Kashmir – The Indo-Pak Wars

After achieving independence, India and Pakistan fought four major wars as follows.

Tribal Invasion in 1947-48 ; The circumstances that led to the tribal invasion in 1947-48 have already been discussed earlier. The conflict unfortunately resulted in bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir State. Pakistan still occupies a part of  the State known as POK orPAK by the international community which covers an area of more than 13000 sq kms apart from the Gilgit-Baltistan region (app 72500 sq kms) which was taken direct control of  by Pakistan illegally later on without any consent from the people of Kashmir. Failure to annex Kashmir completely, however, left deep wounds on the psyche of Pakistan and she has been preparing and arming itself to the teeth with the help of her allies ever since for a showdown against India. To be fair to Pakistani people, their politicians and generals have been engaged in self defeating exercise all these years ignoring the welfare of their own masses..

Indo-Pakistan Conflict-1965 ; Preamble of the Indo-Pakistan conflict, 1965 was written by Pakistan in the form of ‘Rann of Kutch dispute’ in April 1965 as a diversionary tactics in order to test the waters before attempting a full-scale war. The dispute was settled very late through the mediation of Commonwealth countries which resulted in a tribunal award on 19 February 1969 and Rann of Kutch Agreement at Islamabad on 4 July, 1969. As a result of the award 350 sq kms in the northern part of Rann of Kutch were ceded by India to Pakistan. In the armed clash in Kutch, India was out fought by Pakistan as per Jhon G Stoessinger in Why Nations go to War as quoted by Mahtab Akbar Rashdi of Pakistan Study Centre, Jamshera in Indo-Pak Relations (p 20).

Pakistan’s misadventure in August – September  1965 was thus based on following misperceptions;

  1.  Sino-Indian War of 1962, resulting in crushing defeat of Indian forces.
  2. Turmoil throughout Kashmir valley as a result of theft of  Moi-e-Muqqadas (Holy relic of Prophet) from Hazratbal shrine. However, its prompt recovery and establishment of its genuineness helped India to pacify the people of Kashmir.
  3. Developments in 1953 resulting into estrangement of Sheikh Abdullah and consequent alienation of Kashmiris. The Plebiscite Front had started civil disobedience movement to press its demands.
  4. India’s inability to have any military bloc at its beck and call due to her pronounced neutrality.

Ever ready to fish in the troubled waters, Pakistan pushed in about 10,000 armed Pakistani soldiers under the command of Maj Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik as infiltrators into Kashmir  under a well planned ‘Operation Gibraltar’. The infiltrators were required to create chaos in the valley, cut off all the major communication lines especially Jammu-Pathankot and Srinagar-Kargil-Leh road links and blow off important installation of India in the State. One could hear fire being exchanged in the heart of the Srinagar city besides the cover provided to the infiltrators by the Sabre jets of Pakistan Air force obtained from USA. A tip-off from a Kashmiri Muslim, Mohammed Din, saved Kashmir valley from the evil designs of Pakistan. She launched a full-fledged offensive in Chamb – Jaurian Sector on 1 September. In fact Pakistan’s foreign Minister, Z A Bhutto had already made known his intentions in his speech in the Pakistan National Assembly on July 13, 1965 that if Pakistan were to fight, “then it is not in Dharmsala of Chad Bet or Bira Bet that we have to fight, we have to fight where the problem lies i.e. Jammu and Kashmir”(Quoted by M A Rashdi, op.cit.p 21). In retaliation to Pakistan’s aggression, India launched an offensive across the Punjab frontier into West Pakistan and the fight continued on all the three fronts till a cease-fire was demanded by U N Security Council on 20 September besides withdrawal of troops to positions held by them before 5 August 1965. The guns fell silent of 23 September. The role of Z A Bhutto and Aziz Ahmad, the then Foreign Secretary of Pakistan to spur on Maj Gen Malik is well documented by the retired  General Mohammad Musa of Pakistan Army.

The Security Council disapproved the infiltration of armed personnel from across the border and made it abundantly clear that the World body had refused to accept the contention of Pakistan that there was a local uprising in Kashmir in the beginning of August. It, therefore, ordered early withdrawal of all the forces to positions of 5 August 1965. However, 1965 war resulted in a stalemate and a ‘No-win situation’ that forced both the countries to accept mediation by USSR which had maintained a neutral stance. In the Tashkent declaration both countries agreed to fall back to the cease-fire line that had existed prior to the war and find solution to all the issues through bilateral negotiations in future. Kashmir dispute could neither be resolved nor discussed at length though a reference to it found a place in the agreement.

The Bangladesh War -1971 ; After 1965 war, Pakistan witnessed several political upheavals, greatest of them being the civil war in East-Pakistan. The East Pakistanis, comprising 55% of total Pakistani population had complaints about the unequal distribution of economic resources  between the two wings of Pakistan. They accused the West Pakistan of exploitation. The Officials came from the West. The army was made up of West Pakistanis and majority of them were Punjabis while the share of Begalis was just 5 %. Panjabi dominance, imposition of Urdu, allocation of 30% of economic resources  despite 50-70% foreign exchanges earned from jute and tea grown in East Pakistan and denial of democratic rule were the major reasons that contributed to the Civil War.Further, despite an absolute majority won by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and his Awami League, he was prevented to take over the reigns of Pakistan Government by Z A Bhutto in collusion with General Yahya Khan because Bengali dominance was not acceptable to the West Pakistanis. The two areas were separated from each other by more than 1500 miles and as per Dan Coggin, ” the only bonds between the diverse and distant wings of this Moslem Nation was the Islamic faith and Pakistan International Airlines.”(Pakistan; The Ravaging of Golden Bengal, Time, 2 Aug 1971)

The mass influx of refugees from East-Pakistan meant an additional burden of $ 1.2 billion per year on India as per the World Bank estimates. An armed resistance by 6-7 thousand strong Mukti Bahini in East Bengal resulted in a 14-day war ( 3 December 1971 to 17 December 1971) between India and Pakistan which spread to the western borders including Jammu and Kashmir as well. The war ultimately led to the liberation of East-Pakistan from the yoke of West-Pakistan which was rechristened as ‘Bangladesh’. The post-war talks between Z A Bhutto and Indra Gandhi culminated in release of 90,000 Pakistani soldiers and civilians who had surrendered to the Indian Army besides withdrawal of forces to pre-war positions on the western front. The cease-fire line was designated as the Line of Actual Control. The two countries also agreed to abide by the Charter of the United Nations and discuss all matters mutually through bilateral negotiations. Kashmir dispute was again postponed for discussion in the future. It is a tragedy that what armed forces gained on the battle field, the politicians surrendered on the conference table. India lost a golden opportunity to force a decision on Pakistan from a vantage position in 1971 which it could have easily done since the balance had tilted in its favour unlike in 1965 war. On the contrary, Kashmir found a mention in both Tashkent and Shimla Agreements as a result of which  the Kashmir problem was renewed, recognised and resuscitated time and again.

Quoting a Muslim from Lucknow, V S Naipaul writes,” The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 was a watershed not only in Muslim lives but also in Hindu-Muslim relationships. The myth of muslim superiority was all finished . Here was India playing a decisive role in the sub-continent. Every muslim had a soft corner in the heart for Pakistan and every one was sad that the experiment had failed after less than twenty-five years. The dream had died. Then the Pakistani soldiers were prisoners of war for two years. That was a constant reminder. (India; A Million Mutinies Now) The statement may or may not be true but it does reflect the reaction of many Kashmiri Muslims who had started identifying themselves with Pakistan especially during 1965 and 1971 wars and shown jubilation every time a Sabre jet pounded an Indian installation in Kashmir or Indian soldiers were attacked by the so-called Mujahideen who had infiltrated into the valley. Seeing the result of the 1971 war even Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had to rethink on the subject matter and mend his fences with India.

The Kargil conflict 1999 ; An armed conflict between India and Pakistan, after both the countries had developed nuclear capabilities, took place in May-June 1999 in Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir state known as ‘ Kargil Conflict’. The conflict was prompted by infiltration of Pakistan trained militants and regular soldiers into positions on the Indian side of the LOC. Though Pakistan maintained initially that the fight was launched by Kashmiri Mujahideen (freedom fighters) but ultimately Pakistan PM and COAS had to accept involvement of Pakistan paramilitary forces led by Gen Ashraf Rashid. To counter the insurgents, India launched Operation Vijay and Indian Army, supported by the Indian Air Force, recaptured a majority of the positions on the Indian side of the LOC and later as a result of international pressure Pakistan Army had to withdraw from the remaining positions as well.

Apart from the above mentioned conflicts, there has been yet another area where claims and counter claims have been made by the armed forces of two sides. Sia-Chin glacier became a bone of contention since the signing of Shimla Agreement and both Pakistan and India tried to send various expeditions from time to time to stake claim over the glacier. Having learnt about the intentions of Pakistan to station its forces on the glacier, India preempted the move and occupied the glacier on 13 April 1984 under Operation Meghdoot. 10 battallions each of Indian army and Pakistan army are actively deployed in the World’s highest battle field at an altitude of  21000 feet. The extremely  inhospitable terrain has taken toll of many a soldier on both the sides so much so that Pakistan proposed demilitarization of the zone recently after number of its soldiers died recently but India had to reject the proposal fearing the moves of china which has been eyeing the area since long.

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