J&K: Dispute without end

Destined to Fight? India and Pakistan (1990-2017)  
Swagato Ganguly
Times Group Books
360 pages; Rs 499

The partition of countries does not solve any problems. On the contrary, many difficult unfinished tasks are left for post-partition successor governments. Like other countries, partitioned India is still struggling to resolve its dispute with Pakistan over Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). The essays in Destined to Fight highlight this tragic truth. 

Swagato Ganguly, the editor of this volume, has observed that 87 articles of this volume “represent a moving snapshot of India-Pakistan relations over a quarter century beginning with 1990s”. Readers of this rich collection will find, however, that analyses and solutions offered by knowledgeable people from India and Pakistan only end up revealing the complexities of the dispute and the incapacity of the leaders of these two states to arrive at any solution of this contentious problem.

Mr Ganguly has divided the history of the past 27 years into four parts: Part One: 1990-1997: The Cold War ends, Kashmir insurgency explodes; Part Two: 1998-2003: Nuclearisation of South Asia and its consequences; Part Three: 2004-2008: Torrent of fury to tears of joy: The thaw; Part Four: 2009-2017: The freeze sets in again. He has interlinked each phase with an introduction delineating the critical issues.

Some important facts need to be mentioned to contextualise the subject. First, India and Pakistan fought two full-fledged conventional wars in 1965 and 1971, and a “low-intensity” conflict in 1999 (known as the Kargil war). But the nuclearisation of India and Pakistan in 1998 changed the picture. C Raja Mohan has correctly observed that “it was the introduction of nuclear weapons into the arsenals of India and Pakistan that dampened the prospects for a conventional war”.

In the first two parts, the authors focus on the birth of Pakistan-sponsored insurgency as a strategy to destabilise not only the Indian part of Kashmir but also to compel India to come to the negotiating table. This strategy is a direct consequence of the nuclearisation of South Asia. As Mr Raja Mohan points out, “[A]fter all, atomic weapons made sure that India can no longer threaten Pakistan’s survival as a state”, but “Pakistan-sponsored insurgency and low-intensity wars against India can continue to ‘bleed’ India. Gautam Adhikari elaborates the same point when he observes that “when neither of the two was nuclear-armed, India enjoyed a proven conventional military superiority. That is no longer so. Pakistan’s option in the new situation is to compel India to negotiate or face ‘cross-border terrorism on its borders’.” 

A second major issue that deserves attention is the role of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who, while dealing with Kashmir conflict in 1948, decided to refer it to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Jan Sangh, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and others have alleged that Nehru mishandled the Kashmir dispute by not waging a war against Pakistan to the finish and by referring the Kashmir dispute to UNSC in 1948, under the pressure from Lord Louis Mountbatten. 

A very special article by Chandrashekhar Dasgupta highlights the historical record that exposes the RSS/Jan Sangh line as false propaganda. Nehru, he points out, “Was both arm-twisted and double-crossed by Lord Mountbatten”. Mountbatten could swiftly communicate Indian military plans to Pakistan, whose commanders were also British, so that Indian plans could be effectively neutralised. Thus, Mr Dasgupta states, “Nehru was left with few cards to deal”. In short, the British took full advantage of the chaos prevailing in India soon after independence. 

In the Security Council, Kashmir became a Cold War game. The US and Britain promoted Pakistan’s interests in Kashmir. Had communist Russia not exercised its veto in favour of the Indian position on Kashmir, India would have been pushed by the Anglo-American power bloc to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan. 

Several articles tell the story of how the nature of the Kashmir dispute changed after Al-Qaeda’s attack on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001. The US and Nato forces’ attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan, for protecting Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, revived Pakistan’s status as a client state and emboldened it to sponsor terror attacks on India. Between the nuclear tests, the attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001 and state-sponsored terrorism, the Kashmir dispute grew quite hot. The Pakistani contributors are a mixed lot. If Ayesha Jalal simply repeats her old, unsubstantiated thesis that the Indian state is not secular, it is Maleeha Lodhi, one of Pakistan’s long-serving top policymakers, who observes, “The strategic relationship between Pakistan and India remains undefined and unstable.” Ms Lodhi is correct: Every step forward is followed by a crisis. 

Mohammed Hanif’s interview highlights the point that today’s “heavily Islamized Pakistan” makes the Kashmir dispute difficult to resolve because religious fundamentalists, whether the Islamists of Pakistan or the Hindutva forces of India, complicate the issue by making it an integral part of religion-based politics.

The overall message of the contributors to this volume is that the historical baggage carried by both India and Pakistan is a “gift of the retreating colonial powers,” and the West for its own strategic reasons has complicated matters. Can India and Pakistan bilaterally negotiate and resolve this contentious issue? Pakistan’s export of terrorism has made that country a victim of terrorism. As far as India is concerned its ambition to emerge as a global player is a pipe dream because Pakistan patronised by China will always act as spoilers.