Book: India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds
Paperback: 538 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury India (29 May 2018)
Avtar Singh Bhasin,a former diplomat has wide authorship and research as senior fellow at Indian council of historical research and Institute of contemporary studies at the institute of contemporary Nehru memorial Museum and Library.
He has produced volumes of documentary studies on India’s relations with neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka,Bangladesh and Nepal.The author has produced a ten-volume study on India-Pakistan relations as well.His latest study in five volumes has been published in January2018 on India-China relations. In May2018, his latest study on India-Pakistan: Neighbours At Odds is available on shelves across the country and abroad.
This study is in thirty four chapters spread over more than 500 pages book.It starts with Pakistan’s insecurity - whether Partition of India solved any problems;what is clearly spelt out is, it created so many.
The last chapter details out 26/11, terrorism and Pakistan. The book ends with a massage that both countries must end hostilities and antagonism and live in peace and enjoy the fruits of twenty first century. Both the countries must make up for the losses that past hostile approaches have inflicted.
The initial chapters focus largely on the Kashmir and sheds light on the progress of military operations as also the accompanying diplomacy both bilaterally and in the United Nations.
In this narrative, the original reference to the United Nations followed from the “uncertain military situation.”
Kashmir was uppermost on Ayub’s mind when Nehru cameto Karachi in September 1960 to sign the Indus Water Treaty. He stressed to Nehru the need to solve the Indo-Pakistan problems, particularly Kashmir, in their lifetime.
Conceding that in the past Pakistan was not justified, particularly in laying claim to Junagadh or Hyderabad, since these could only have acceded to India, he sought to establish Pakistan’s locus standi in Kashmir.
Seeking to disabuse him of any such notion, Nehru repeated his earlier apprehensions once again and warned Ayub Khan that any change in the status quo would not only “have an upsetting effect in Kashmir itself, but also in India. We have a large population of Muslims in India and on the whole they had been integrated. But any wrong step taken by us would affect them injuriously and prevent further integration.”
He was therefore afraid that interfering with the status quo in any direction would make the position of Muslims in India untenable and also lead to a fresh wave of migration, upsettingthe peace between the two countries.
It is clear that Nehru repeatedly sought to link thefate of Indian Muslims to the Kashmir issue, thereby exhibiting commitment toIndian secularism. In a manner of speaking, theIndian Muslims became a hostage and a part to the solution of Kashmir.
On 13 May, Foreign Secretary Gundevia approached a prominent lawyer V.K.T. Chari (brother-in-law of High Commissioner Parathasarathy) to examine the implications of ‘Confederation’ purely on a private and confidential basis.
He was told that it was desired by the Prime Minister. He was advised that the examination was to be conducted in the context of ‘the present position of India, Pakistan and Kashmir’.
He cautioned him that: “If there is to be a confederation and there can be a confederation, we need not do anything which would look like an annulment of the partition of India. Pakistan and India must remain separate Sovereign States and Kashmir must be brought into the Confederation. The question is: Must Kashmir be by itself be a separate sovereign entity?”
What happened to this suggestion however, remained a mystery.
Underlying the urgency, the letter requestedChari to give his note by 18 or 19 May. However, with a couple of weeks of the proposal, Nehru died on May 27.
Regretfully, no more papers could be traced, and one would not know what happened to the note, and if Chari prepared it at all. What was important was the timing of the proposal.
It showed Nehru’s keenness to resolve the Kashmir issue, given the state of his health. He was prepared to look at all the options if the Kashmir question could be resolved in his lifetime, writes the author.
The book is valuable also in illustrating the thinking in the Ministry of External Affairs as it sought to balance relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. through the 1950s and the 1960s.
Particularly interesting in this regard is the history of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of 1971 from its beginnings in 1969 when developments in East Pakistan were not still in the foreground but the China-U.S.S.R. split was.
After the 1971 war, the ramifications of the Prisoners of War (POWs) issue and the consequent international pressures on India on this count also clarify that the negotiating space for India was not as much as is assumed in hindsight.
On the Simla negotiations itself sensible suggestion is that Mrs. Gandhi “wanted to bury the past and move towards a new future” and also was concerned about the consequences of the meeting terminating without an agreement.
Similarly, there is a great deal of fresh detail on the trajectory of bilateral relations through the 1980s, 1990s and later.
Simla agreement at that point represented the genuine and sincere desire of India and Pakistan to end past era of confrontation and usher in a new chapter of cooperation,friendship and durable peace.
Zulfikar Bhutto made a U-turn on return to Pakistan on the bilateral understanding reached to resolve Kashmir issue.While addressing National Assembly on July 14, he said, “He has not compromised on Kashmir Issue.”
The issue of POWs was the major issue and Bhutto’s fond love for Kashmir remained subdued in the talks.
Bhutto said that despite all cards in favour of India and in its hand was not a generous negotiator.
The book is a valuable addition to the literature on India Pakistan relations and is Bloomsbury publication
Author is a senior advocate of Supreme Court of India