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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 40, New Delhi, September 26, 2015

Pressure Counter Pressure

Monday 28 September 2015, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

Behind the angry protests and almost interminable complainsts of Cease Fire violations, there is a feeling in New Delhi about the overall situation with regard to Pakistan which, though not vocal, is significant.

It is generally conceded here that a full-scale war between India and Pakistan is practically ruled out for the present. The theory that the cessation of hostilities provided by the Security Council Resolution is being utilised as a breathing space by Pakistan is countermanded by two factors: first, it is not easy for any Command to push up the tempo of a military campaign once it is switched off. Secondly, there is a persistent belief in New Delhi about the crisis in the political leadership in Pakistan.

With regard to this second factor, there is a suspicion, widely held in many of the leading quarters in the Capital that the reports of differences between Ayub and Bhutto as also between the Pakistan High Command and the US Government are assiduously spread by the Western sources mainly to get round New Delhi to make concession on the issue of Kashmir, the line of the whisper campaign being that unless Ayub is given some concessions on Kashmir, Bhutto’s tough line might prevail and India might have to face the two-pronged offensive of Pakistan and China. It is understood that Mr Arthur Goldeberg also stressed this point in his talks with Sri Parthasarathi.

While it is true that this whisper campaign is being pursued quite widely by Western diplomatic sources both here and in the UN, an important section of informed opinion in the Capital is not prepared to dismiss reports about the Ayub-Bhutto crisis as pure Western fabrication.

The point to note, however, is that New Delhi’s appraisal of the situation rules out for the time being a flare-up on a large-scale on the Indo-Pak border. The current round of clashes is mainly due to the anxiety of both sides to straighten out some of the inconvenient bulges that could be noticed at many points along the present Cease Fire Line, so that in case of any resumption of full-scale hostilities between the two countries their armies may not be put into difficulty because of the existence of these bulges. It is true that the arrival of the UN Observers’ Teams has resulted in slowing down these operations, though they have not yet been able to completely stop them.

All this is happening because of the underlying belief that the present Cease Fire Line will de facto continue to be the border between the two countries, perhaps for a very long time. This means that the possibility of a political settlement of the dispute is hardly in sight. In fact, the three weeks‘ war has hardened the position on both sides, and has falsified the expectations of those who had counted on a decision by arms for a solution of the Kashmir question. This incidentally is an additional proof of the fact that despite all the patriotic valour churned up by the war itself (which is not of India’s making), it has put off the chances of a political settlement between India and Pakistan more than ever before.

In the present context, it is easy to understand why New Delhi has been so critical of U Thant’s decision to separate the UN Obervers’ Team in Kashmir from that for the Indo-Pak frontiers outside Kashmir. Because, New Delhi now regards itself as being placed in a position of advantage in bargaining with Pakistan with regard to the Kashmir situation: it will agree to withdraw its troops from the Pakistani soil from the Sialkot and Lahore sectors and also from a point in Sind only on condition that Rawalpindi finally recognises the J&K State as at present constituted, as part of India. To split up the two sectors, namely, the Jammu and Kashmir front and the rest of the Indo-Pak front for the purpose of UN observation, was suspected by New Delhi as a thin end of the wedge, inspired by Pakistan’s Western backers, which might ultimately grow into a demand that the settlement of the two sectors should be taken up separately; that means the withdrawal of troops on the Indo-Pak front outside the borders of Jammu and Kashmir taking place separately, without reference to any decision on the withdrawal of forces of both sides in the Jammu and Kashmir sector. If such a demand arises, naturally it weakens India’s bargaining power: the position of strength that New Delhi holds today will be very much undermined if the bargaining is restricted only to the withdrawal of the Pakistani troops from the Chhamb sector in Jammu in exchange for the Indian troops quiting posts in Haji Pir, Tithwall and Kargil. At the present moment, India would prefer to stick on to the line along the Sialkot sector and Ichhogil canal for the political recognition by Rawalpindi of the J and K State being part of India.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest decision that Gen. Nimmo would be in overall command of both the UN Observers’ Teams, namely, the one for the J&K and the other for the Indo-Pak border outside Jammu and Kashmir, is interpreted here as a partial acceptance of the Indian demand that there should be no split up in the UN teams. There is thus a continuous, though silent, tussle going on in the diplomatic lobbies, whether in New Delhi, Rawalpindi or the UN, each side trying to gain as much through back-stairs pressure as it could.

Viewed in this background, it is not surprising that the suggestion for a four-power mission to tackle the Kashmir question would be rejected by New Delhi. Such a mission, it is felt here, would have been heavily weighed aginst India, and the Soviet Union would have been outvoted in such an outfit. Contraposing this has come the alternate suggestion for a joint US-Soviet move to solve the Kashmir deadlock. This has the advantage that the most rabid of the pro-Pak power, Britain, could be kept out of it.

While it appears that Sri Shastri himself would not object to such an initiative on the part of the two superpowers---since it is expected to silence both his Right and Left critics—there is as yet no evidence to show that the Central leadership here has been working out any minimum terms for the settlement of the Kashmir question, the terms which it can get the country in its present mood to agree to and at the same time have the merit of showing the way to a compromise. One is tempted to conclude that the war by itself has provided no way-out of the Indo-Pak dispute on Kashmir; if anything, it has made it more difficult for both sides to come to the conference table.

Political observers in the Capital do concede that in the present climate of Pakistan it is not possible even for a peace-maker politician to go in for any settlement which does not give it a chance to question the present status of the J&K State. It is therefore assumed that there is very little scope for a political settlement of the Kashmir dispute coming off in the immdiate future. However, if President Ayub agrees to go to Tashkent for the Soviet-sponsored talks with Prime Minister Shastri, or accept a joint US-Soviet mission, then New Delhi will take it that that the government in Pakistan has been able to set its own house in order to the extent that it is in a position to go in for a settlement recognising the status of Jammu and Kashmir State as part of the Indian Union. Once this point is accepted by Rawalpindi, there will be no difficulty for New Delhi to withdraw its troops from the Pakistani soil and even to agree to a boundary commission to straighten out the line of demarcation betwen the present Pak-held Kashmir and the J&K State which is inside the Indian Union.

Apart from the military initiative having been lost by Pakistan in the present phase, there is a feeling here that Rawalpindi has lost considerably in terms of political initiative as well. The backing which Peking offered to Rawalpindi has not amounted to very much, while the present turmoil in Indonesia has also gone against Pakistan in terms of diplomatic advantage. For one thing, Rawalpindi has so long bragged a lot about the support given by Indonesia, particularly by its flamboyant President. Secondly, the fiasco of a policy of dependence on Peking which Indonesia has so long followed has also had an indirect impact on Pakistan’s prestige, since it shows up the unreliability of any diplomatic strategy that counts on Peking’s support.

The explanation therefore available here for Rawalpindi’s extraordinary decision to break off diplomatic relations with Malaysia is that it is the manifestation of bitter frustration that has at the moment gripped the Pakistani authorities. Malaysia’s indentification with the Indian case in the present round of the Kashmir debate in the Security Council is interpreted here as a return gesture for India’s undeviating support for Malaysia’s candidature for the Second Afro-Asian Conference. Besides, the open support of China for Pakistan his alienated Malaysia which was the first Asian power to condemn China’s attack on India in October-November, 1962.

A typical example of the Indo-Pak tug-of-war for the purpose of enlisting support by either side is provided by the Malaysian episode itself. While Bhutto’s rather unbalanced diplomacy has cost Pakistan the friendship, not to speak of the support, of Malayasia, New Delhi has not been slow at striving to strengthen its own ties with Kuala Lumpur. The visit of Sri Dinesh Singh to Malaysia this week is, therefore, particularly significant. His painstaking efforts at explaining India’s case to the Arab diplomats in New Delhi have not been unsuccessful, despite reports circulated to the contrary. There is no doubt that among the junior colleagues of Sri Shastri, Sri Dinesh Singh has made his mark during the present emergency, thereby bringing into sharper relief the almost universally acknowledged ineffectiveness of the Foreign Minister himself.

In the non-aligned world, some of the recent developments are counted as being favourable for New Delhi. Mr Ali Sabry’s exit from the UAR Government has not been unwelcome here, since it has long been known that he has been critical of this country in the India-China dispute. The general impression here is that Mr Ali Sabry has mostly thrown his weight in favour of Cairo taking a pro-Peking line in many of the crucial issues of the day.

Another significant gain for New Delhi has been Yugoslavia’s forthright stand on Kashmir as officially expressed in the Tito-Radhakrishnan joint communique. It is understood that the original draft of the communique mentioned Kashmir as being “an integral part” of India: President Radhakrishnan’s discussions at Brioni led to an improvement in the draft as the communqiue characterises Kashmir as constituting “an internal affair of India”.

With regard to the West, there are indications here that Britain and the USA have been trying hard to recover from the setback they suffered in New Delhi during the recent crisis. While the demand for quitting the Commonwealth has not slackened in the ranks of the Congress—incidentally, this demand seems to have the blessings of the confirmed pro-US elements in the Capital—quiet diplomacy to restore Indo-British relations has not broken down at all. One of the essential Indian requirements is the supply of spares for defence equipment from Britain. It appears that in the recent talks the demand for the lifting of the arms embargo has been strongly canvassed on behalf of India and it is expected that the UK Government will soon respond to it. Although the Indian Defence forces are in a much better position than Pakistan on this score, it is recognised here that without the supply of essential spares, particularly from Britain, our armed forces will be greatly handicapped, if not paralysed, in some vital sectors. In this sense, the present war has helped to underline the urgency of getting essential components from abroad for sufficiency in Defence is not an easy slogan to realise.

The US circles in New Delhi have not been idle all this time. Reinforcing Mr Chester Bowles’ efforts, the pro-US elements in the government have been harping on the immediate need of securing pucca assurance from Washington about regular delivery of PL 480 instalments. Sri S.K. Patil seems to have come out of the wilderness into which he was forced, thanks to his reluctance to take up a firm stand against Pakistan: his claim to closer personal acquaintance with important Washington personalities, and thereby his indipensability in the present crisis, are being sold by some of his lieutenants (including at least one Cabinet Minister). Besides, he holds out the prospect that by his initiative he can prepare the ground for a Shastri-Johnson meeting, which Sri B.K. Nehru is reported to have been pressing for, as an urgent necessity. Out of his proposed explanatory tour in the West, Sri Patil hopes to emerge as an entrenched and indispensable element in the government.

The established lobbies in the Capital have thus been working overtime to regain for the Western powers the position that were threatened during the recent war. For New Delhi, the arduous battle on the diplomatic front has yet to be won despite the sacrifices in blood made on the hills of Kashmir and the plains of Punjab.

(‘New Delhi Skyline’, Mainstream, October 9, 1965)