Kashmir: British role

November 13, 2019


APROPOS the report ‘Former British secretary, diplomat assail Modi’s Kashmir move’ (Nov 9). Jack Straw asks “Why is it that India and Pakistan were level in 1947 in terms of economy but not today?”

The British had predicted that Pakistan would not be economically viable. It was Mohandas Gandhi who forced India to give to Pakistan her share of financial assets in early January 1948. In consequence, he was assassinated.

Straw said that Pakistan’s economy was “distorted” in an attempt to redraw the boundaries of Kashmir. It was Britain which initially distorted the Kashmir boundary as early as 1946 when in the brief for the Cabinet Mission, it was decided to exclude Gurdaspur from Pakistan. See Wavell The Viceroy’s Journal, Oxford, 1974, p.245.

As for the economy, Pandit Nehru wrote on Nov 25 , 1948 to the Indian High Commissioner Sri Prakasa: “Kashmir is going to be a drain on our resources, but it is going to be a greater drain on Pakistan” Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru II, Orient Longmans, 1982-94, pp.346,347.

On July 15 Clement Atlee wrote to Liaquat Ali Khan that “he would be dictated not by the rights and wrongs of the dispute.” Straw follows this policy. Atlee’s letter is preserved in Pakistani archives.

When in 1965, Pakistan gained the upper hand in Kashmir, British documents say : “With reference to Chamb area High Commissioner (Sir Morrice James) warned Ayub of critical importance of singling unmistakably the limits of Pak military response in order to reduce risk of provoking over reactions.” The American Papers, Oxford, 1999, p.44.

Behind this cryptic message is hidden the reason why Major-General Akhtar Husain Malik was relieved of his command. Sir Morrice also forced Ayub to accept a ceasefire against GHQ’s advice: “Otherwise, Mr President nuclear powers would take over,” (Dawn June 22,1979).

Having gone out of their way to ensure Pakistan’s discomfiture in Kashmir, British statesmen are now lecturing the victim state.

Straw also accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir. Two prominent Indians refute him. With reference to the protests following the execution of Burhanuddin Wani, Prem Shankar Jha writes: “Pakistan did not even learn of Wani’s death, let alone instigate it before the people of south Kashmir.” (The Wire Aug 23, 2017).

With 900,000 Indian troops in Kashmir, terrorism — if it existed at all — would not be worthy of mention. If we allow Straw’s argument then the unarmed protesters at Jalianwala Bagh were terrorists.

Dr Muhammad Reza Kazimi

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2019