To celebrate the silver jubilee of the valley’s leading English daily, the Greater Kashmir, a two volume book about Kashmir dispute written by the famous constitutional lawyer and political analyst Abdul Ghafoor Noorani was released. On the occasion the author spoke about the dispute in the historical context as well as its present dimensions and possibilities of its resolution. Noorani Sahab has been fearlessly writing about the sufferings of Kashmiris and bringing out the truth through his series of analytical articles. He is very well regarded by the intellectuals and the civil society in Kashmir for his bold and forthright comments about the oppression which the people have been going through in this tragic valley.
During his speech he appeared to be putting major blame of the origin of suffering of Kashmiris on the refusal of Mohammad Ali Jinnah to accede to the offer of Lord Mountbatten for holding plebiscite in Hydrabad, Junagadh and Kashmir in November, 1947. He also mentioned that the Pakistani leadership of that time did not meet the emissaries from Kashmir. The circumstances of 1947 have been written and commented upon in umpteen works both by the authors from within the sub-continent as well as abroad. In fact, the declassification of some of the secret documents has completely changed the context of the real circumstances of the partition as well as the creation of Kashmir dispute.
Rakesh Ankit after studying the de-classified documents wrote a detailed research paper on the subject, “The Cold War and its Impact on the Evolution of the Kashmir Crisis, 1947-48” which appeared in the Journal of the Oxford University History Society in 2009.According to him, “‘Power Politics’ made a large contribution to the evolution of the Kashmir crisis. While the dispute emerged for local, regional and religious reasons its evolution and eventual ‘internationalization’ bears the stamp of concerns which had nothing to do with the individuality of the crisis and the merits of the cases of the two protagonists. In other words, while the events in and around the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir from August 1947 to January 1949, a period which saw an entire range of conflict, from local skirmishes to full-fledged invasion to pitched defensive warfare, were manufactured by a set of circumstances, personalities and concerns, which were all essentially local or regional and sub-continental or religious in nature, once the crisis erupted it was manipulated by the British-led Western Block, as far as possible, in the pursuit of its own vital interests stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia to the Far East.
These vital interests can be broadly categorised as defensive, strategic and geo-political (aimed at the former Communist USSR) and ideological or religious (aimed at the Islamic Middle East).” In fact, Rakesh has quoted extract from Bevin’s letter to Marshall which states, “Kashmir was on the Soviet frontier. Russia might well intervene as she had in Greece and China, playing on the tribes and on communal feeling. Whoever controlled the valley of Kashmir controlled the strategic and commercial communications between India, Pakistan and Central Asia.” The main western interest was the access to Central Asia and containment of the Communist Russia.
In fact, it was decided in a meeting in Paris between Bevin and Marshall that the Anglo-American interests would be best served by keeping the Kashmir corridor passing through Gilgit with Pakistan as India could create problems. The ceasefire and the extent of areas under each country too were decided by the western powers as both the armies at that time were controlled by the British Officers. The details of the intrigues, conspiracies or even the actual happenings on the ground have been put down by many authors like Lord Birdwood, Dr. Josef Korbel, Alistair Lamb and recently by Christopher Snedden. In spite of these vast resources about the happenings of 1947, to simply put all the blame on Mohammad Ali Jinnah is not fair!
Noorani Sahib while supporting the four-point formula of General Musharraf encompassing self-rule for Kashmir mentioned that the valley of Kashmir cannot be a sovereign state on its own and Kashmiris will not accept the partition of Kashmir. The present state of Jammu & Kashmir has been the creation of Dogra rulers who apart frombuying Kashmir valley from the British had annexed Ladakh to it. Kashmir had always existed as an independent sovereign state and its extent had mostly remained limited to the valley and its Kashmiri speaking periphery. Political viability of Kashmir as an independent statein the present circumstances involving its three giant neighbours with conflicting interests may be difficult but cannot be out rightly rejected. In fact, there have been many proposals in the past including some by the UN arbitrators for neutralizing the valley as an independent state. It may be mentioned that there are dozens of independent states as members of United Nations much smaller in size than Kashmir valley.
No doubt Kashmiris have been suffering for a long time now and earnestly pray for an end to their problems. Their greatest misfortune is that they have got themselves entangled because of the insincerity of their leaders into an ideological conflict of which they are only the symptom and the disease is much deeper. Their suffering can only end when the mistrust between their two warring neighbours created by the partition of the sub-continent is fully and practically removed. We all need honestly to aim for that without putting blame on one or the other leader or circumstances now beyond our control. The solutions and formulas will themselves evolve once the trust comes back!