Kashmir in new power game
Once again India-Pakistan relations are getting enmeshed in the emergent 'neo-cold war between Washington and Moscow. Since Donald John Trump took over as President of the United States, it has become more than obvious. The two countries are apparently yet to learn lesson from the past- that it was they joining the cold war politics, which immensely contributed to the non-resolution of the disputes between and perpetuation in the region.
Blinded by the 'cold war politics' Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Pakistan leadership in the early fifties followed a myopic foreign policy. Instead of cooperating with each other they virtually played the games of two super-powers. It was for this policy two countries have so far failed to address the Dispute inherited by them at the time of their birth. But for aligning with the rival superpowers, the two countries could have resolved the Kashmir Dispute and other outstanding issue.
Nehru explicitly had ideological nearness with the communist Soviet Union. It was,but for this proximity, despite enthusiastically vouching for non-alignment he made the cold war politics as the core foundation of India's foreign policy. Its immediate fallout was New Delhi defeating its much-trumpeted proposition of holding a plebiscite in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir and resolving the dispute far ever. Indira Gandhi, as back as 1948, had informed her father that with the support of Sheikh Abdullah and his party National Conference India was certainly winning in case a plebiscite was held in Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1950, when the National Conference had held sham election for the State Constituent Assemblyfor ratifying the temporary and conditional accession, Nehru had sensed it will not have not international acceptability. So New Delhi had distanced itself from these developments in Kashmir. And it had reiterated its commitment in the Security Council for holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and assured the comity of nations it had nothing to do with the Constituent Assembly of the National Conference.
It also had reiterated its commitment for implementation all the resolution passed in the Security Council including appointment of an independent plebiscite administrator with absolute authority for conducting plebiscite in the state. Nonetheless, for keeping the Soviet leaders in good humour, Nehru created a big hullabaloo -- a diplomatic fuss over the United Nations appointing an American Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz as Plebiscite Administrator, for Jammu and Kashmir.
The Security Council had not arbitrarily made this appointment but after India and Pakistan had agreed to it. In its resolution no 80, 1950, the Security Council had commended India and Pakistan for statesmanlike action in reaching the agreement. (Document No. S/1469), dated the 14th March 1950).Thus, it became major impediment for holding of plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and perpetuating of the Kashmir Dispute. That caused three more wars between the two countries.
Nehru's predilection for Soviet Union sends alarming bells about the Security concern in Pakistan. In 1949, the US Defence experts recognized Pakistan's strategic importance for checkmating the USSR ambitions and preventing communist encroachments in South-Asia. In the interest of the security concerns of their country, the Pakistan leadership showed their willingness to support any US-backed effort to prevent communist expansion in the region. Nehru sharply reacted to the US-Pakistan Agreement and Pakistan joining SEATO and CENTO. And he ignited a firestorm in India against the US-Pakistan defence agreement.
The central theme of his agitation was that US had brought cold war to India's borders and it was going set up bases in Pakistan and the AJK. 'He told the chief ministers of the Indian states that America's concerns with Kashmir stemmed from its interests in establishing a military base in the heart of Asia and in exploiting the Jammu and Kashmir's possibly rich mineral wealth, including uranium and other strategic ores.' He did not stop at this only; he added a new argument that 'arms supply to Pakistan could trigger Hindu Muslim tension in India.' To quote the then US Ambassador in India George V. Allen, "Nehru had seized on military aid to Pakistan as an excuse on Indian commitment to plebiscite."
While Nehru exploited his proximity with the Soviet Union as balancing force and Kremlin showed it eagerness to play its role; this whole game worked to the disadvantage of Kashmir and defeated resolution of the Dispute.
The cold war ended, but Kashmir continues to remain core issue between India and Pakistan, cause of tension and a nuclear flash point in South Asia. Six and half decades after India and Pakistan were sucked into the cold war nothing has substantially changed except the two countries swapping their alliance partners. New Delhi has stolen a march over Islamabad in taking its relations with America "old ally" of Pakistan to new levels, and Pakistan is endeavouring to improve its ties with Moscow.
On Thursday September 6, 2018, New Delhi and Washington signed a key defence deal, after the first 2+2 dialogue between the two countries, where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met visiting American counterparts, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan. Noticeably there is not much on Pakistan in the joint statement, nevertheless New Delhi feels satisfied on America's use of language about Kashmir, to quote Indian Express, "the US signed off on using New Delhi's language and used "territory under Pakistan's control", and not Pakistan's "territory" -- to describe Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
They also slammed the use of "terrorist proxies," a description for extremist political groups used by Pakistan's army in the region." Nonetheless, the agreement has wide-ranging consequences that go beyond India-Pakistan relations and involves India's relations with Russia, China, and Iran. Bill Burns former US Secretary told the Hindu, Washington's unease over India's ties with Russia and Iran must not be underestimated.
In view of India and the United State strategic partnership having strengthened during Trump regime, Pakistan is looking forward for a strategic partnership with Russia. According to an in-depth study by a British think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)Islamabad 'doesn't see Russia as threat anymore and close defence relations between former hostile powers is visible.' The study says, "As a US led by President Donald Trump further isolates Pakistan, the army under General Bajwa is shoring up its Western flank with the help of its erstwhile enemy, the Russian military."
In this bizarre scenario when the India and Pakistan, two important South Asian nuclear countries seem once again getting entangled in the power game of former cold war rivals, there is a good tiding from "Rawalpindi." On Tuesday, New York Times reported that Pakistan military has quietly reached out to its arch-rival India about resuming peace talks.' In the recent past, it is for the first time when Pakistan military has taken the initiative for recommencement of peace talks between New Delhi and Islamabad.
In describing General Bajwa's statement advocating for resolution of the conflict through dialogue as a rare statement for military. The initiative by Pakistan army for resolving the conflict between the two countries through dialogue needs to be seized and built upon -- the initiative has come up at a time when civilian administration and military are avidly on the same page.
The author is columnist and writer
Source: The countercurrents.org