Non-territorial Settlement: The Dissolution of National Frontiers
by Mohan Krishen Teng on 04 Dec 2009 11 Comments

The nature of the failure of Indian leadership

The Indian leadership did not realize that the partition of India had also brought about the territorial division of India. They were unable to comprehend the importance of princely States in the determination of the territorial borders of the two Dominions of India and Pakistan, the partition of India created. The Indian National Congress, which spearheaded the struggle for Indian freedom, had long before the British decided to quit India, abandoned commitment to the continuity of Indian history and the civilizational frontiers of the Indian nation. Congress did so in its abortive attempt to reconcile Indian freedom with the separate freedom that the Indian Muslims lay claim to.


It was at the instance of the Muslim League leaders that the Indian National Congress refused to integrate the States Peoples’ movements for the freedom of India. Had Congress taken a bold stand and integrated the States Peoples’ movements in the national movement, India would not have faced the disaster that partition led to.


Even after the Indian leaders drew close to the freedom of their country based on two nation principle, they failed to recognize the significance of their national frontiers and their civilizational content. An insight into the outlook of the Indian leaders about the national frontiers of India is provided by their pronouncements at the Asian Solidarity Conference held in New Delhi in 1946, a year before India won freedom. Both Gandhi and Nehru reflected a complete disregard of the crucial importance the national borders had assumed with the commencement of de-colonization and the emergence of new nations of the former colonial peoples. Except India, most of the newly independent nations of the former colonial peoples guarded their borders jealously.


It has been a historical reality that wherever, in Asia or Africa, the newly independent nations of the former colonial peoples lost their caution and ignored the security of their borders, foreign intervention disrupted their unity. India did not prove to be an exception. The lack of a systematic policy framework to integrate Indian political culture and the identification of the national unity of India with pluri-cultural and multi-national composition of Indian social organization negated the process of national integration. That led to the subversion of the national consensus on national unity in the north-eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir and finally Punjab.


The Indian leadership did not change its outlook about the territorial integrity of India and the consolidation of its civilizational frontiers even after it assumed the reins of power in 1947. The Indian leaders refused, rather stubbornly, the necessity to protect the frontiers of India, which the partition had severely impaired and which the recalcitrance of the rulers of several major princely States threatened to erode. Indian leaders failed to evolve policy plans which underlined the unity of India and the re-integration of Indian political culture, the consolidation of the civilizational frontiers of the Indian nation with the national borders of the Indian State, and the preservation of the Sanskrit content of the cultural configurations in the border regions of the country.


The Northern Frontiers


Indian leaders were oblivious of the implications of the territorial divide the partition of India had brought about, for the northern frontier of India. Jammu & Kashmir formed the central spur of the northern frontier of India. There was none among the leaders of India who realized the importance of Jammu & Kashmir State to the security of Himalayas, crucial for the security of the whole of north India and basic to any future balance of power in Asia.


Pakistan launched a surreptitious war of subversion in Jammu & Kashmir to undermine the stability of the State Government and its security organization right from the day that country was brought into being on 14 August 1947. Within days, Pakistan cut off rail and road communications with the State and stopped the transit of all essential supplies to the State. By the beginning of September 1947, Pakistan had begun to smuggle arms and ammunition into the Muslim majority border districts of Jammu province to foment an armed uprising against the State Government. And by the end of September 1947, the border districts of Jammu province were embroiled in a civil war.


The Government of India was not unaware of the developments in the State. However, it did not act till Pakistan launched a full fledged invasion of the State on 22 October 1947. Led by Tochi Scouts, a part of the mechanized troops of the Pakistan army, the invading forces could reach Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir, in a day. The dogged resistance of the State Army kept the invading columns at bay till 26 October 1947. The airborne troops of the Indian army reached Srinagar on the morning of 27 October 1947, five long days after the invading hordes had swooped on the border township of Muzaffarabad. The advance columns of the First Sikh Regiment of the Indian army established contact with the invading forces while the latter were advancing to invest Srinagar. Not many of the soldiers of the First Sikh, who went into action that day, returned home.


The Indian leaders faltered once again. No measures were taken to ensure the defense of the frontier division of Ladakh, Baltistan, Gilgit, and the Gilgit Agency along with the Dardic dependencies of the State, including the strategically important Dardic principalities of Hunza, Nagar, Punial, Yasin, Ishkoman, Koh Gizir and Darel. Before the British quit India, the Gilgit Agency was fortified by the British and was garrisoned by the Gilgit Scouts, a military force raised by the British from the local Shiate Muslim population of Gilgit and commanded by British officers.


The administrative and military control over Gilgit Agency was transferred to the government of Jammu & Kashmir when the British left. There was an air strip in Gilgit over which Dakota planes, which carried troops to Srinagar, could have safely landed. Gilgit stood on the precipice for four days. Finally the Gilgit Scouts mutineed, took the Governor of Gilgit prisoner, and declared accession of the Gilgit Agency to Pakistan. On October 1, 1947, airborne troops of Pakistan army landed in Gilgit. The Muslim officers and ranks of the State Army posted at Bunji in Baltistan also mutineed and killed their Hindu and Sikh officers and comrades in arms. As the invading armies began to spread across Baltistan, the remnants of the State army and civil police, Hindu and Sikh survivors and the elements of local Buddhist population regrouped to organize resistance against them, which eventually saved Kargil and Ladakh for India, till the Indian army scrambled up the Zojilla Pass to join them.


After the cease-fire in 1949, Pakistan consolidated its hold on the territories of the State, which remained under its occupation and which included the Muslim majority district of Muzaffarabad, and a part of the Baramulla district in the province of Kashmir, the district of Mirpur and a part of Poonch in Jammu province, the whole of Baltistan, Gilgit and Gilgit Agency along with the Dardic tribal dependencies of the State. Pakistan refused to implement its commitments on the withdrawal of the invading army from the occupied territories and instituted a local government, known as Azad Kashmir Government, to administer them.


Pakistan raised a Muslim militia of more than thirty thousand men from among the “Muslim deserters of the Dogra army, Muslim ex-servicemen of Mirpur, Poonch and Sudhunti, who had been demobilized from the British Imperial Troops of India after the end of the Second World War and recruits from the adjoining districts of Pakistan, who had brought up the rear of the invasion into the State and tasted blood and booty in their adventure”. In less than a year the occupied territories were turned into a springboard for a Jihad to liberate the part of the State on the Indian side of the Cease-Fire line from Indian hold.


Pakistan followed a different strategy in respect of the frontier division of the State, which remained under its occupation. It integrated the Gilgit Agency, Gilgit and Baltistan along with the Dardic dependencies of the State into a separate administrative region, which was placed under the direct control of the Government of Pakistan. Right from 1954, when Pakistan joined the Anglo-American-Muslim alliance system for the containment of Communism, the Northern Regions were fortified into a most formidable military outpost of the Cold War in Asia. As the Cold War receded with the disintegration of the Soviet power, the Northern Regions formed an important centre of the struggle for the rise of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan.


Territorial Dispute


The invasion of Jammu & Kashmir in 1947 had territorial objectives. The Jihad Pakistan has been waging against India in Jammu & Kashmir ever since is also aimed to achieve territorial objectives. After having swallowed more than one-third of the territories of the State, Pakistan seeks to grab the part of the State on the Indian side of the Cease-Fire Line. The annexation of whole of State of Jammu & Kashmir or the critical portions of it will open the way for the eastward expansion of the Muslim power of Pakistan into the north of India and the demolition of the northern frontier of India. This will enable Pakistan to extend its hold over the Himalayas, which it is frantically craving, to exclude India from any future balance of power in Asia.


Pakistan has already encircled northern India into a pincer-hold of its strategic alliances: the Anglo-American-Pakistan alliance and the Sino-Pakistan axis, both aimed at the reduction of the Sanskrit culture of the Himalayas. The pronouncements of the American President, Barrack Obama during his recent visit to China indicate the extent of isolation India has been pushed into.


The dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, between India and Pakistan, is a territorial dispute. Pakistan has succeeded in steering ‘peace process’ between the two countries to facilitate its territorial gains. Even the Musharaf proposals, which the Indian leaders claim to be a blueprint of a non-territorial settlement, have a territorial content. The most significant territorial stipulation of the Musharaf proposals is the separation of the Muslim majority regions from the Hindu majority regions of the state, situated to the east of river Chenab and the recognition of the Jammu & Kashmir State on the Indian Side as a ‘sphere of Muslim interests’ in India.


The Congress leaders accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan which envisaged a non-territorial settlement of the Muslim demand for the territorial division of India, in the hope of retaining the unity of India. The Cabinet Mission Plan in essence envisaged a Muslim State within a united India. The Cabinet Mission Plan was ingeniously designed by the British on the advice of the Muslim leaders of the Indian National Congress. The Plan led straight to the division of India, when the Muslin League repudiated it on the issue of the princely states. However, had the Plan been implemented, India would have been totally balkanized.


The acceptance of the territorial claims of Pakistan on Jammu & Kashmir under the cover of a non-territorial settlement is bound to impair the entire northern frontier of India from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh. The pressures being built on India to recognize the territorial claims of China in Arunachal Pradesh is a strategic manoeuver to delink India from the Himalayas, as are the claims made on Jammu & Kashmir by Pakistan. The security of Himalayas is crucial to the unity and the territorial integrity of India. Non-territorial settlement is a sure recipe to compromise the security of the Himalayas.


Indian People must put all pressure on the Indian government to reclaim and retrieve Gilgit and Baltistan along with the Dardic dependencies of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir. This reclamation will break the encirclement of India in the pincer-hold of the Anglo-American-Pakistan alliance and the Sino-Pakistan axis and give meaning to the ‘strategic partnership’ the Indian government claims to have established with the United States of America. The strategic partnership has no meaning so long as the Americans act as a “laughing balancer’ in between Pakistan and China over the northern frontier of India.


Prof MK Teng is a retired Professor and Head of the Political Science Department of Kashmir University; he has authored many books, including a seminal work on Article 370

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