Claude Arpi | Why Pak politicians need to study Kashmir history

On December 11, 2023, India’s Supreme Court upheld the August 2019 abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated the state into two Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan’s politicians immediately started crying foul, saying that the Indian government’s decision had “no legal value”.

Jalil Abbas Jilani, a minister in the country’s caretaker government, said that “Kashmiris have an inalienable right to self-determination in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.” Mr Jilani, like most of his colleagues, has probably never read the relevant UN resolutions: we shall soon come to that.

The Pakistani media too believed that this was a “grave injustice” and an “unjust verdict”. On December 12, Dawn said that it was an attempt to rewrite history: “The court’s decision may strengthen India’s stranglehold over Kashmir, but it cannot extinguish the Kashmiris’ strong desire for freedom and dignity.”

So let us speak about history.

While working on the Nehru papers a few years ago, I came across a “Top Secret” note written in the early 1950s by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, then secretary-general of the ministry of external affairs and Commonwealth affairs. It was entitled “Background to the Kashmir Issue: Facts of the Case”; and it made fascinating reading.

It starts by a historical dateline: “Invasion of the state by tribesmen and Pakistan nationals through or from Pakistan territory on October 20, 1947; the ruler’s offer of accession of the state to India supported by the National Conference, a predominantly Muslim though non-communal political organisation, on October 26, 1947; acceptance of the accession by the British Governor-General of India on October 27, 1947, under this accession, the state became an integral part of India; expression of a wish by Lord Mountbatten in a separate letter to the ruler the fulfilment of which was to take place at a future date when law and order had been restored and the soil of the state cleared of the invader, the people of the state were given the right to decide whether they should remain in India or not.”

The note also mentioned the invasion of the state by Pakistan regular forces on May 8, 1948; the conditions were clear and in two parts: first the Pakistani troops or irregulars should withdraw from the Indian territory that they occupied and later a plebiscite could be envisaged.

Commenting on the entry of Pakistanis on Indian territory, the note said: “One of the grounds for this [Pakistani] military operation, as disclosed by Pakistan’s foreign minister himself, was a recommendation of the commander-in-chief of Pakistan [a British national] that an easy victory for the Indian Army was almost certain to arouse the anger of the invading tribesmen [raiders] against Pakistan.”

The note also observed: “Pakistan, not content with assisting the invader, has itself become an invader and its army is still occupying a large part of the soil of Kashmir, thus committing a continuing breach of international law.”

Pakistani politicians (and many others) often quote the UN resolutions; very few have read them. The UN resolutions of January 17, 1948, August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949 (UNCIP Resolutions) made it amply clear that “Pakistan cannot claim to exercise sovereignty in respect of J&K”.

In 2019, the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government had triggered a lot of comments from Indian as well as foreign journalists. Most of the scribes were ill-informed about the legality of the issue; while the Indian press dealt with the subject rather decently, it was not so with the foreign press. Why this perennial misinformation or disinformation?

The Government of India is probably to be blamed; the external affairs ministry should have long ago “educated” the media by giving a full historical briefing on all facets of the issue.

But there is yet more: the case of Gilgit.

An interesting announcement appeared in the 1948 London Gazette mentioning that the King “has been graciously pleased… to give orders for… appointments to the Most Exalted Order of the British Empire…” The list included “Brown, Major (acting) William Alexander, Special List (ex-Indian Army)”. Who was this officer?

Maj. Brown is infamous for illegally “offering” Gilgit to Pakistan in 1947.

The British paramountcy had lapsed on August 1, 1947, and Gilgit reverted to the Maharaja’s control. Lt. Col. Roger Bacon, the British political agent, handed his charge to Brig. Ghansara Singh, the new governor appointed by Maharaja Hari Singh. Maj. Brown remained in charge of the Gilgit Scouts.

Despite Hari Singh having signed the Instrument of Accession and joined India, Maj. Brown refused to acknowledge the orders of the Maharaja under the pretext that some leaders of the Frontier Districts Province (Gilgit-Baltistan) wanted to join Pakistan.

On November 1, 1947, probably under order from the British generals, he handed over the entire area to Pakistan.

At the time, the entire hierarchy of the Indian and Pakistan Army was still British. In Pakistan, Sir Frank Messervy was commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 and Sir Douglas Gracey served in 1948-51; while in India, the commander-in-chief was Sir Robert Lockhart (1947-48) and later Sir Roy Bucher (1948). It is only in June 1948 that Gen. K.M. Cariappa took over. Let us not forget that Sir Claude Auchinleck (later elevated to Field-Marshal) served as the supreme commander (India and Pakistan) from August to November 1947.

Who can believe that all these senior generals were kept in the dark by a junior officer like Maj. Brown?

It is obvious that Maj. Brown’s British bosses were aware of his “gift” to Pakistan. The fact that he was appointed to the OBE is further proof. The King does not usually appoint “deserters” or “rebels” to the august order.

Amazingly, six years ago, the British Parliament passed a resolution that confirmed Gilgit-Baltistan was part of Jammu and Kashmir. The motion was tabled on March 23, 2017 by Bob Blackman of the Conservative Party. It reads: “Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights, including the right of freedom of expression.”

It incidentally also means that the agreement signed on March 2, 1963 between Pakistan and China about the Shaksgam Valley of the Gilgit Agency being transferred to China is also legally invalid. In 2024, Beijing should plainly be told this and Pakistani politicians should learn their history.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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