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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 106

Time to calibrate afresh India Kashmir policy

By J N Raina - Syndicate Features

The European Union (EU) has debunked Pakistan’s claim to Siachen Glacier as well as Northern Areas. The EU has also ruled out plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. President Musharraf and his regime stands fully exposed at a time when their country is seething with domestic trouble firstly over the issue of ‘suspension of chief justice Ifthikhar Ahmed and secondly over the ‘uniform’ of Musharraf himself.

Pakistan treats Northern Areas not as part of the undivided State of Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan calls it disputed) but as a separate entity and as a “territory that could be incorporated into Pakistan”. It is on the basis of this assumption that Pakistan claims Siachen as its own. British member of the European Parliament, Emma Harriet Nicholson has silenced Pakistan with her emphatic observations on Gilgit and Baltistan regions.

Baroness Nicholson, as she is popularly known, is the author of the European Parliament’s report on Kashmir. The draft report was adopted by the plenary session of EU early May. Nicholson blasted Pakistan for failing to fulfill its obligations to introduce ‘meaningful democratic structure’ on its side of Kashmir. And all this comes on the heels of a similar report, prepared by the Brussels-based conflict prevention group—the International Crisis Group (ICG) on Pakistan’s neglect of Northern Areas.

The author of the Kashmir report has extensively quoted the leasehold agreement of 1935, according to which Gilgit and Baltistan were in the domain of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.

It forms part of the instrument of accession, signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on October 26. 1947. In a damage control exercise, Pakistan has offered various clarifications in a note to Baroness Nicholson, seeking amendments. And she remained unmoved and unconvinced.

The ten-page report, “Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects”, with 44 recommendations, as adopted by the EP’s committee on foreign affairs, is highly critical of Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists’ long-standing position on Kashmir. “The report tends to reverse the order of priorities on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute by relegating the situation in Indian-controlled Kashmir to a secondary position”, bemoans Pakistan’s ambassador to Brussels Saeed Khalid, in a letter to Nicholson. The Baroness has “checked maps, treaties, historic documents and speeches, putting together with extreme care a full and comprehensive picture from 1846 until today”.

So her reply to Khalid was: “All the evidence points to the fact that Gilgit and Baltistan regions were constituents of Jammu and Kashmir by 1877, under the sovereignty of Maharaja Gulab Singh, and remained in the domain of the independent princely State up to and including the formation of India and Pakistan on August 15, 1947; and the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in its entirety to the new domain of India on October 26, 1947”.

Saeed Khalid’s contention is that Lahore and Amritsar treaties of 1846 constitute the basic documents regarding the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir, therefore the whole of Northern Areas were not part of Jammu and Kashmir State in August 1947. He elaborated to say that Hunza and Nagar had acceded to Pakistan, and the instrument of accession, signed by the Mirs (rulers) of these states was accepted by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan.

Yet, the Baroness stuck to her guns. She told Pakistan’s ambassador: “Your Government’s assertion that Northern Areas were independent of Jammu and Kashmir in August 1947 is incorrect”. What Saeed did not tell her but she is aware of because of her research is the ‘truth’ of history. When Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir, soon after partition, Hari Singh’s army got communally divided. The Muslim soldiers revolted and sided with Pakistan army in Gilgit.

The EU report noted with satisfaction that “India is the world’s largest secular democracy and has developed democratic structure at all levels, while Pakistan lacks full implementation of democracy in PoK and has yet to take steps to wards democracy in Gilgit and Baltistan’.

When war broke out in 1947 over Kashmir, Pakistan annexed Gilgit Agency, which till then was a part of the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. It later came to be known as Pakistan’s Northern Areas, says Khalid Rahim, now settled in Britain, in his book: “My Father, A Kashmiri Betrayed”. Rahim had left Mirpur (PoK) in the wake of Pakistan attack on Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. “Had Pakistan been sincere about fulfilling the wishes of the people of POK, it would not have divided the territory into two separately-administered areas. Instead it could have administered the entire Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir as a trustee pending a plebiscite, about which Pakistan has been harping for so long”.

PoK has been divided into two parts by Pakistan, “Azad Kashmir” and “Northern Areas”. Of the 32,000 square miles that comprises POK, about 4000 square miles is ‘”Azad Kashmir”, and the rest form “Northern Areas”, which Pakistan has merged with that country, according to Rahim. India had protested on several occasions but to no avail. According to Rahim, people of POK have no choice but to accept ‘forced occupation’ of their land. About Northern Areas, he says, people of Gilgit and Baltistan have no say in their governance. “They have no democratic rights. ….since there is no Constitution, there are no democratic rights”.

From third to the 11th century, the area was ruled by Buddhist kings. It came under the powerful kingdom of Dardistan and subsequently under the influence of Islam. In 1947, Pakistan formally annexed the Northern Areas by appointing a political agent for Gilgit. In 1972, Pakistan brought fundamental changes in the area. The agency system was abolished and Gilgit and Baltistan were made districts. In 1985, Gen Zia-ul-Haq sought more alterations and finally decided to manage the region in such a way that it became a de facto province of Pakistan, later to become a de jure province, writes Rahim.

Let us also look at some other aspects. The treaties of Lahore and Amritsar (1846) did not restrict Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of the Dogra dynasty from extending the boundaries of his nascent kingdom to the north, north-west or north-east of Indus. Lahore and Amritsar treaties only set forth the territories to the north (south of Indus) that were to pass into the hands of Maharaja Gulab Singh. Gilgit, Baltistan, Zanskar to the north-east and north-west of the Indus were annexed by Maharaja Gulab Singh's commander Gen Zorawar Singh of Riasi. And they remained part of the Dogra kingdom

The colonial rulers carved out the Gilgit Agency from Gilgit Wazarat around 1935 as part of the policy to contain the southward march of imperialist Russia. The British arranged the Gilgit Agency Commiserate. The remaining portion continued to be called Gilgit Wazarat and was administered from Srinagar with a governor appointed by the Dogra Durbar in place at the outpost.

At the time of the tribal incursion in October 1947, Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the Dogra State forces was holding that post. He was taken captive by the invading tribesmen and was later repatriated to India following ceasefire. India must recalibrate its Kashmir policy by factoring in the new developments after the adoption of the Kashmir report by the Parliament of European Union.

- Syndicate Features -

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