Dr. M. K. Teng
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Northern Frontiers - Last Bastion of Indian Defence

By Dr. M.K. Teng

For most of the years of the last five decades, while the Congress ruled the country, the policy of the Indian government in respect of the defence of the Northern Frontiers of India, lacked foresight and perspective besides the determination to ensure the security of the country. The Congress leadership, knew much less of what was happening behind the scene, when the Radcliffe Commission divided the Punjab. Mehar Chand Mahajan and Sardar Teja Singh, the former representing the Hindus and the latter the Sikhs, on the Boundary Commission, fought a bitter battle with the Muslim representatives Justice Munir Ahmad and Justice Din Mohammad, who actually sought to grab the whole of the upper Bari Doah for Pakistan to ensure control over the Madhopur canal headworks and close the borders of the east Punjab to Jammu and Kashmir. Mahajan and Teja Singh did not concede any ground and Radcliffe, adopting a uniform set of principles for the demarcation of Muslim majority regions in the west Punjab and the demarcation of the Hindu majority regions in the east, provided a borderline with Pakistan which secured its reach to its traditional defence line over the Himalayas Radcliffe Award was mainly an arbitral award, which the chairman of the Boundary Commission pronounced, but the main ground on which it was based, was prepared by Mahajan and Teja Singh. Not the Congress leadersm but the Arya Samaj veteran Bakhshi Tek Chand, the noted legal luminare Sir Shadi Lal and Maharaja Hari Singh the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, stood by Mahajan and Teja Singh during those crucial days, when the fate of the Himalayan frontier hung in the balance.

 For India, the access to the Himalayas was as vital as the transfer of power from the British, for the attempt of the British and the Muslim League to cut away the whole of the warm Himalayan hinterland spreading over the upper Punjab, the Punjab Hill States, now reorganised in the Indian State of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Gandhi and Nehru, however, were oblivious to the importance of the divide in the north. The Indian leaders never realised the startling truth, that the expansion of the Muslim power of Pakistan into the warm Himalayan hinterland , would dismanttle the traditional frontier of India in north and perhaps, push down the Indian borders to the least viable geography across the the planes of the Punjab in the north and the Himalayan foothills in these north east. Inside the Congress Working Committee the eternal debate of how the dogma of passive resistance could be used to bring about the unification of the states with India, continued unabated, while the Muslim ruled states of Hyderabad, Bhopal and Junagarh situated in the Indian heartland prepared to remain out of India and the Muslims in the border districts of Jammu and Kashmir plotted to force the unification of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. Junagarh acceded to Pakistan to the consternation of Gandhi as well as Nehru, but they quietened down, for Mountbatten held the reins of power in India. The Congress leaders received the second jolt, when Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir. Again the Indian government wobbled, with Mountbatten managing to provide the invading armies, six long days to cover the ground from Kohalla, the last border outpost of the state, to Srinagar, a distance usually covered in a days time. The wrangles between the Prime Minister office, the British officials commanding various formations of the Indian army, the Viceroy and the mercenaries of the British who had taken key positions in the states department, wasted precious time. Jammu and Kashmir was saved by the Hindu elements of the Dogra army, of which the Muslim ranks had deserted to join the invading hordes, and the over cautious army command of Pakistan, which sought to spread into the state without giving India a cause to react in concern. Pakistan perhaps, did not want India to take the offensive in Junagarh and Hyderabad, where they hoped to entrench deeper after they had reduced Jammu and Kashmir and dismantled the traditional frontier of India.

 The Indian government opted for a cease-fire in 1949, and accepted to handover more than one third of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan, along with the strategic outposts of Gilgit and Baltistan as well as the Dardic dependencies of the State, Hunza, Nagrar, Yasin, Ish Koman, Darel, Koh-Gizir and Pumal, streching along the main routes entering Kashmir from the north. In 1950, only one year after the cease-fire, the Indian leaders handed over the rest of the state to the Muslims of Kashmir in perpetual possession by virtue of Article 370. The Himalayan frontier to the east, was treated with greater abondon. The Indian leaders nursed a self-deception that they were visionaries. They were products of history, which had been distorted by the liberalist reformism of the British Empire in India. India had considerable military interest in Tibet and indeed an Indian army garrison was posted in Chumbi valley, enroute to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, besides the considerable political and religious influence India exercised in the Tibetan capital. Pannikar was also a product of the career civil service of the British empire. He was unable to judge the ramifications of the Chinese advance into Tibet.

 Frightened of the prospect of a conflict, in which Pannikar saw no stakes for the Indian state, he guided the Indian government out of Tibet. India abandoned its position in Tibet, withdrew its garrison from Chumbi valley and closed its agency in Lhasa. But once the Chinese consolidated their power in Tibet, they demolished the Indian frontier all along the McMahon Line, accepted as the rightful border between India and Tibet in a convention held at Simla in 1914. The Tibetan delegate Lochen Shatra and the Chinese Plenipotentiary Ivon Chen signed the Simla convention along with Sir Charles Bell, the British Indian delegate. The Chinese, as was expected, pushed down the Indian frontier nearly two hundred miles south of the McMohan Line. Gandhi was dead. Nehru, broken by the Chinese action was unable to meet the challenge the Chinese posed. Tibet the great Himalayan table-land was Sanskritised by the Hindus of Kashmir, shortly after the beginning of the Christian era. Indeed the Sanskritisation of the entire Himalayas in the north was accomplished by them. The Sanskritisation of central Asia, Mongolia, and Tibet formed one continuous process, which the Hindus of Kashmir completed. The foundations of the Tibetan theorcracy were laid down by the Kashmir Budhist Scholar, Sakya, Pandit, a nephew of the great Pandit Phagspa of Kashmir, the mentor of Godan Khagan the son and successor of Timuchim, the Changis Khan. The northern Himalayan were Indianised by the Sikhs, when the Sikhs extended the Sikh empire, over the entire warm Himalayan hinterland up to the western Tibet. The Himayalas remained Sanskrit and Indian after the British wrested them from the Sikhs. The British politicised the Himalayas, and actually consolidated their cultural unity and their Indian content into a frontier, which for over a century, stood as the last bastion of Indian defence in the north.

 The efforts of Pakistan and China, to impair the Himalayan frontier of India, has a strategic purpose. Both seek to demolish the Indian frontier which is Sanskrit and which is Indian. Once it is washed away, the northern borders of India, brought down to the planes in the Punjab and the Himalayan foothills in the east, will, pave the way for the expansion of the Muslim power of Pakistan south and east and the expansion of China, into the Valley of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The war of attrition, which is at present being waged by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, is a pact of the Great Game, to grab the warm Himalayan hinterland across Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Upper Punjab. India must recover the part of Jammu and Kashmir, under the occupation of Pakistan, without which it will not be able to close Pakistan' intervention in Jammu and Kashmir. Peace between India and Pakistan is essential but in the new world, with no security in a unipolar international system, the defence of the northern frontier of India is more essential.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel




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