Book House

Book Review | The Kashmir Dispute

Author: A.G. Noorani
IT would be unfair to a scholar like A.G. Noorani to call the book, The Kashmir Dispute: 1947-2012, a mere collection of articles written by him since 1964. In their totality, the articles turn the book into a piece of research that gives us a comprehensive story of the Kashmir tragedy from political, diplomatic, legal and, more importantly, human angles.
The 148-page introduction in a book spread over 550 pages sounds odd. But it is the introduction that gives originality to what indeed is the result of painstaking research based on rare documents obtained from varied sources. Together with the appendices, it contains evidence that brings to light new facts about the Kashmir story. The 67-year-old dispute led to two wars between two nations when they were not nuclear powers. In 1999, they were on the verge of a third war when both possessed weapons of mass destruction. Unless solved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people, the issue will continue to be a source of instability and conflict in South Asia.
For Noorani, the Kashmiri people’s chronicle of miseries began when Akbar the Great sent his troops to the state in 1589, heralding the Mughal rule that was to last 166 years, followed by brutal Afghan and Sikh dynasties. As Ranjit Singh’s kingdom broke up, Gulab Singh, Raja of Jammu, became the Muslim-majority Kashmir’s Hindu ruler by paying Rs7.5 million to the British government on March 16, 1846 (a typo in the book gives this year as ‘1946’). Exactly a hundred years later, Kashmir would hit world headlines as South Asia becomes independent.
Noorani is moved by the plight of the Kashmiri people and blames virtually all Pakistani and Indian leaders and the British government for bungling the issue and, thus, inflicting miseries on the disputed territory’s population. He even blames Jinnah for reasons that are entirely his own. But while castigating others, including Sheikh Abdullah and Sardar Patel, Noorani makes clear he considers Jawaharlal Nehru to be the villain of the piece. He accuses India’s first prime minister of lying in parliament, intriguing against the “Lion of Kashmir,” dismissing Abdullah’s government and arresting him on charges “he knew to be false.” The book quotes Nehru liberally on his promise to determine the Kashmir issue through a plebiscite.
On October 25, 1947, in telegrams addressed to Pakistan and British prime ministers, Nehru said: “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our view, which we have repeatedly made public, is that the question of accession in any disputed territory of State must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people and we adhere to this view.” This was a pledge he repeated in telegrams to Liaquat Ali Khan on October 28, 1947, and October 31, 1947. In the last telegram he said, “Our assurance that we shall withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order are restored and leave the decision about the future of the State to the people of the State is not merely a pledge to your Government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world.”
Once again in a telegram on November 8, 1947, to Liaquat Ali Khan, Nehru said: “… it is essential in order to restore good relations between two Dominions that there should be acceptance of the principle that where the ruler of a State does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong, and where the State has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is the same as the State’s, the question whether the State should finally accede to one or the other of the two Dominions should be ascertained by reference to the will of the people.”
Coming to more recent times, Noorani dwells at length on the uprising in India-held Kashmir since 1988-89 and regrets that Indian policy should continue to see infiltrators from Pakistan as behind it, even though it was schoolboys and middle-aged women who were among the demonstrators. The fact was, he said, that the Kashmiris suffered from a sense of victimhood, and this no Indian government had the wisdom to admit.
For a researcher, the book is a mine of invaluable material. It contains texts of rare documents, like the Pakistani and Indian drafts of the non-war pact which never materialised, various British and American documents on Kashmir, the American proposal for Kashmir’s partition, the text of the author’s interview with Musharraf in August 2006, the details of Musharraf’s plan, the draft of a new article to replace the Indian constitution’s article 370, which gives a special status to India-held Kashmir, and correspondence among the principals — Jinnah, Mountbatten, Nehru,
Sheikh Abdullah, Jayaprakash Narayan and Radhakrishnan — besides the texts of secret documents so far unpublished.
Was any serious attempt made to solve the Kashmir issue in the wake of Kargil? Noorani seems to attach importance to the four-point plan which was the brainchild of the man responsible for Kargil. Surprisingly, Musharraf was able to convert Manmohan Singh to his plan which provided for “equal autonomy” for both Azad Kashmir and India-occupied Kashmir. In an interview with an Indian TV channel Musharraf said Singh postponed his trip to Islamabad because of the stir in Pakistan. If his visit had materialised, the deal would have been signed. The interview with NDTV is of historic importance because Musharraf denied the general impression that the Pakistan army was a “rogue army” and was not interested in a Kashmir solution or peace with India. Going by what he saw of his predecessors, Musharraf said such an impression was “absolutely wrong.”
Noorani summarises his views of the Kashmir dispute thus: “As long as the Kashmir dispute continues to fester, India cannot attain the stature that is justly its due in the councils of the world.”


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