India’s about-face on plebiscite at the UN

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At the UN virtual meeting,  considering  annual report of the Security Council, the Indian representative `called for permanently removing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir under the outdated agenda item of the India-Pakistan question’ from the Security Council’s agenda.  Till 1953, India was, ostensibly committed to the plebiscite. But, it tried to get the `India-Pakistan Question’ deleted from the UN agenda during temporary absence of Pakistan’s representative. India based her plea on Security Council’s informal decision, dated July 30, 1996, about deleting dormant questions. The Question was deleted during the Pak rep’s absence, but was restored to agenda upon his arrival.

 Basis of India’s foreign policy: Might is right: A simple explanation of India’s recent face-offs with neighbours is well epitomized by the peasant saying “jiski lathi, uski bhains” (he who has the stick, has the buffalo). The wisdom muffled in the saying (‘might is right’) is a cornerstone of India’s foreign policy. In a highfalutin way, you could quote the Greek sage, Thucydides: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” India wants to eat up its neighbours like it devoured disputed Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad.

After Kashmir, India annexed chunks of Nepalese territory in the maps.

India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran debunks India: India’s precocious former foreign secretary Shyam Saran tells how India’s attitude delayed solution of disputes (How India Sees the World). Saran says India itself created the Siachen problem. He reminisces, “In 1970s, US maps began to show 23,000 km of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, `Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches.”

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify because of foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Similarly, demarcation of Sir Creek maritime boundary was unnecessarily delayed. Saran says ‘If we accepted the Pakistani alignment, with the east bank of the creek as the boundary, then Pakistan would get only 40 per cent of the triangle. If our alignment according to the Thalweg principle was accepted, Pakistan would get 60 per cent. There was a keen interest in Pakistan to follow this approach but we were unable to explore this further when the Siachen deal fell through. Pakistan was no longer interested in a stand-alone Sir Creek agreement’.

To him `Kashmir dispute was almost settled but delayed by India’.

Perfidious commitment to plebiscite: History is testimony to the bitter truth that Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru never accepted plebiscite commitment at heart. The wily Nehru backstabbed naïve Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.  Avtar Singh Bhasin exposes Nehru’s perfidy on page 63 of his book India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds, on basis of Nehruvian diaries.  Nehru kept changing his stance on plebiscite.

Kashmir’s assembly’s `accession’ disowned, Security Council owned: Nehru owned and disowned, in one breath,   Instrument of Accession and its authentication by `Constituent Assembly’. This is obvious from a letter dated October 31, 1947, addressed to the disputed state’s prime minister.  Nehru says `after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices (p. 28 ibid.). He reiterated in New Delhi on November3, 1951 that `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked `if the proposed constituent assembly of Kashmir “decides in favour of acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?”’ he reiterated,  `We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question , and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimate flow from the Security Council proceedings’ (SWJ: Volume 15:, Part II, page 394. Bhasin page 56). He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi On November 3, 1951. He said `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations’.

Nehru’s last delirium tremens was to shrug off the Security Council as just a non-binding mediator: It is flabbergasting that during the period 1947 to 1952, Nehru had kept harping commitment to plebiscite. Bhasin points out that `there was a perceptible shift in his [Nehru’s] stand on July 24 1952` about the future of the State _ `if the decision of the Security Council was at variance with that of the Constituent Assembly’. Nehru said, `Unless the Security Council functioned under some other Sections of the Charter, it cannot take a decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree (SWJ, Volume 19, page 241. Bhasin page 56).

Security Council re-owned: Bhasin points out (page 57 op. cit.) `At the same press conference on 24 July, 1952 when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got the Constituent Assembly, he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them an assurance and we stand by it (SWJ: Volume 19, pp. 240-241. Bhasin p. 57).

India’s faux pas: India itself had invoked UN’s intervention. Bhasin points out Nehru made `tactical error’. One `of committing himself to the UN’ (p. 28. op. cit.). But the real question to consider is how far the settlement in Kashmir would affect the rest of India.  Nehru spelled out Indian policy towards Kashmir. `In Kashmir, we or many of the Muslims there’ (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru: Volume 8: pages 335-340. Quoted by Bhasin, pages 26-27).

Post-Nehru equivocal rhetoric: For about 70 years, India continued to abide by UN resolutions describing Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed state. Simultaneously, it continued to harp that Kashmir was her integral part (atoot ang). At the same time India told the world that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute extraneous to UN. With communication links cut off, food supplies blocked, even on eid (Muslim annual prayer), occupied Kashmir remained a prison.

The year-long (1019-2020) lockdown made people’s lives miserable. Winter would exacerbate their misery. Suspension of 4G internet made E commerce and online education impossible. 

Apple orchards stands destroyed as also wood-carving tradesman. A December report of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, reported successive losses of Rs. 14,296.10 crore and Rs 17,800 crore, besides loss of 4.9 lakh jobs between August and December. In July 2020, it reported revenue loss of Rs 40,000 crore.

New domiciliary policy would change Kashmir’s demography. Currently, at least 17 lakh migrants have applied for a domicile certificate.

Also, with a nudge from the Centre, the underprivileged from other states like Bihar could rush to the Valley a better life. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is currently 17.9 per cent, far higher than the national average of eight per cent. The domicile law has come at a time when, according to the Union home ministry, there are 84,000 government vacancies to be filled. That would reduce job chance of real Kashmiris (365 since 370A, The Week, August 09, 2020).

Inference:  India was never sincere with Kashmiri leaders, people, or the United Nations.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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