more enduring ideological rivalry and a deep and unresolved socio-cultural issue: India’s fundamental premise that the obvious differences in caste, creed, religion, ethnicity and language, within a vast and gloriously heterogenous society, can be moderated to a point where the perception of common good transcends narrower affiliations, and a nation-state is constituted.

The central idea of Pakistan rests on the contrary and an equally basic assumption that no such reconciliation is possible at least not between Hinduism and Islam. Whatever the merits of the Pakistan-argument – it entirely ignores the reality that sub-continental Islam is as varied as Hinduism and as much a product of syncretic and tolerant cultural impulses – what it ultimately reduces to is the glorification of fairly trivial differences. As Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in 1946 , told the visiting Chief of the Imperial Defence Staff, Field Marshal, the Viscount Montgomery, who queried him about the chances of India and the Indian Army remaining united, "How can I talk with the Hindu? He worships the cow; I eat it." The Quaid, thus, touched at once on the most profound and petty aspects of the communal divide in India; a divide that, as a result of Partition, has been internationalized.

Seen in this light, Islamabad’s diplomatic campaign to portray Kashmir as another Kosovo is pregnant with dire possibilities. The crux of the matter is not that it is an inapt analogy but that, as an American political scientist concluded in a recent analysis of developments in Kosovo, "the new logic of national self-determination, while it may reinforce state sovereignty in ethnically homogeneous states, frequently challenges it in multinational states."31  The fact that ‘multinational’ states today comprise a majority of the countries of the world provides some protection against international attempts to intervene in Kashmir, as does the dawning realization in the US and West Europe that self-determination, while fine as rhetoric, can be extremely disruptive of the social fabric woven over the millennia in traditional polities. But this cannot by any means be considered a long-term deterrent. Superpower interests may be differently interpreted at any time.

The war for Kashmir is less military than one of competing ideologies. Tackle Pakistan’s ideological stake head on, and the military problem will, of itself, dissipate. What is at issue? The right of the Kashmiris to decide their own future, but a future that is within the Indian whole. After all, had there been no Partition would the people of the erstwhile "princely state" of Kashmir have had the option not to join the Indian Union? Could they have chosen to couple with Afghanistan or China or be independent? Obviously not. The tyranny of choice came only with the reality of Partition. This to say that the incumbent Maharaja’s prerogatives with the lapse of British paramountcy had nothing to do with prior linkages between Kashmir and the rest of India, which were and still are as integral to the whole and as organic as of any other constituent province. The history and ties of culture, ethos and even shared religion cannot be suddenly sundered on the basis of arbitrarily imposed criteria, which are spurious at best. It is the Partition criteria, then, which become the lynchpin for the argument that all of J&K stays with India or that it seeks a future as part of Pakistan.

Whatever the merits of the historical case made by either side and the reasons for the absence of a negotiated settlement so far, the fact is that a solution has to be sought in the here and now, and not in the sharply differing versions of the reality that existed in 1947-49. That is one constant. The other is the Partition criteria according to which chieftains of over six hundred small and large kingdoms decided to merge with one or the other of the successor States. The two operative principles followed were those of contiguity and of the religion of the majority of the people within the princely state. The first criterion was straight forward; the second less so because, unlike Pakistan which opted to don an Islamic identity and to adopt Islam as State religion, India remained firmly secular by Constitutional diktat. Moreover, however many Muslims chose to migrate to Pakistan, the bulk of them stayed behind. In other words, Partition was not a clean communal break, necessitating full and complete transfer of Hindus and Muslims from one Dominion to the other, but merely a dissociation by a rump State.

Muslims may have many grievances against the Indian State, but nothing distinguishes these from the grievances that other sections of society also have against the same State. Low literacy levels, for example, plague many regional, caste, tribal and other sub-groupings, as they do the Muslims (assuming they can all be treated as similarly disadvantaged, like-thinking, people, which is simply not the case). And Kashmir, if anything, has received a much better deal than many others. Here the investment of the Indian taxpayer’s money is so great, that barring some North-Eastern States, it is the most highly subsidised State in the Republic – nearly three-quarters of its revenues emanate from the Centre, up from less than four per cent in 1950-51.32

To argue in this fashion may beg the question, since demography was the basis of Partition. But the logic of demography has itself altered radically since Maharaja Hari Singhs’s Accession decision of September 1947. At that time Pakistan was, in fact, the State with the larger Muslim population. This and the contiguity principle favoured Kashmir’s merging with Pakistan. But that was then. Today there is an independent Bangladesh, which seceded from Pakistan in 1971. As a result, the Muslim population in India first equaled and, by some accounts, has now exceeded the strength of Muslims in Pakistan. Indeed, if the latest census figures are any guide, the Indian Muslim population stands to surpass that of Indonesia by 2010-2015.

As the soon-to-be largest Muslim country in the world, India’s Kashmir policy is instantly endowed with heft. New Delhi’s claims on Kashmir acquire unmatched credibility, both in terms of the main Partition criterion because it is now joined to the successor country with the larger Muslim population, and because of the evidence of more than fifty years of good faith efforts to protect Kashmir’s autonomy within the Indian Union and to protect its special identity, vide the controversial Article 370 in the Constitution.

It would be of even greater conseqeunce, from the point of view of undercutting the residual Pakistani claims on J&K, if the GOI were to henceforth declare that this country is also the guardian of interests of all Muslims in the subcontinent, including those in Pakistan. This guardianship role is the one coveted for Pakistan by Jinnah. India’s assumption of this role can effectively destroy all of Pakistan’s pretensions as a leader of Muslim countries world-wide, and at home, would fatally undermine the mischievous Two-Nation theory. Wouldn’t it be a soul-destroying prospect for Islamabad to find the Mohajirs of Karachi and Sindh turning to India for protection against the predatory Punjabi State of Pakistan? This can happen, if New Delhi adopts some version of the policy suggested here.

The hitch in all of this is, alas, the Government of India which is unlikely to imperil its secular credentials by so boldly furthering Indian interests in Kashmir by ‘exploiting’ the fact that India is the largest Muslim country in the world, just as it is the largest Hindu, Sikh and Jain country in the world. Indian foreign policy generally is in a rut and particularly so where Kashmir is concerned. In lieu of any bright ideas, the same old time-worn rhetoric, policy and statements are dusted up. Any surprise that the Kashmiris don’t listen and the international community is deaf to the Indian case as traditionally pleaded?

* Bharat Karnad is Professor in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and was a Member of the National Security Advisory Board. He was formerly Adviser on national security expenditure to the Tenth Finance Commission.

Notes & References

  1. Seymour Martin Lipset, [chief ed.], The Encyclopedia of Democracy, Vol. III, London, Routledge, p.879.
  2. Ingrid Detter De Lupis, The Law of War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987, fn.34, p.8.
  3. Ibid; pp.332-333.
  4. Ibid; pp.60,68
  5. See "Pak again threatens to use N-weapons", Times of India, New Delhi, July 1, 1999.
  6. "Pak N-threat borders on lunacy: Brajesh", Hindustan Times, New Delhi, July 5, 1999.
  7. GOI’s view is also that it regarded Pakistan’s Kargil incursion as "calculated to provoking India into an escalation." See the text of External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh’s speech, "Kargil and Beyond" delivered at the India International Centre, New Delhi, July 20 , 1999; p.4.
  8. See the statement by US Defence Secretary William Cohen urging caution on both India and Pakistan, now that both of them have developed nuclear weapons in "India, Pakistan out to flex N-muscle: Cohen", Times of India, July 11, 1999.
  9. "US: Pak flouted N-code by crossing LoC", Pioneer, New Delhi, July 22 , 1999.
  10. Jaswant Singh, "Kargil and Beyond"; op. cit., p.2
  11. "India sets 3 terms for talks to resume", Hindustan Times, July 14 , 1999.
  12. "Pakistan rejects India’s terms for bilateral talks", Indian Express, New Delhi, July 22 , 1999.
  13. See the interview with Mushahid Hussain , "Mujahideen have been relocated: Pakistan", by Seema Mustafa, Asian Age, New Delhi, July 21 , 1999.
  14. Hussain is quoted as saying: "The Indian Army has received the biggest hammering at the hands of a few hundred mujahideen."; Ibid.
  15. See Indian Express, n 12.
  16. See Arun Sharma, "Militants enlist more youth, forces fear fresh violence", Indian Express, July 22 , 1999.
  17. Ramesh Chandran, "Clinton seeks Senate ratification of CTBT", Times of India, July 22 ,1999.
  18. See my "Kargil: Using LoC to India’s Advantage" in Economic and Political Weekly, Bombay, July 19, 1999; "An elastic border", Hindustan Times, July 15, 1999; and, "Pushing LoC Outwards", The Week, Kochi, July 25, 1999.
  19. K . Subrahmanyam, "A Proactive Policy: Countering Pakistan After Kargil", Times of India, July 13 , 1999.
  20. De Lupis, The Law of War, op. cit., fn 137, p.72. Also see V.S. Mani, "Kargil and international law - II", Hindu, Madras, June 30 , 1999.
  21. A detailed history of UNMOGIP may be found in Pauline Dawson, The Peacekeepers of Kashmir: The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1995.
  22. Teresita C. Shaffer & C. Howard, "Freeze Himalayan Borders Before Fighting Escalates", International Herald-Tribune, Paris, June 16, 1999.
  23. Martin van Creveld, On Future War, London, Brassey’s, 1991. This is the most comprehensive treatment of the subject.
  24. See his USI National Security Lecture, 1995, reproduced as a book National Security:An Outline of Our Concerns, Lancer Paper-7, New Delhi, Lancer Publishers,1996; pp.64-68.
  25. See Mani, op.cit.
  26. Anjali Mody, "MQM fast to protest ‘atrocities’ against Mohajirs", Indian Express, July 22 ,1999.
  27. See Jayshree Sengupta, "Pakistan’s sick economy", Hindustan Times, June 14, 1999, and Sanjaya Baru, "War and economy: Pakistan’s Road to Ruin", Times of India, July 14, 1999.
  28. Business India, New Delhi, June 14-27, 1999.
  29. De Lupis, op.cit; pp. 9, 259.
  30. The Pak Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz rejected his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh’s condition for dialogue that Pakistan take actions to restore the trust occasioned by the Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bus trip to Lahore, saying "Since there has not been any trust between the two countries due to the negative, obdurate and hegemonist Indian attitude, there is no question of any betrayal of trust." See "Vacate Siachen, Chorbat La: Aziz", Pioneer, July 23, 1999.
  31. See Carol Skalnik Leff, "The Kosovo Crisis" in Swords and Ploughshares: The Bulletin of the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Vol. II, Numbers 1-2, 1999; p.3.
  32. Afsir Karim, Kashmir: The Troubled Frontiers, New Delhi, Lancer Publishers, 1994; p. 242.





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