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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 29 New Delhi July 11, 2015

Aftermath of 1965 War

Saturday 11 July 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

The war between India and Pakistan in 1965 is 50 years old. Even today, hostilities are attributed to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan. This is correct. General Mohammad Ayub Khan, who was heading Pakistan at that time, admitted in an interview that he did not want to disturb the peace, however uneasy.

When I checked with Bhutto, he did not deny his role. In his defence he said he felt that if there was a time when Pakistan could defeat India, it was then. He argued that India had only a few ordnance factories and “we had an edge over you because of the US military assistance”.

Pakistan’s hand was confirmed by Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard E. Anderson of the United States Air Force who, in a letter to Time dated October 1965, said: “...In April, I returned from Pakistan. We all knew then that this fight was coming: The Pakistanis were painting their ground equipment battle grey over the original yellow, were building revetment for their aircraft, etc...”

Pakistan’s attack in 1965 began with hundreds of infiltrators—Ayub called them Bhutto’s mujahids (liberators)—sneaking into Kashmir. The report of the intrusion first appeared in the Indian press on August 9, 1965, along with Ayub’s assurance to Kewal Singh, while accepting his credentials as India’s High Commissioner in Rawalpindi, that Pakistan would reciprocate every move from India for better cooperation. He justified that infiltration into Kashmir was not the same thing as infiltration into India. The ‘uprising’ that Pakistan expected failed because local Kashmiris did not help the infiltrators. Bhutto called them hatos (labourers), with utmost contempt.

When I interviewed Bhutto, his explanation, as recorded, was: “There was a time when militarily, in terms of the big push, in terms of armour, we were superior to India because of the military assistance we were getting and that was the position up to 1965. Now, the Kashmir dispute was not being resolved and its resolution was also essential for the settlement of our disputes and as it was not being resolved peacefully and we had this military advantage, we were getting blamed for it.

“So, it would, as a patriotic prudence, be better to say, all right, let us finish this problem and come to terms and come to a settlement. It has been an unfortunate thing. So, that is why up to 1965, I thought that with this edge that we had we could have morally justified it. Also, because India was committed to self-determination and it was not being resolved and we had this situation. But now this position does not exist. I know it does not exist. I know better than anyone else that it does not exist and that it will not exist in the future also."

The 1965 war was a watershed in the relations between India and Pakistan. Till then there was estrangement but no hostility. Big war-gates were installed at the Attari-Wagah border. With a rigid visa system introduced, even the limited informal trade on the border came to a halt.

The then popular leader, Sheikh Abdullah, could have aligned with Pakistan. But he preferred secular India to Islamic Pakistan when he found that it was not possible for him to stay independent. Sufism was what the Kashmiris followed and they found secularism akin to it. The Sheikh was able to have a special status for the State. The Indian Constitution spelled it out in Article 370. Except three subjects—Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications—the Indian Parliament had no power to legislate without the consent of the State Legislature.

The undertakings given at that time are sacred and cannot be written off by the people who think differently. The State had adopted even a separate Constitution to make it clear that it would not compromise on its autonomy. Watering it down now will amount to betrayal of the confidence which the people of Jammu and Kashmir had reposed in New Delhi. If any change had to be made, it had to be done by them. The Indian Union which the State had joined could not amend its powers without the consent of the State’s people.

Those who agitate for the deletion of Article 370 do not realise that they may reopen the entire question of Kashmir’s accession to India. The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir endorsed it on the basis of a special status. If any amendment is to be effected, it has to be done by the State’s Constituent Assembly. Neither the State Assembly nor the Centre’s Parliament can usurp the power which vests in a Constituent Assembly. Is New Delhi willing to risk the entire status of the State by convening another Constituent Assembly, which may also be illegal?

In the meanwhile, the Kashmiris have come to develop a different thinking. They do not want either India or Pakistan to be the arbiter. They themselves want to decide what is suited to their genius. The voice of the fundamentalists may be loud but the Kashmiris want the Pandits to be part of their culture as has been the case for centuries.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has shown a middle path by giving an equal space to the Hindu-majority Jammu in the State’s affairs. But he has delineated, in the process, a line between the Muslim-majority Valley and Jammu.

This is what a tall leader like the Sheikh could have done to evoke support in the entire State, including Ladakh. The pygmy leaders of today can find a formula to placate different communities, but they cannot bring back the atmosphere of pluralism which prevailed once. Islamic fundamentalism has gained ground in the Valley and Hindutva in Jammu because the Sufi ideology has got polluted.

Before acceding to India, the Sheikh sent his confidants to Pakistan to assess the mood. He came to the conclusion that pluralism was the best option for his people. One remark attributed to the Sheikh was that he did not like Pakistan because too many Muslims were there.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com

Against the backdrop of India’s abstention during a vote on Israel’s attacks on Gaza in 2014 on July 3 in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (the first of its kind in the history of India’s relations with Palestine), the following article by a former Union Minister for External Affairs assumes considerable significance.

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