Question of Kashmir

Question of Kashmir

by T. N. Kaul

In this extremely well-reasoned article, the author, former Foreign Secretary to the Govt. of India and an ace diplomat, terms the plight of Kashmiri Pandit refugees as a threat to the stability, independence, freedom and integrity of India - Editor.

I have returned home to India after visiting various countries for the last three months. I am T.N. Kauldisappointed with the indifference and inaction of our leaders and political parties to some of the very important matters that are vital to the interest of our country and the people. The impression abroad seems to be that in spite of rich natural resources and vast human talents, India is incapable of or unable to solve its internal problems or deal effectively with external threats.

This may not be wholly true but it is the definite impression one gets even from the citizens of India abroad because of our inability to produce results, and even when we do produce results, our inability to inform, educate or project these in a convincing manner to our own media in India and to the correspondents of the foreign media. Although we have diplomatic missions in almost all capitals of the world, and more than 10 million people of Indian origin live abroad and are well off and prosperous, we seem to be unable to take advantage of these favorable factors to project the correct image of India.

The most striking example of our failure is the continuing problem of Kashmir which has been draining our resources ever since 1947, particularly during the past six years since militancy has gained ground in J&K. People abroad cannot understand why India, which is much bigger than Pakistan and has greater political stability and military strength, cannot deal effectively with a few thousand infiltrators who have been crossing the Line of Control, agreed to by both sides at the Simla Conference in 1972, with impunity. They ask how a smaller country like Pakistan can get away with its cheap proxy war and involve more than 500 thousand Indian military and para-military forces in J&K without any appreciable improvement in the situation on the ground: They wonder how a few foreign mercenaries trained and armed by Pakistan along with a few local misguided malcontents could dare to threaten the holy shrine at Hazratbal and, when they failed there, to burn the Sufi shrine respected by both Muslims and non-Muslims at Chrar-e-Sharief. They further ask why India is hesitant to use its armed forces to pursue the militants who are holding the four foreign hostages and who have already killed one Norwegian. They ask why the Indian security forces could not pursue these terrorists, particularly after they beheaded the unfortunate innocent Norwegian tourist. They say that India would have had the full sympathy and understanding of the whole world if it had taken action against the militants either before or even immediately after lhe beheading of the Norwegian.

Many Indian writers, including myself, have been trying to impress on the corridors of power in India the urgent need to warn Pakistan, not in mere words but by serious action, that the terrorist training camps in occupied Kashmir or elsewhere are a direct violation of international law and the UN Charter as well as the Simla Agreement, and any interference in or aggression on Kashmir will be considered as aggression against India. Such a warning was issued by Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1965 and had its effect on Pakistan. A similar action in 1971 by Indira Gandhi was even more effective. Why is it that for the past six years we have not issued any serious warning to Pakistan and followed it up with action in order to deter the interference and aggression on the state of J&K, particularly on the Indian side of the Line of Control.

No one abroad will give any credence to our side of the story, however true it may be, unless we follow it up with successful action. The fear in some circles that this may provoke Pakistan into launching a war against India is not only unjustified but is also a sign of weakness and vacillation on the part of the powers that be. In the first place, arler its utter defeat in 1971 Pakistan's military would not be so foolhardy as to embark on another military misadventure against India. The present military leaders in Pakistan are, I hope, more sensible and realistic than some of the politicians who, for internal purposes, are fond of issuing constant threats to India both in their national Press and international forums.

I am disappointed and shocked at the weak, timid and defensive attitude that we always adopt in replying to Pakistan's unfounded charges against India. Instead of dealing firmly with the violation of human rights by the militants in Kashmir, who are financed, trained and equipped by the state- terrorism and aggressive policy of Pakistan, we are not even giving any help or succour to the more than 3,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits and over 50,000 Muslims and Sikhs who have been forced to flee the valley at the point of the terrorist's gun. Why is it that the Indian security forces are unable to pursue these terrorists and capture them redhanded and prevent their infiltration across the Line of Control ? I cannot believe that our security forces are incapable of doing this. They are second to none in their efficiency and training. Perhaps they are not given clear and firm directives by the civil and political leaders, or is it that the latter are sabotaging the action because of vested interests, bribery and corruption that have crept into the civil administration?

It is shocking that, in spite of a unanimous resolution on J&K by our Parliament, no effective action has been taken so far to implement it. There is a national consensus among all political parties that J&K is an integral part of India and must remain so. If any part of J&K is allowed or encouraged to separate from India on grounds of religion or otherwise, it will be the beginning of dismemberment of the whole country. Not only that, it will also lead to the dismemberment of Pakistan, which has at least half a dozen ethnic and religious sectarian groups. What is more, it could lead to a bloodbath on religious lines and the migration of hundreds of millions of people in the whole subcontinent and its neighbourhood if religion or ethnicity is allowed to be the determining factor for secession.

India has a strong case on Kashmir on grounds of history, culture, ethnicity and ideology. But unless India is able to deal effectively and successfully against internal and external threats, it will not be able to convince the rest of the world about its case. It must strengthen its concept of secular democracy, by providing full protection and freedom to all minorities in every nook and corner of India irrespective of creed, caste or gender. The plight of the refugees from Kashmir or the internally displaced persons, who are living under subhuman conditions without adequate facilities in regard to security, health, hygiene, education or employment, is a blot on the Government and people of India. It is not merely a question of 3,00,000 poor unfortunate Indian citizens who have been forced to flee their hearths and homes at the point of the gun. It is a threat to the culture and ideals of humanism, mutual respect and tolerance, and to the stability, independence, freedom and integrity of the whole country.

It is time our leaders woke up to this serious threat and, instead of merely talking about it, did something concrete and substantial to remove the threat. If India continues merely to complain and whine, the rest of the world is not likely to take it seriously.

The time for action is now and world opinion is favourably inclined towards India's case provided New Delhi is able to effectively and successfully deal with both its internal and external problems. No government or political party in a democratic India will be able to stay in power for a single week if it does not seriously consider the threat to the whole country involved in J&K.

Let this be a warning to all political parties to do something collectively and not merely indulge in mutual bickerings and throwing mud at each other. What is involved is not the prestige or influence or success or failure of one political party or the other but of the country as a whole.

CourtesyThe Tribune, Chandigarh, Nov. 11,1995]

Source: Koshur Samachar

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