The author begins this study by talking of the history of Kashmir and its glorious Hindu past followed by Muslim inroads into Kashmir, the advent of Sheikh Abdullah and dismemberment of India, the wars with Pakistan and the latter’s continued belligerence.
According to the author, it was the British Empire which was steeped in “racial arrogance” as it insulated itself from the colonial people who were derogatively called “natives”. Steeped in the notion that civilisation was a purely European phenomenon, “the Occidental mind could not understand the greatness of the Orient”. The British who came as traders but stumbled upon an empire could not realise that the territory under their control was “an intellectual, populous and polyglot sub-continent” and this added to their failure to build a productive relationship with the Indian society.
With the finding of the Indian National Congress in 1885 and its growing popularity as the “Hindu” Congress, the British Indian Government decided to create bad blood between the Hindus and the Muslims. The British began to favour the Muslim community partly on the ground of closer empathy, but more “as a makeshift agent against Hindu nationalism”. This disunity was brought to a finale with the Partition of India so as at keep the Muslims in good humour. “The new nation of Pakistan became congenitally hostile to India,” says the author.
Here the author now shifts attention to focus on Kashmir which Britain wanted to be a part of Pakistan. The author says that it was with this view that the propaganda against the “misrule and autocracy” of Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir was intensified. But when Britain’s fond hope of having Kashmir accede to Pakistan failed, it adopted an attitude of “unmixed malice” towards India thereafter.
When Kashmir acceded to India, Britain exercised all her power to ensure that Pakistan stood firm on its refusal to accept the decision which in her view was achieved “fraudulently”. Members of the British delegation to the UN and the British army officers who opted to serve in Pakistan after August 1947 tried their best to nullify the painstaking efforts of India to solve the dispute amicably. The author specifically mentions Philip Noel-Baker, who joined the British Cabinet as the Commonwealth Secretary for treating the issue with contempt and who strongly opposed India’s claim that Kashmir was a part of India. It is said that Pakistani Prime Minister’s replies to Nehru’s telegrams were either drafted or vetted in the White Hall or in the UK High Commissioner’s office in Karachi. This encouraged Pakistan to revile India and Indian leaders. Such vituperative attacks were made by “Zafrullah Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and leaders of their ilk” who “always breathed fire and spewed venom on India during discussions on Kashmir in the Security Council.” What is more, “whenever Pakistan had internal problems, which she always had in a large measure, to divert attention of the public, she would start a hate-campaign against India.” How true this sounds if seen in today’s context also!
Jawaharlal Nehru had a deep distrust of raids on Kashmir and he arrested Pakistan’s aggression against India. But British officials accused India of “beating the drum of Pakistani aggression as loudly as ever” and even pronounced that “Nehru falls short of being a great statesman over Kashmir”.
After their defeat at the hands of Indian forces in Bangladesh, Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement and between 1999 and till the Kargil war, there was no major conflict between India and Pakistan. But Pakistan’s aim to possess Kashmir did not diminish. Killing of Hindus and abduction of girls from Pandit families became a routine feature. In 1999, Pakistan enacted a most treacherous drama and while a goodwill bus yatra was undertaken, 26 Hindus were done to death by militants in Kashmir. Pakistan began sending her troops in the guise of mujahideens to Dras and Batalik to launch the Kargil war.
Here the author points to the root cause of conflict over Kashmir by saying that British documents refer to the dissatisfaction of some Indian leaders and high-ranking officers with the policy Nehru pursued on Kashmir. “Some Congressmen even felt that among the ham-handed actions of the Congress since 1937, which paved the way to a considerable degree to the Partition of India, the costliest blunder was to take away Kashmir from the charge of Vallabhbhai Patel who held the crucial portfolios of Home and States apart from the post of Deputy Prime Minister.” Here the author talks highly of Patel, who was “a brilliant tactician and a talented administrator who accomplished with consummate skill the Herculean task of integrating the 562 princely Indian states in the political structure of India.”
The author is of the view that the best solution to Kashmir problem would be for both Pakistan and India to unite though “it may take a century or more for this to happen but a century is not a long period in the life of a nation as ancient as India. Reunion is the only lasting and permanent solution to all the problems now being faced by both India and Pakistan.” However, this reviewer feels that this suggestion is hardly a solution because the feudal and tribal wars that are a part and parcel of Pakistan will become a festering sore for India if the two countries were to unite.
(Kalpaz Publications, C-30 Satyawati Nagar, Delhi-110 052.)