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Pakistan’s response to (if not covert support for) the currently volatile situation in Kashmir underlines yet again that influential sections of that country’s leadership are still delusional about their ability to destabilise India
Kashmir is once again on the boil. It would be wrong to simplify the issue and put the entire blame on Pakistan. Other issues such as allowing public funerals when the Jammu & Kashmir Government is aware that thousands of Kashmiri residents would defy the curfew, have certainly added foment.
However, the recrudescence of violence, following the death of Burhan Wani, the 22-year-old commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen and poster boy of the anti-India movement in the valley, has its roots in Pakistan. The occasion was too good for the leadership in Islamabad; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif immediately siad, “deplore the excessive and unlawful force used against innocent people in Indian-administered Kashmir.”
While expressing deep shock over the killing of Wani, Sharif spoke of “the people of Jammu & Kashmir demanding their right to self determination.” Sartaj Aziz, the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, went (as usual) a step further than his boss. Talking to Dunya News, Aziz stated “such acts are violation of fundamental human rights of Kashmiris … (who) only demand freedom and liberty whereas India is continuously spreading chaos in the region.” As a good durbari, he pledged to raise his country’s voice “against Indian brutality in Kashmir at international forum.” Nothing is new under the Pakistani sun.
A few days before the Srinagar incidents, I was putting some order in my old papers and came across some decades-old documents which I had found in the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France when I was researching for a book on Kashmir several years ago. Amongst other documents, a cable sent on January 8, 1959, by Bernard Dufournier, the Ambassador of France in Pakistan, makes fascinating reading…57 years later.
The cable from Karachi is addressed to Maurice Couve de Murville, General De Gaulle’s illustrious Foreign Minister. The cable to the Quai d’Orsay (the Ministry) starts thus: “The Revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship in Pakistan coincided with new tensions in relations between Delhi and Karachi.”
It first refers to a communication “sent on October 24 (1958) by Lall and December 18 by Prince Aly Khan to the Security Council (which) have shown that the case of Kashmir remained a source of conflict,” says the Ambassador.
I traced the letter under reference. Arthur S Lall, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, had written to the members of the Security Council, countering a letter from Aly Khan, his Pakistani counterpart, who had addressed Gunnar Jarring, the Security Council’s Chairperson about the Indus’ waters. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had directed Lall to put on record that the latest Pakistani statement was “in disregard of the facts and even of (Khan’s) own statements made in his previous communication to the Security Council” and India regretted that Pakistan “should continue to use the medium of the United Nations for propaganda purposes.”
According to Dufournier, the exchange “provided new topics of excitement to the public opinion; almost daily, border incidents have continued to occur for two months between police forces or detachments of the two Armies, either in Punjab, or more frequently in East Pakistan. The cold war continues; the military dictatorship does not seem willing to change the offensive attitude adopted in 1956 by the Suhrawardy Government.”
On May 6, 1958, Aly Khan had already objected to Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest without trial; he had argued with the UN that “the Jammu & Kashmir Government was unable to substantiate its allegation with any evidence which could be sustained in a court of law.”
While 57 years ago, Pakistan complained about the Indian judicial system, today, Islamabad wants to go ‘international’ to defend a terrorist. In 1959, the French Ambassador notes: “Pakistan’s claim appears to be hopeless, since India will never come back on the annexation of Kashmir and a UN resolution would not change this fact. However, would the men ruling in Karachi play with the destiny of their people on the Kashmir myth, if behind the screen were not concealed deeper designs?”
Has anything changed today? Probably not. The fascinating study of Pakistan’s psyche by the French diplomat goes on: “Their tactic seems absurd to some extent, if it was not used to cover a more tortuous strategy, whose springs cannot be exposed to light. The final objective is to challenge the Partition itself and upset the balance of power that guardianship (the British) tried to introduce in 1947 in the Indian subcontinent.”
Are Aziz’s or Sharif’s motives different today, than Ayub Khan’s in 1959? Dufournier observes: “If we take this hypothesis, the policy of Karachi’s rulers reads almost like a book. Pakistanis have never accepted the division of territory between the Indian Union and Pakistan as enshrined in the Treaties. Not only the ‘sale’ of Kashmir, but also the conquest of Junagardh and Hyderabad, as well as the division of Punjab and Bengal were always held as provisional. The fact that forty million Muslims remained prisoners in the Indian Union reinforces these revisionist tendencies that dare not speak their name, but which are the secret engine of diplomacy of Karachi.”
The far-sighted French envoy remarks that Karachi’s concern “has always been to maintain open the Kashmir file before its own people as well as on the international scene. The circumstances surrounding the defection of the Raja of Srinagar (Hari Singh), the fighting for the possession of Kashmir, the internationalisation of the (UN) trial, served his views, because they allowed Pakistan to proclaim to the world that 1947 was tainted with fraud on an essential point, the legal validity (of the Partition).”
Dufournier even goes one step further: “An exceptional situation should occur for the Pakistani army to be able to confront India’s defenses with some chance of success. It would be necessary that the neighbouring country (India) be weakened either by secessionist movements, or by revolutionary unrest. Pakistani leaders consider that this event will happen in the future.”
The Pakistani leadership has constantly lived with the same delusion, believing it can destabilise India. The Ambassador’s conclusions are interesting, “When will sound the hour of the Holy War, it would be easy for Pakistan to remind (the world) that it has never recognised the annexation of Kashmir, he had to yield to force and intends only to recover his legitimate property. Claims on East Punjab and West Bengal would be presented simultaneously.”
For Dufournier prophesised: “The minarets of Delhi’s mosques appear in these expectations as a mirage, but these dreams are for many Pakistanis — at least for the leaders — the reality of tomorrow.”
Islamabad can continue to dream, after all Pakistan is built on a dream; in the meantime, Delhi should keep a closer tab on the so-called Indian intellectuals, not only preachers like Zakir Naik, who propagate the ‘dream’ of a self-determined Kashmir. They are far too many on the social networks.