Kashmir- a Struggle Betrayed
The gun has changed the character of the struggle from a peaceful movement for self determination which the world community could not ignore, into an insurgency which has caused considerable loss of international goodwill for the cause
The other day I read a post on the Facebook in which accused the Pakistan army of having deliberately betrayed the Kashmir cause. Since I found this observation rather intriguing, I decided to investigate.
On the face of it, there seemed to be no substance in this allegation. The Pakistan army has consistently maintained that the Kashmir problem is an ‘unfinished agenda’ of partition and opposed every move of its political leaders which could end in any compromise. In 1948, they sent in their regulars to assist the tribal raiders to free the Kashmiris from the Indian yolk. In 1965, the Pakistan army infiltrated its regulars disguised as ‘razakars’ to ‘liberate’ Kashmir by fomenting an insurgency. Even in 1971, despite its ignominious defeat, the Pakistan army ensured that Bhutto made no concessions on the Kashmir issue. In the late 80’s it took upon itself the onerous responsibility to train, arm and send mujahedeens into Kashmir. By early 90’s, Pakistan army however realized that the ‘armed struggle’ by the local Kashmiris was not making any headway. So, to give further impetus, the Pakistan army even recruited the services of its own citizens as well as ‘mujahedeens’ from other countries and organizations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba came into existence.
So, the report card of the Pakistan army as regards its support for the Kashmir cause appears to be fairly impressive. Yet, hidden beneath these laudable efforts, lurk some disquieting questions which beg an answer. So at a time when the credibility of Pakistan’s army is suspect in its own country, it must also come out clean on its commitment towards Kashmir. That the army has been calling the shots in Pakistan ever since its creation in 1947 is, stating the obvious. Yet, no one ever objected to this as the Pakistan army served the nation well and measured up to the expectations of the people. In 1948, unable to decide upon the future of his kingdom, Maharaja Hari Singh entered into a ‘standstill’ agreement with the Pakistan government. However, the Pakistan army thought it more prudent to ‘liberate’ Kashmir rather than await final decision of this monarch. And speaking purely from the military point of view, it was the right choice since there was always the danger that this vacillating Maharaja could well choose to accede to India. Using tribals to overwhelm the miniscule forces of the Maharaja was an ingenious plan which not only assured success but also ensured that the Pakistan army could not be singled out for criticism by the international community.
Yet, the question which arises is that why did the Pakistani Generals fail to complement these tribesmen with regular units even after the Indian army had set its feet on Kashmiri soil and entered into the fray? Did they feel that the raiders would be able to defeat a trained army? Surely not! The Pakistani Generals were veterans of World War II and not novices- they would have certainly known that the rag-tag band of tribesmen, despite being led by army men stood no chance against a regular army. So, was it that they were scared of fielding their army against the Indian army due to the fear of a defeat? Here again the answer is-surely not! Till about a year back, both armies had belonged to the same British Indian Army and being similarly trained and equipped were equally matched. So, why did the Pakistan army, in the first place initiate the move to ‘liberate’ Kashmir even though it meant disregarding the ‘standstill’ agreement which its government had signed, and then abruptly back out?
Some attempts at justification for this inexplicable behaviour of the Pakistan army have been made in the past. Most explanations don’t give any convincing reasons and seek refuge in the argument that through this a UN resolution on Kashmir was extracted. But the world knows better. The credit for this should rightly go to India’s inept handling of the situation rather than Pakistan army’s sudden volte-face by abandoning the raiders and those poor Kashmiris who had revolted against the Maharaja to their own fate. The rest is history- the controversial accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India gained acceptability- thanks to the firm resolve of the Indian leadership! This was to be the first betrayal of the Kashmiris by the Pakistan army-they had sent ‘raiders’ and not ‘liberators’!
During the late 80s when the Pakistan army decided to infuse weapons into the struggle in Kashmir, it did its initial homework well. A large number of boys, some barely in their teens were collected from the valley and put through arms training. While the plan was good, the execution unfortunately was not – though the boys were provided with sophisticated weapons, their training unfortunately was wanting. It appears the Pakistan army was too much in a hurry to commence its ‘jehad’ and the poor boys paid the price –though full of zeal and valour, the boys being ill-trained were no match for the Indian security forces and thousands perished.
Today, there is still a section of people in the Kashmir valley who espouse the cause of armed rebellion against the ‘occupation’ of Kashmir by India. They still feel that violence is the only solution to resolve the Kashmir problem and as it is only the gun which can get Kashmir ‘azadi,’ by physically driving the Indian army out. While it is not intended to debate the pros and cons of this approach, it cannot be denied that after the gun came, Kashmir become a much more dangerous place where nearly every second day, someone or the other gets killed—be it by the security forces or ‘unidentified’ gunmen.
Was it the Pakistan army so naïve that it thought that a band of gun totting men could drive out the Indian army from Kashmir or that an armed struggle in the State would force New Delhi to let go of Kashmir? The answer is ‘NO’. So, why did they embark on this mission which they very well would only bring about death and destruction for Kashmiris? The gun has changed the very character of the struggle in Kashmir from a peaceful movement for self determination which the world community could not ignore, into an insurgency which has caused considerable loss of international goodwill for the cause. The gun has proved to be the bane and is the biggest betrayal of Kashmir cause by the Pakistan army!
Coming back to Pakistan army’s role in Kashmir – it is now amply clear that they were never actually serious about it and the large scale loss of life and property due to the introduction of the gun in the valley has never really bothered them. They appear to be happier when someone is killed by the Indian army since it helps the propaganda machinery to project New Delhi’s ‘forced occupation’ of J&K. Thus, it is amply evident that Kashmir was never really a ‘core’ issue for the Pakistan army. A festering Kashmir and not an independent Kashmir is what suits the Pakistan army for two reasons- first, it serves as a rallying point to muster public opinion in Pakistan that helps the army to justify its bourgeoning budget and second, it helps in marginalizing the numerically superior Indian army by ‘bleeding it through a thousand cuts’. And so, in this ongoing proxy war, it is the poor the Kashmiri who continue to suffer!