Two Milestone Dates
Published March 1, 2002 in abridged form at the Duke Chronicle
The simmering India-Pakistan conflict brought to a head by Dec. 13’s suicide attack by Pakistan-backed terrorists on India’s Parliament may soon eclipse the events of 9/11 as 2001’s fulcrum moment. Ridding terrorism from Afghanistan must be followed through next door, and as the hunt for bin Laden centers on Afghanistan and Pakistan, American interests will intersect the historical context of the India-Pakistan relationship.
Mountbatten, Britain’s last viceroy, and Muhammad Jinnah, the father of Pakistan, championed the choice of local rulers of “princely states” to join India or Pakistan. On the independence of both in August 1947, the ruler of Kashmir, Hari Singh, wanted to remain independent. The popular leader of Kashmir’s people & main party, Sheikh Abdullah, wanted to join India through a vote of Kashmiris. Weeks passed, and Singh vacillated. In October, Pakistan invaded Kashmir. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s Prime Minister, refused to intervene unless Singh acceded the province to India, which he did so, with the provision to eventually ascertain the will of the people. In the ensuing war, India came to control about 2/3 of the region. Nehru approached the UN Security Council, which in Resolution 47, decided on a ceasefire, withdrawal of Pakistan from Kashmir, leaving India with security responsibility, and after total Pakistani withdrawal, a plebiscite for Kashmiris to decide which country to join.
Pakistan never withdrew its troops, and 54 years later, this conflict drags on. In 1953, the people in Indian-held Kashmir held free and fair elections to form a Constituent Assembly, which voted to join the Indian Union. To Indian eyes, this was the plebiscite. This was affirmed in subsequent state elections, including most recently in 1977 (when Sheikh Abdullah was elected and reaffirmed Kashmir as part of India) and 1982. Meanwhile, in Pakistan-held Azad (“free”) Kashmir, there have never been elections; its “Prime Minister” is generally appointed by the Pakistani military, the rulers of Pakistan for most its history (while India has remained a secular democracy).
An illustrative digression. In 1970, East Pakistani parties won Pakistan’s elections, but Pakistan’s military junta barred the victor from forming a government, kindling a movement for East Pakistani independence. Within 8 months in 1971, in a spasm of horror belying Pakistan’s mantle of Islamic fraternity, the Pakistani military killed 800,000 East Pakistanis; 10 million refugees fled to India (quadruple the Taliban’s rate of murder & refugees!). India girded to intervene, but Pakistan struck first. In 2 weeks, East Pakistan was free (as Bangladesh) and India seized 5,100 sq. miles of West Pakistani territory and 90,000 Pakistani POWs, but relinquished it all for an empty promise to resolve conflicts through bilateral talks.
The Kashmir conflict has festered in a cat’s cradle of violence & bungling. After 2 invasions of Kashmir by China and Pakistan in the 1960s, Pakistan gifted parts of “Azad” Kashmir to China, of course without asking Kashmiris. In 1987, elections in Kashmir were rigged, sparking a struggle for autonomy, which was met by ineptitude and military suppression. Indigenous independence groups have been largely supplanted by imported terrorists tied to Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan (witness the integration of these groups with al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan). The terrorists have tried to Talibanise Kashmir, e.g., throwing acid on women who don’t wear the veil. All sides have suffered: 10,000 soldiers, 10,000 terrorists, and somewhere from 10,000 to 60,000 civilians have died. In an ironic twist in counterpoint to Kosovo or Palestine, ethnic cleansing has occurred, not of Muslims but of Hindus: 350,000 were forced out of Kashmir due to terrorist intimidation and violence.
In 1999, a year after the nuclear weapons tests and 6 months after the Lahore peace process initiated by India, Pakistan invaded Indian-held Kashmir (the Kargil invasion), orchestrated by General Pervez Musharraf. Upon pressure from Indian troops and President Clinton, they were forced out in July. In October, General Musharraf overthrew Pakistan’s government. In December, an Indian Airlines plane was hijacked by Pakistani-based terrorists to Kandahar, where a newlywed was murdered in front of his bride. The plane was released only when India released Maulana Azhar, who has formed a new group ratcheting up terrorism in Kashmir & the rest of India. Azhar and others masterminded a massacre of 35 Sikhs during President Clinton’s visit and an attack on the Red Fort in Delhi (comparable to an attack on Buckingham Palace or the Washington Monument). After India hosted Musharraf at this past year at a peace summit, these groups bombed Kashmir’s Assembly and struck India’s Parliament. Given India’s parliamentary form of government, the last is tantamount to a strike on both the White House and Congress, an attempt to assassinate the leadership of the country.
In sum, Pakistan has invaded Kashmir 3 times, and having failed each time, stretched out for peace with one hand while sponsoring terrorist plots with the other. It is now well-known that Pakistan helped create the Taliban and used Afghanistan as a terrorist university to export terrorists to Kashmir; these camps & terrorists were then melded with al-Qaeda. Pakistan supplied the Taliban weapons even after American bombing began, airlifted God-knows who out of Kunduz, and promoted inclusion of “moderate Taliban” (a la a moderate Nazi) in Afghanistan’s government. There are also reports in the Wall Street Journal that Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta in the weeks before Sept. 11, and BBC reports that it is sheltering bin Laden. Whatever the merits of the Kashmir problem, a political solution is impossible until the nefarious nexus of the ISI, al-Qaeda, and Kashmiri terrorists is smashed.
It is shortsighted to think that US interests converge with those of Pakistan: while the US needed Pakistani airspace to destroy the Taliban, that was an alliance of convenience, as Pakistan’s own actions reveal. Pakistan’s military-mullah complex godfathered both the Taliban and terrorists. The cosmetic arrest of some terrorists parallels the “house arrest” of Osama bin Laden by the Taliban in September; Bush’s message to hand over the terrorists or hand over power applies just as much as now as then.
India’s restraint after Kargil, the hijacking, and attacks on democratic institutions (all plotted during and executed after Indian peace initiatives) mirrors US restraint over 2 decades of terrorism, with similar rewards. That Dec. 13 was not as successful as Sept. 11 in no way minimizes the gravity of the threat. The Bush doctrine should hold true for India as well as the US: those who harbor, arm, and export terrorists are terrorists and should be eliminated. Expediency should not override principle, for terrorism anywhere threatens freedom everywhere, a lesson borne of the bitter tears of 9/11.