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India Must Not Forget Bitter Partition Lessons While Tackling Kashmir
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Claude Arpi | Date:17 Sep , 2016 0 Comments
Claude Arpi
Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, he said that “to ensure durable bilateral ties, and steady development, it is of paramount importance that we respect each other’s aspirations, concerns and strategic interests.” 

Later External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup explained: “You can pretty well understand that when we talk of strategic interests and aspirations, it is not as if China is unaware of our strategic concerns and aspirations or we are unaware of their concerns.”

Modi had not only the Valley in mind, but also Pakistan-occupied- Kashmir (POK).


In his August 15 speech, the Prime Minister had asserted: “The people of Balochistan, the people of Gilgit, the people of POK have thanked me in such a manner, from places that I have never been and never had a chance to meet, they have sent wishes to the people of India and thanked us… I am grateful to them.”

On the previous day, Pakistan’s Independence Day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had dedicated his country’s independence to the “freedom of Kashmir from Indian rule”.

During the previous weeks, Pakistan had been bringing the Kashmir issue on the world scene.

Two issues forced India to take a tougher position to defend its interests: the current unrest in the Valley, but also the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), cutting across POK, in which Beijing plans to invest $46 billion.

To get proper historical perspectives of the current situation, it is necessary to go back to the year before the British left the jewel of their empire.

The British Empire, born from a trading company, was a sea-empire.

But at the beginning of the 20th century, two new factors appeared on the strategic scene: one was aviation (whose role was masterfully demonstrated by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour in 1941) and petrol, and therefore, the importance of the Middle East.

When the British Chiefs of Staff were ordered to submit a report on the strategic consequences of the departure from the subcontinent, the generals agreed that Pakistan was more important than India; they foresaw the possibility of installing air bases in the north of Pakistan to control Russia and naval bases opening to the Arabian Sea in the south.

Another argument was that Mohammed Ali Jinnah was extremely keen to remain within the Commonwealth while the Indian National Congress had not made up its mind.

Jinnah once forcefully told Mountbatten: “You can’t kick us out.”

Subsequently, London’s policy was meticulously implemented; as the time of Independence came, while Jinnah insisted on becoming the first Governor- General of Pakistan, the Congress big-heartedly offered the job in India to the Viscount.

This was the first of a long series of blunders. Then, when soon after Independence, the issue of Junagadh and Hyderabad came up, the Cabinet had to create a defence committee.

Who became its chairman? A Britisher, the same Mountbatten. Second blunder.


This was a surrealistic situation: two dominions, one with a Pakistani Governor- General, the other with a British; two armies, both commanded by British generals.

The ‘Indian’ British generals took orders from the British Governor- General and not from the Indian government; the Defence Committee being chaired by a Briton, often overrode the Cabinet’s decisions and a ‘stand-down’ order stated that British officers would not fight one another.

As a result, India could not defend itself. Such was the situation when the raiders trained, equipped and directed by Colonel Akbar Khan, military adviser of the Pakistani Prime Minister, entered Kashmir at the end of October 1947.

The story is too well known to be recounted here, but the interesting point is that the British constantly played a double game.

For example, General Douglas Gracey, the Pakistani Army Commander, knew of the raiders’ attack beforehand, but he did not ‘inform’ his ‘Indian’ British counterpart.

Another mega blunder: as the Indian Army was ready to chase back the raiders and the Pakistani regulars, Jawaharlal Nehru unnecessarily referred the issue to UN… on the advice of Clement Attlee, the British Prime Minister… and Mountbatten.


The invasion of J&K by Pakistani regular forces on May 8, 1948, was in contravention of all international laws.

Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Affairs, wrote: “When even direct aggression failed, (Pakistan) began to clamour for a plebiscite, thereby hoping to achieve by other means what she had failed to obtain by force.”

Bajpai remarked that for the first time in its Resolution of August 13, 1948, the UN “recorded one major change in the situation as contemplated by the Security Council during its deliberations in the early part of that year, namely, the presence of Pakistan troops in the state of J&K.”

In this condition, the plebiscite never took place. It is important to keep this in mind, when one goes through the recent developments in the region.

It is essential to look at these events in their historical context. The large presence of Chinese ‘workers’ on a territory that was legally part of the India Union, and also the joint patrols conducted by PLA frontier defence troops and the Pakistani Khunjerab Security Force south of the Khunjerab pass (“aiming to offer security guarantee to the construction of the CPEC”), are naturally a serious concern for India.

Let us hope that China is now aware of India’s strategic concerns and aspirations in the region.


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