Article 35A, which essentially determines as to who can be permanent citizen of Jammu and Kashmir is the lynchpin of Article 370. It was a Presidential Order in the year 1954 by way of which Article 35A was made operative. It has never been intrinsic to the Indian Constitution. This stark illegality or Constitutional fraud has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
…clearly revealed that the territory of J&K, which most significantly includes Gilgit-Baltistan, has been a strategic and geopolitical arena in pursuit of power play by global powers of the world.
It was not that the illegality of Article 35A was lost out on the then President Rajendra Prasad, who was Doctorate in Law from Allahabad University. He also presided over the Constituent Assembly. He did question to Nehru, the desirability and the validity of the said Article. Nehru replied that notwithstanding the illegality of the Article, there was a pressing imperative for its promulgation, which was extremely confidential in nature, and which he would discuss with the President in person.
What was the imperative? Was the imperative, external?
A deep study by this author has clearly revealed that the territory of J&K, which most significantly includes Gilgit-Baltistan, has been a strategic and geopolitical arena in pursuit of power play by global powers of the world. The strategic and geopolitical forces that have shaped the narrative of Gilgit-Baltistan or J&K in the larger context can be discussed under various phases such as
• Pre-independence period
• Post-independence period (1947-48)
• Cold War Period
• Period of US Unipolarity
• China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
In 1850s, the British became paranoid about the Russians, who had made deep inroads in Central Asia. British strategic thinkers were deeply apprehensive that Gilgit would be the doorway for the Russian invasion of South Asia, especially India, the jewel in the British Empire. Consequently the British erected a watch tower in Gilgit and began to take undue interest in the affairs of Maharaja’s northern territories. In 1868, a British officer was posted in Gilgit to act as an intelligence outpost. A British political agency or the Gilgit Agency was established in 1877. For nearly four years, this British outpost went through extreme travails because of climate and altitude. Gilgit was closed to the rest of the world for eight months of the year.Logistically and in terms of military infrastructure, sustenance became very difficult. The Agency packed up in 1881, but only to come back in 1889 with much better logistics and military infrastructure.
By the time India got its Independence, the Communist threat had become more acute. This threat was reckoned at a global level by the British and later the Americans.
Readers may be reminded that this was the same period in which the Durand Line was established in the year 1893. The very purpose of this line was to divide Pashtuns into various pockets, i.e. Afghanistan, NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), FATA and Balochistan. The prospect of Russians rolling down through Afghanistan and acquiring Pashtun support for conquer of India was the most disturbing threat scenario. The Durand Line thus became the security line between British possessions and Russia. This line in a way, was also a defined limit or threshold of penetration achieved by military and demographic means. In a way Gilgit-Baltistan or the Gilgit Agency was an extension of the Durand Line.
In 1913, The British created the Gilgit Scouts, a paramilitary force, which had 600 Officers and men. Subsequently, the Russian threat became a Soviet Communist threat and therefore there was a greater urgency of securing the Northern borders.
In 1932, the British seconded one Col Calvin to Maharaja’s Civil Service and prevailed upon him to appoint the Col as his Prime Minister. Col Calvin through his machinations persuaded Maharaja Hari Singh to lease Gilgit out to the British Government of India for a period of 60 years w.e.f. 1935. It was in the same year that an airfield was built in Gilgit. The lease deed however clearly stated that while temporary administration was to be with the British, the territory essentially belonged to Maharaja. Gilgit-Baltistan was not only a buffer against the Russians but also to act as an outpost for Xinjiang in China, where the Russian activities had increased considerably.
By the time India got its Independence, the Russian threat has morphed into a much larger Communist threat from Soviet Union as well as China. This threat was reckoned at a global level by the British and later the Americans. Therefore there was no way that the British could have left this global threat unaddressed, which had strategic consequences for entire Asia.The fact that China was contiguous to Gilgit-Baltistan only accentuated the threat.
It was an inescapable strategic interest for the British to create a disputed and more importantly divided status of Jammu and Kashmir so that they could manipulate the affairs of J&K…
It was therefore an inescapable strategic interest for the British to create a disputed and more importantly divided status of Jammu and Kashmir so that they could manipulate the affairs of J&K in the two countries, i.e. Pakistan and India in deference to its strategic imperatives in Gilgit-Baltistan. In this strategic pursuit, it very much suited the British to ensure the possession of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan, whose leader Jinnah had endeared himself to the colonial masters.
A fortnight before Independence (August 1947), the British terminated the lease of Gilgit and with this the charge of the area shifted to Brigadier Ghansara Singh, a governor appointed by Maharaja. Nevertheless, the Commandant of the Gilgit Scouts Major William Brown had different plans. He was known to be persistently advising Maharaja Hari Singh and Brigadier Ghansara Singh to join Pakistan. When this did not happen, Major Brown and his second–in-command Captain Maitheson, in October 1947,instigated their men (582 officers and men) of Gilgit Scouts to revolt against the Dogra rule. Major Brown declared that the Hindu rule had come to an end and Gilgit would join Pakistan even though the local leaders favoured Independence. It may be mentioned here that Gilgit-Baltistan was never a part of the Pakistan movement. As soon as the Maharaja signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’, the Independent Republic of Gilgit was declared. This Republic lasted merely for 16 daysand Brown deceitfully ensured that it came under Pakistan’s control as Northern Areas.
Could Major Brown, an Army Officer, have acted in violation of his British superiors? He used every means including the Muslim card to ensure that Gilgit-Baltistan does not remain in Indian possession.
Post-independence period (1947-48)
The chain of events in 1947 unambiguously indicates that the British had decided to reward Pakistan with J&K or divide it in a manner that strategically suited them. Ambassador Rajiv Dogra in his book, Where Borders Bleed, quotes HV Hodson (The Great Divide): ‘Kashmir was deliberately omitted from a Committee of States Representatives called by the Pre-Independence States Department of India to discuss the terms of accession, though Hyderabad was included’.
The British but could be least bothered about the tenability of the new Indian State, all that mattered to them was their future strategic interests in the region.
When Pakistan invasion of J&K in the garb of tribal began in 22 October 1947, Field Marshal Auchinleck was the Supreme Commander. Nehru in consultation with Sardar Patel had sacked Auchinleck in September 1947. Sardar Patel accused Auchinleck of ‘throttling the initiative of Headquarters Indian Army and acting as advance outpost of Pakistan’. Nevertheless, he continued to overstay in India as a member of Joint Defence Council. It is also established that at the time of invasion, the Pakistan Army Chief Gen Gracey and Indian Army Chief Gen Lockhart were in constant communication. Indeed, in early October, Gracey had informed Lockhart about the assembly of armed tribals at Rawalpindi. Had Lockhart in turn fulfilled his duty of informing the Indian Cabinet the invasion could have been disrupted at the point of ingress itself. It was many days later i.e. on 22 October that 250 trucks carrying 5000 Afridi and Mehsud tribesmen and regular Pakistani soldiers on leave entered J&K. The marriage between jihadi irregulars and Pakistan military was thus solemnized by Jinnah and the British at the very inception of Pakistan.
Look at the wicked imperial mindset of the British Indian Army Chief –in a meeting in the wake of the invasion, when the situation had become alarming and was crying for immediate Indian response General Lockhart asked at the Defence Committee meeting, ‘Was Kashmir of vital importance to India?’ As per Ambassador Rajiv Dogra in the book ‘Where Borders Bleed’: Both Nehru and Patel asserted that Kashmir was vital to India’s very existence.’
The British but could be least bothered about the tenability of the new Indian State, all that mattered to them was their future strategic interests in the region.
Auchinlek, Lockhart and Gracey were acting to a pre-meditated script. In fact Gracey was not averse to the idea of formally supervising the operations once India responded militarily. Barner White – Spunner in his book ‘Partition’ (pg 318) says: ‘… Mountbatten had telephoned Gracey and told him that if he did move troops he would not get a knighthood.’’
What did Mountbatten imply by ‘extremist government’? Did it imply a government less faithful to British strategic agenda?
The main British characters Gracey, Lockhart and even Mountbatten were convinced that J&K would fall to Pakistan within matter of days. Even an ailing Jinnah fell victim to this optimism and relocated himself to Lahore to make himself readily available for unfurling the Pakistani flag at Srinagar.Accordingly, even as the situation grew increasingly alarming, these British characters persisted using the legal spanner of‘Instrument of Accession’to thwart military intervention by India.Events however overtook their plans. Instrument of Accession was signed and the Indian leaders, particularly Patel, pounced on the opportunity of military intervention. Mountbatten had no choice but to acquiesce. He took responsibility for the spoilt script by a rather apologetic plea to his masters back home and wrote (Feb 48):
“… had the Indian troops not been sent to Kashmir, after the Instrument of Accession had been signed, the European inhabitants of the city would have been probably massacred, and the Government of India might have fallen—giving way to an extremist Government with the likelihood of an Inter-Dominion war.’’
The overriding worry of Mountbatten, the first Governor General of India were therefore Europeans, fall of Nehru government and war between the two dominions. What did Mountbatten imply by ‘extremist government’? Did it imply a government less faithful to British strategic agenda? Further, in case of an inter dominion war on all fronts who would have been the loser? It should be remembered that Pakistan as physical and psychological entity was still nebulous, far from structured. NWFP and Balochistan were resisting the concept of Pakistan with all their might.
Once India intervened militarily the British had to revise the script. The new script remained steadfast to the objective of ensuring possession of Gilgit- Baltistan if not entire J&K by Pakistan. As in the Great Game period this territory in conjunction with newly created Pakistan was critical for checking communist expansionism under the overarching leadership of Soviet Union. Whatever happened in the rest of J&K was a fallout of the strategic imperative of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is no brainer to appreciate that without a divided and disputed status of a territory, extra regional players cannot play their strategic games therein.
It is rather inexplicable that when India lodged complain with the UN, it was not under Chapter VII which deals with aggression, it rather sought invocation of Chapter VI under which parties to dispute ask for pacific settlement of dispute by negotiations…
When the Pakistan dispensation hived off Gilgit-Baltistan from so called Azad Kashmir (75 percent – 72,496 kms out of 78,000 Kms) by way of Karachi agreement in 1949 Britain remained silent. When Gilgit-Baltistan was gifted to the Federal Government, the British still remained silent. It reinforced the assessment that primary strategic interest of British lay in Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan was only furthering Anglo-American strategic agenda.
It is rather inexplicable that when India lodged complain with the UN, it was not under Chapter VII which deals with aggression, it rather sought invocation of Chapter VI under which parties to dispute ask for pacific settlement of dispute by negotiations, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement. This was nothing but pandering to the British strategic agenda. In the diplomatic battlefield at the UN, Britain was brazenly on the side of Pakistan. Philip Noel Baker, Britain’s chief delegate at UN on Kashmir ensured that the aggression aspect was not discussed and he successfully managed to shift the entire focus on plebiscite. This partisan and cunning British diplomat was later conferred with Nobel Prize for Peace.
The British collusion in Pakistan’s aggression against India in the wake of Independence is most tellingly revealed in Ambassador Dogra’s book, ‘Where Borders Bleed (pg80): “The British in India were following the lead given to them from London; and it was clearly in favour of Pakistan. The chief of the Indian Army, General Roy Bucher (Lockhart’s successor), passed on vital Indian Army operations plans regularly to his counterpart in Pakistan, General Douglas Gracey. It was on the basis of the information passed on by General Bucher that India would not open a front in Punjab that Pakistan diverted a brigade-level force which it had kept in reserve for the defence of West Punjab, to Kashmir. Bucher also ensured that the desire of Maj KS Thimmayya, the Commander of 19 Infantry Division … to switch from cautious military approach to offensive action was not authorized by the Indian Cabinet.”
When Pakistan felt that the military situation was turning rapidly adverse it played the card of ‘collective defence against communism’.
Facts as discussed so far lead to the ineluctable conclusion that Indo-Pak War of 47-48 was scripted in London and orchestrated on ground by British Generals who led Indian and Pakistan Army respectively. Mountbatten was very much part of it. This entire British conspiracy had Gilgit-Baltistan as central objective, for which Kashmiris were, and continue to be just leverage.
Consequent to the Pakistan’s military pact with the US, J&K including the Kashmir Valley became victim of the Cold War. It became a sort of ‘tug of war’ between the US and the Soviet Union.
Cold War Period
In the beginning of 1950s the leadership and strategic imperatives of the western world shifted from Britain to the US. Wars such as WW-II do engender such massive geopolitical shifts. By 1954 Pakistan had completely embraced the American camp. With Pakistan becoming a member of CENTO alliance — militarization of region was inevitable. CENTO was essentially a military pact to check Communist expansion. Mr Balraj Puri in his book, ‘Kashmir Insurgency and After’ talks about reaction of Nehru to the US Military Pact of 1954: ‘This produces a qualitative change in the existing situation and therefore it affects Indo-Pak relations more especially in Kashmir.’
A major consequence of the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war was the creation of Cease Fire Line (CFL) which post 71 War became the Line of Control (LoC).
The ferment of Islamic radicalization that we are witnessing in the Valley in the name of ‘Kashmiriyat’ that too after the purge of the Hindus would have not been possible without the LoC. The LoC has indeed provided a closed arena for this ferment. Culturally and linguistically those residing in the POK are totally different from Kashmiris and therefore the term ‘Azad Kashmir’ is a misrepresentation by Pakistan. To that extent the term PoK is also a misnomer and should be appropriately called POJ&K.
Consequent to the Pakistan’s military pact with the US, J&K including the Kashmir Valley became victim of the Cold War. It became a sort of ‘tug of war’ between the US and the Soviet Union. Prior to this the Soviet Union had maintained an ambivalent or pro-Pakistan posturing with regard to J&K. In 1954, it changed overnight.