|Is Kashmir "atoot ang" of India?
Daily: Daily Times
India claims that on October 26, 1947, the ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir
Maharaja Hari Singh signed the requisite Instrument of Accession with the then Dominion of
India, and this prompted dominion’s then-governor general Lord Mountbatten to dispatch
Indian troops to Kashmir on October 27 to liberate it from anarchists, the Poonch rebels
supported by the Pashtuns from the tribal area of the then Dominion of Pakistan. Soon, the
Indian army, mostly paratroops, got hold of a large part — about two-third — of the princely
state now called Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK), whereas the remaining small part, about one-
third, is now administered by Pakistan, and is called Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
While accepting the Instrument of Accession, Mountbatten demeaned the wishes of the
people of the princely state, which consequently, was plunged into an armed conflict.
Resultantly, on November 2, 1947, the then prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru,
avowed in his speech on the All India Radio that he was ready to hold a referendum under
the United Nations (UN), when peace restored in the princely state. This was the first step
towards acknowledging the significance of the wishes of the people of the princely state. On
December 31, 1947, the government of India appealed to the UN to intervene and,
consequently, on April 21, 1948, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution number 47,
urging upon both the countries to create conditions for conducting a plebiscite. To that,
both the countries agreed and, on January 1, 1949, declared the ceasefire to pave the way
for holding the plebiscite.
This stock of development makes at least three points clear. First, the wishes of the people
of the princely state were a prerequisite to sign the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja
Hari Singh. Second, the Instrument of Accession offered India only an interim power for an
interim period to administer its part of Kashmir. Third, to determine the wishes of the people
of the princely state, no global body less than the UN was required.
Interestingly, it was India that took the initiative of knocking at the door of the UN to get a
resolution passed, and it is India that has never pressed on the UN to hold a plebiscite in
the princely state — both IHK and AJK together. This point belies India’s claim of declaring
the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir its “atoot ang” or integral part. That is, India is still
tolerating its integral part divided into the IHK and AJK. Secondly, India is not interested in
retrieving AJK through a UN-conducted plebiscite.
India is still struggling with legitimising its hold on its part of Kashmir. For instance, India
made it conditional on the Constituent Assembly of the IHK to ratify 1952 Delhi Agreement,
which is considered a follow-up to Article 370, a reflection of the Instrument of Accession
inserted in the Constitution of India, guaranteeing the IHK a special status to seek
autonomy and self-rule. That is, India got ready to offer the IHK autonomy and self-rule if
the latter ratified the Delhi agreement. In this way, India wishfully thought that the ratification
of the Delhi Agreement might substitute for the compulsion of taking into account the
wishes of the people of Kashmir. In principle, a local arrangement, even if it were fraught
with any kind of inducement, cannot overrule the interim power offered to India earlier for
only an interim period.
Interestingly, on the one hand, in 1947, India itself yearned for having a plebiscite to
discern the wishes of the people while, on the other, India declared its part of Kashmir one
of the “disturbed areas” to be handled by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA),
an act that is functional since 1990, and empowers the Indian forces (both army and police)
to shoot and kill anyone with impunity on mere suspicion.
India is also struggling with reducing the size of the Kashmir issue. For instance, India
claims that the Kashmir issue is bilateral in nature to be solved in the light of the Simla
Agreement 1972. This point invites different challenges. First, the war of 1971 was not
fought primarily on Kashmir to plummet the Kashmir issue from an international standing to
a bilateral one, though a ceasefire line was established between both the countries on
December 17, 1971. Secondly, the Simla Agreement cannot couch the Kashmir issue in
any bilateral lexicon without considering the basic principle of taking into account the wishes
of the people of the princely state of Kashmir. Thirdly, after 1972, India has made no effort
to resolve the Kashmir issue with Pakistan to reify the concept of the princely state of
Kashmir as its integral part.
Little is known about the definition of “integral part” India believes in, as India is not ready to
mention Kashmir in its talks — composite or comprehensive — with Pakistan, even if these
were held under the Simla Agreement; India is not asking Pakistan to solve the issue of
Kashmir first and talk about opening the trade route later; and India is not entreating the
world to speak to Pakistan to solve the issue of Kashmir. Secondly, Pakistan — a country
smaller in size, weaker in power and more meagre in resources than those of India —
should be in a hurry to absorb its part of Kashmir into its mainland by making it a province,
whereas India, which considers the princely state of Kashmir its integral part, should be
after Pakistan to liberate its part of Kashmir. Instead, it is the other way round. India has
lined the Line of Control with a material and electronic hedge to act as a permanent
boundary between its part of Kashmir and the AJK. The “tolerance” of India to forsake a
portion of its integral part to be kept on administered by Pakistan is amazing.
In short, it is not that the atoot ang claim of India has been challenged by Kashmiris or
Pakistanis but it is that India itself has derided its own claim.
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