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It didn’t begin last May

One often hears that the present government, by its decision to conduct nuclear tests, has caused the Kashmir issue to be internationalis...

Written by Jagmohan |
August 17, 1998

One often hears that the present government, by its decision to conduct nuclear tests, has caused the Kashmir issue to be internationalised and thus “scored a goal against itself”. This criticism ignores the fact that the US and its allies always had a “finger in the Kashmir pie”. Let alone the distant past when India’s straightforward complaint to the UN Security Council on January 1, 1948, was intentionally complicated to serve the geopolitical interests of western powers, American actions before Pokhran II should leave no one in any doubt about what the game was all along. Let me invite your attention to a few of these.

Much before the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) extension came up for consideration of the international body, an influential `think-tank’ led by Professor Stephen Cohen, who is virtually a part of the American government’s policy-making group on Kashmir and Indo-Pakistan relations, started advocating that “the road to accession to NPT lies through Kashmir”. This impliedthat India’s difficulties in the Valley should be used to pressure her to agree to the extension of NPT.

The Carnegie Endowment Study Group on `US-India Relations in a Changing International Environment’ recommended in 1993 that “The United States should seek, both unilaterally and through the United Nations, to promote multi-faceted Indo-Pakistan negotiation in which nuclear non-proliferation and other issues are addressed concurrently. Efforts to promote nuclear dialogue without parallel initiative on other fronts are likely to prove futile. The Kashmir dispute, in particular, could become the flashpoint of a conventional war that could escalate to nuclear level.” The message between the lines is clear. It is to link India’s stand on the NPT with Kashmir. The Carnegie Endowment is an another semi-official `think-tank’.

The report of the Joint American-Russian Study Mission, prepared in the heyday of their new-found friendship and cooperation, had the same refrain: “Russia and the United States couldinitiate, in the UN Security Council, a resolution that could state their concern on Kashmir…”

At about the same time unfavourable comments were made off and on to serve as subtle hints to India to remember that the `Kashmir dispute’ was still alive. On October 29, 1993, Robin Raphel, US Assistant Secretary of State, said at a “background” briefing for South Asian journalists: “We do not recognise the instrument of accession as meaning that Kashmir is for evermore an integral part of India…We view the whole of Kashmir as disputed territory, the status of which needs to be resolved…The Simla Agreement is 21 years old.” Asked about the storm in New Delhi over Bill Clinton’s reference to Kashmir in his UN address, she said: “It is very easy to create a storm in Delhi. It was correct to say we saw Kashmir on the radar screen along with Yugoslavia and Somalia.” A clarification by the State Department tended to confirm Raphel’s statement. “It did not change the content of the dish but merely themanner of serving it.” A few days earlier, John R. Mallot, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, who was on a visit to India, made observations similar to Raphel’s.

To create world opinion in favour of the American plan to secure India and Pakistan’s agreement to the indefinite extension of the NPT and signing of the CTBT, scare-stories were planted on the imminence of an Indo-Pak nuclear conflict. In an article titled `On the Nuclear Edge’ which was published in 1993 in the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh asserted that in early 1990 India and Pakistan had been on the brink of a nuclear conflict on Kashmir. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and General Mirza Aslam Beg were “keeping their hands on the button,” and India was ready to retaliate. The story was imaginary. As I have shown with the help of contemporaneous records and facts in my book My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, the Indian government was so casual that even the collapse of the administration and large-scale subversion in the Valley during FarooqAbdullah’s regime did not spur it to action. It was not the attitude of a government contemplating conventional, let alone nuclear, war. As for Pakistan, why should it have risked a holocaust when its objective was being achieved through a low-cost proxy war in which Kashmiri youth was serving as its cannon fodder? Even at the worst time in the Kashmir crisis (November 1989 to March 1990), most Indian parties were concerned more with their vote banks than preventing Pakistan from closing its jaws on Kashmir. In early 1990 India showed no signs of a war mentality either administratively or politically.

Likewise, in February 1994, excerpts from Burrow and Winderm’s book, `Critical Mass’, were published in the Indian Press. One of the “revelations” they made was that in October 1984 Indira Gandhi was planning to bomb Pakistani nuclear installations at Kahuta. This too was a concoction. Five days before her assassination on October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi was in Srinagar with her grandchildren, visitingshrines. She had detailed discussions with me about Jammu and Kashmir. There was nothing to indicate the likelihood of a confrontation with Pakistan or any other significant happening in the near future. After all the bombing of Kahuta could not have been without repercussion, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir which also includes the strategic area of Ladakh bordering China.Clearly India has not come under American pressure on Kashmir only after the nuclear tests. That has existed since preparations began for securing the extension of the NPT and agreement on the CTBT.

If India confronts American moves on Kashmir with determination, the US may abandon or modify its course. After all, it cannot afford to incur the hostility of a nation of 950 million people. It is worth recalling that, when diehard Tory MPs in Britain such as R.A. Butler and Churchill tried to browbeat India by espousing the cause of the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Empire’s “faithful” ally, Sardar Patel firmly told them not to stand by the“old world”. He made it clear that “It is only in a goodwill spirit that an enduring relationship of friendship can be built between India and Britain and other members of the Commonwealth”. He successfully prevented Hyderabad, whom he described as an “ulcer in the abdomen of India,” from becoming cancerous. Such a fearless stand towards America’s new posture would help India retrieve the situation, besides sending the right signals to the secessionists in the Valley.

The writer is a member of the Lok Sabha and former governor of J&K

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