By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
“If parties (India & Pakistan) come here and both of them call upon the Security Council to make recommendations for the solution of their (Kashmir) dispute, ought they not in advance agree to abide by it? They are not bound to ask the Security Council to make such recommendations, but if they do, I ask the Committee of Experts if they have not thereby implied that they will conform or try to conform to them.” Ambassador Warren Austin of the United States at the Security Council on May 26, 1948.
If promises are made to be broken, then Kashmir may be summoned to prove the treacherous proposition. Broken promises haunt Kashmir’s history, and explain its tragedy.
The Kashmir issue is simply this: the people of a large territory which is not part of any existing sovereign state were assured by the entire international community represented by the United Nations that they would be enabled to decide their future by a free vote. Until now, this assurance has not been honored.
With the lapse of British paramountcy on August 15, 1947, broken promises over Kashmir came not like single spies but in battalions, to borrow from Hamlet. Princely states enjoyed three options: accession to India, accession to Pakistan, or independence. But the choice, according to India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and tacitly endorsed by the British, was to be made by popular referendum in cases where the creed of the ruler varied from the religion of the majority. That fundamental democratic principle had been sternly applied by Prime Minister Nehru with military means in Hyderabad and Junagadh where the rulers were Muslim but their inhabitants largely Hindu. Kashmir presented a converse case: the Maharaja was Hindu but the majority subscribed to Islam.
On November 2, 1947, Prime Minister Nehru reiterated: “[W]e have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given and the Maharaja supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”
Mr. Gopalaswami Ayyanger, the Indian delegate to the United Nations spoke on January 15, 1948 at the Security Council, “When the Indian Independence Act came into force, Jammu and Kashmir, like other states, became free to decide whether it would acceded to the one or the other of the two dominions, or remain independent.”
Sir Benegal Rama Rau said at the Security Council on March 1, 1951, “The people of Kashmir are not mere chattels to be disposed of according to a rigid formula; their future must be decided on their own interest and in accordance with their own desires.”
India thus raced to the United Nations Security Council on January 1, 1948, and championed resolutions of the Security Council that prescribed a self-determination vote for Kashmiris on the heels of United Nations supervised demilitarization. At that time, the United States championed the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be ascertained in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the territory. The United States was the principal sponsor of the resolution # 47 which was adopted by the Security Council on April 21, 1948 and which was based on that unchallenged principle. Both India & Pakistan eagerly endorsed that solution to Kashmir’s disputed territory.
Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge of the USA forcefully elucidated the importance of these resolutions on February 15, 1957 in these words, “What do these resolutions (on Kashmir) call for? The resolutions of 13 August 1948 sets out in successive stages a cease-fire, a truce agreement and the determination of the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the will of the people.”
Ambassador James William Barco of the United States emphasized the importance of the aspirations of the people of Kashmir on February 20, 1957, “The Security Council has considered the Kashmir problem on many occasions since 1947. Many members of the United Nations have served on the Council when this issue was before us. In every instance, and regardless of the membership of the Council, it has overwhelmingly approved measures to bring about a free expression of the will of the Kashmiri people through an impartial plebiscite.”
India, however, was soon undeceived of its delusions over Kashmir’s political yearning. Recognizing that its people would never freely vote accession to India, it contrived excuse after excuse to frustrate a plebiscite. When the United Nations proposed arbitration, a reference to the World Court, or any other method of resolving minor demilitarization quarrels, India nixed them all. After a few years, it dropped all pretense of acceding to a referendum by unilaterally proclaiming its annexation of Kashmir. India’s proclamation has never been accepted by the United Nations, which continues to list Kashmir as disputed territory.
Ambassador Adlai Stevenson of USA clarified the unilateral approach to the Kashmir dispute in these words on June 15, 1962, “It must be recognized by both countries that the problem of Kashmir cannot be settled unilaterally by either party. It can only be settled, as I say, by agreement and compromise, taking into account the free expression of will of the people concerned.”
The train of broken promises over Kashmir might be forgiven if the consequences were innocuous or inconsequential. But I submit the opposite is the case. With approximately 700,000 military and paramilitary troops in the territory, gruesome human rights violations are perpetrated with impunity. Every human rights group that has surveyed the grim Kashmir landscape, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, has been shocked and horrified by the daily atrocities committed against civilian population.
Kashmiris’ claim to self-determination is exceptionally strong even without the United Nations recognition. Kashmir has been historically independent, except in the anarchical conditions of late 18th and the first half of 19th centuries. The territory of Kashmir is larger in size than 121 independent countries and bigger in number than 117 nations of the world.
The United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres or the President of the Security Council should impress upon the parties concerned to create an atmosphere for a tripartite dialogue – India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership – that will guarantee peace and prosperity not only in Kashmir but in the whole region of South Asia – that is home to one-fifth of total human race.
Ambassador Gross of the United States put forth exactly the same alternative on December 5, 1952, “…We feel that it is the role of the Security Council to assist the parties in seeking to reach agreement.”
Let us hope that the last promise over Kashmir has been broken.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness.