Demilitarization in Kashmir
Among the so-called peace proposals made from time to time such as self-governance, United States of Jammu and Kashmir, Joint Management of the whole of J&K, the latest in the series is the Demilitarisation of Kashmir which means complete withdrawl of troops not only from the borders but also from such urban centres like Kupwara, Baramulla and Srinagar.
The term ‘Demilitarisation’ was first used during the discussions at the time of finalizing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 on the conclusion of the First World War. Thereafter, it has been regularly used, mis-used and abused although not in that order. Literally the term means the removal of armed forces and ammunitions from the war-zone. However, in the Kashmir context there is a distinction between the troops returning to barracks on completion of internal security task assigned to them and troops being completely moved out of the area including from border defense duties. The votaries of demilitarization in Kashmir do not understand this. The Indian troops in Kashmir are there to protect the country’s borders and it is the sovereign duty of the state to do so. J&K is the largest state of the Indian Union, covers an area of 2,22,870 sq.Kms., touches the borders of Pakistan, Russia and China. It has suffered four invasions from the western neighbour and one from the northern. Besides there is cross-border terrorism in which 30,000 people have lost their lives. In such a situation withdrawl of defense forces would be fatal. Even if normalcy is restored and peace returns within the state, troops can go back to the barracks but ‘demilitarisation’ as such cannot be considered as the requirement of defending the country’s borders still remains paramount, in fact non-negotiable.
Ironically the demand for the withdrawl of Indian troops was made by Pakistan immediately after the invaders were routed from the valley. Sheikh Abdullah who was the Head of Emergency Administration of J&K had given a very forceful reply, as early as February, 1948. Addressing a reception organized by the prominent citizens of Delhi, he raised his voice and asked: “If the Indian troops are withdrawn, as demanded by Pakistan, who is going to protect the people of Kashmir? I am not going to leave my people in the hands of marauders. Indian troops are in Kashmir to protect my people and they will remain there till normal conditions are restored. So far as Kashmiri Muslims are concerned, by virtue of state’s accession to India, they have equal rights as citizens of India and they should avail themselves of these”.
Sheikh Abdullah concluded his speech with the following words: “We have decided to work and die for India not in October, 1947 but in 1944 when Mr. Jinnah tried to persuade us to join hands with him and support his Two-Nation Theory but he failed because we resisted his advances. He has definite reason for wanting to annex Kashmir. He tried to get it at the point of sword what he failed to attain by persuasion”.
Illegal Annexation of ‘Northern Areas’
Pakistan has also illegally annexed some portions of Kashmir and called it ‘Northern Areas’. These areas include Gilgit, Baltistan, Hunza and Nagar which are being ruled as a colony. It may be recalled that the Baltis who call themselves as true Aryans did not accept Pakistan as their ruler. They established a People’s Republic of Gilgit and Baltistan but it lasted only for 17 days. The Pakistan military invoked the ‘Frontier Crimes Regulations’ and crushed the freedom fighters with an iron hand. The military rule in these areas is the worst in the world leaving the Nazi Germany and the Rwanda regimes at the lamp-post. Under the UN Resolution of 13th August, 1948, Pakistan was asked to demilitarize their illegally occupied portion of Kashmir but Pakistan has not done so till today. No foreigner is allowed to visit these areas, some Indian journalists were allowed under the peace process but they have given harrowing tales of misery of the common man there. Pakistan was also asked to demilitarize the Minimars area between Guraiz and Burzil by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan on 27th July, 1949 but was given a short shrift completely ignoring the written acceptance given by that country. The 2.8 million people of Northern areas are treated as slaves with no political or civil rights.
Going back into the historical past, it must be recalled that Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan had ordered the de-militarisation of Waziristan. Sadly enough the Government of Pakistan, a military regime under General Musharraff has fully militarized the area by sending 60,000 armed troops in that region. The situation in Balochistan is very explosive because of army excesses. The assassination of Akbar Khan Bugti recently has converted Balochistan into a concentration camp.
Some self-styled leaders have also talked of ‘disarmament’ along the line of control (LOC) which is the dividing line between IJK (Indian Jammu & Kashmir), so-called Azad Kashmir and the illegally annexed Northern Areas by Pakistan. The LOC originated in 1949 as a ‘Ceasefire Line’ at the end of the first Indo-Pak war in 1947-48. It was slightly altered during the 1965 war and December, 1971 war with Pakistan. It was renamed as the ‘Line of Control’ by the Inter-governmental Agreement in July 1972 to be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side. It is 740 km. long. The south of LOC is another 200 km. of a ‘working Boundary’ between Jammu and the Punjab Province of Pakistan. At its northern end the LOC terminates at a point called NJ 9842 in the high Himalayas beyond which lies a 76 km long Glacial region, Siachin, contested between India and Pakistan forces and then the Chinese territory.
Serious Military Questions
There is also some talk about the demilitarization of Siachin, ‘world’s highest, costliest and coldest battlefield, also most polluted because of Pakistani shelling for the last 22 years. Here also the proposal comes from the aggressor. To give only one example, in 1998 alone, the Indian side was bombarded wth 43000 artillery shells and 2,30,000 rounds of small arms fire. Although there is ceasefire since November, 2003, the situation is very tricky as it difficult to take Pakistan on its words since the experience of Haji Pir is before us. There are serious military issues which have to resolved before any decision on de-militarisation takes place. Many experts believe the proposal is a ploy to frustrate the opponent. The last word has to be with the army as no army in the world has given away such high ground for nothing.
The Pakistani demand for demilitarization has also been voiced and repeated parrot-like by the separatist leaders of the Valley who only recently praised the role of Indian army to provide succour to the victims of ‘Snow tsunami’ in February-March 2005, of the earthquake in October 2005 and recent floods in September 2006. Hundreds and thousands of Kashmiri lives were saved and the programme of rehabilitation of victims won world-wide acclaim. It is time for the separatists to revise their opinion about the ill-conceived idea of demilitarization and self-rule which may ultimately mean selfish rule. These leaders should not lose sight of the fact that the Valley’s 5% minority has almost vanished from the scene. Most Kashmiri Pundits who are the original inhabitants of Kashmir have left the valley in sheer fright like the Tutsis in Rwanda and Jews of Germany. The militants have not even spared the Charare-Sharif, the tomb of the beloved Sufi saint Nooruddin Noorani popularly known as Nand-Rishi in 1995.
Adoption of Villages
Three villages have been adopted in the quake-affected areas in Kashmir viz. Uroosa by the Indian Air Force, Kamalkote by the CRPF and Churonda by the Indian Army. The Indian Army has also opened an Army Goodwill School at Tetwal village, close to the LOC. Where there are no schools, classes are held in tents under trees and stream-banks. The Indian Army, therefore, has converted an adversity into an opportunity for development. Withdrawl of forces, therefore, would be unwise from the point of view of the rehabilitation of the uprooted people of the state and its development.
Pakistan is also toying with the idea of an ‘out-of-box’ solution called ‘Joint Management’ of the whole of J&K State. It is a dangerous proposal for India because it will dilute our control in two-thirds of the original J&K state which are with us. Besides there can’t be a ‘Joint management’ between a military dictatorship called Pakistan and the democracy like India.
*A noted historian
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and not necessarily reflect the views of INVC