China: Latest assessment of Kashmir issue

China: Latest assessment of Kashmir issue Guest Column-by D. S. Rajan The assessment on Kashmir issue, given by Chen Yiwu, the Pakistan based correspondent of the People’s Daily (Online Chinese language edition, Dec 1 &2,2004) for the benefit of readers in China, is notable for its significance, as views expressed in the authoritative paper invariably reflect the Chinese official stand. Taking note of the resumption of India-Pakistan peace talks since November 29,2004 and giving a historic account of the circumstances surrounding the Kashmir issue, the article described the issue as a ‘time bomb’ in India-Pakistan relations. Hinting that Pakistan’s stiff anti-India position on Kashmir is linked to its inability to take over Hyderabad and Junagarh at the time of partition, the article highlighted the fact that both India and Pakistan accepted the January 20,1948 UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire, demilitarization and a step by step solution on the accession issue by holding a ‘plebiscite’. It added that in the fifties, India considered Pakistan as an aggressor in Kashmir and demanded for full withdrawal of latter’s troops before a ‘plebiscite’ could be held. Pakistan, on its part, asked for withdrawal of troops of both the sides from Kashmir prior to such a plebiscite. Observing that Pakistan’s joining the SEATO in 1954 and later the Baghdad Pact were aimed at resisting India’s strength, the write-up indirectly criticized India for announcing the irrelevance of the plebiscite principle on the pretext of Pakistan’s joining such military blocs. It pointed out that in the 15 years since the beginning of armed attacks in the Indian controlled Kashmir in 1989, 45000 people were killed. Though the accession of Kashmir is basically a legacy of India-Pakistan partition, the subsequent changes in the international situation and the continued uncertainty in India-Pakistan relations, brought other factors like security and political strategy of each side into focus, making the issue further complicated, the People’s Daily item remarked. Analysing the perceptions of India and Pakistan regarding the issue, the item said that although the Indian Congress Party came under compulsion to accept partition in 1947, India till today does not accept the ‘ two nation theory’, which formed the basis for Mountbatten’s formula on partition of the South Asian sub-continent. India is of the view that the partition has caused damage to its historic unity which arose out of the country’s old culture. The partition also had a deep negative influence on India’s big power status as well as defence. Pakistan, on its part, relies on the ‘two nation theory’ to win a broad Muslim religious and national sympathy. Moreover, since its formation, it is intentionally making efforts to gain features, which are different from that of India, so that it can exist as a pure Muslim nation. The article further observed that when Pakistan came into being, India thought that the former would not survive for long and aspired to continuously weaken that country with an eye on its leading position in the sub-continent. Also, India hoped for reunification of the sub-continent some day, considering partition as a mistake. Facing serious imbalance in terms of national strength and keeping in view India’s long term plans, the Government and people of Pakistan were pushed to nurture a feeling of crisis and insecurity. Pakistan saw India’s taking over of Hyderabad and Junagarh by force. It also realized that at the same time, India was not willing to abandon its claim over the Muslim majority Kashmir but with a Hindu ruler. The People’s Daily item opined that these factors led to Pakistan’s resolve to support the cause of Kashmir’s accession to it through use of force. Tracing the strategic reasons behind deepening of India-Pakistan hostility and unyielding positions on Kashmir issue adopted by both the sides, the article said that. Pakistan views the Kashmir issue as being not purely a territorial one, but also religious in nature, in view of the region’s Muslim majority. For India, protecting Kashmir is important for establishing an effective control over other regions in the country, particularly over Punjab through curbing separatist tendencies there. India also feels that if Kashmir goes out of its control, it could face a chain reaction. Kashmir is the home for the family of former Prime Minister Nehru and is thus a pride for the nation and the people. The People’s Daily item added that in addition India feels that the rich Indus river and its tributaries flowing into Pakistan, originate in Kashmir and that a control over this would ensure its domination over the life-line of Pakistan’s water resources. Pointing out to the emergence of internal pressures in each side on the Kashmir issue over the years, the item assessed that as a result, a realistic concession or compromise on the issue appear difficult for both India and Pakistan. As the country’s constitution stipulates that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, New Delhi, irrespective of the party in power, cannot accept any formula for solving the Kashmir issue on the basis of a plebiscite. If it does so, the regime would come under the blame of selling the country’s territory. For Pakistan, helping the Kashmir Muslims on the accession issue is a policy evolved out of an internal consensus. The article remarked that any rethinking in this regard by Pakistan would make the country to face political dangers, particularly in respect of internal stability. Making a reference to measures taken by India and Pakistan like holding of elections to legitimize the regimes in their respective sides of Kashmir, the article said that in such a process, local forces and elements with vested interests have emerged in both sides of Kashmir, capable of putting pressure on India and Pakistan in the matter of making mutual concessions. Though the article is generally balanced, what is visible is a veiled criticism of India for its attempts to weaken Pakistan with an eye on gaining a leading position in the sub-continent as well as its stand on the plebiscite principle. The strategic perceptions of India and Pakistan on Kashmir and the assessment that both the sides may not be in a position to yield or compromise in the face of pressures likely from the vested interests in two Kashmirs, as brought out in the People’s Daily item, give an indication as to how the Chinese view the situation. Interestingly, the People’s Daily item made no mention of other factors relevant to India-Pakistan relations like the nuclear issue, the question of infiltration from across the border and Kargil conflict. This is also the case regarding Kashmir territory ceded by Pakistan to China

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