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Indian Dual policy

The Jammu and Kashmir Dispute is the core issue between Pakistan and India that has bedeviled relations between the two countries since August 1947. It is also a known fact that the perceptions of India and Pakistan about what constitutes the dispute are totally different. Pakistan regards it as an unfinished agenda of the Partition of the sub-continent in 1947 and as an issue of granting the right of self-determination to the Kashmiris, a principle also upheld by the UN Security Council resolutions. India, on the other hand, regards it as its territorial issue. It asserts that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and that Pakistan is occupying Indian Territory. The impasse has resulted with India occupying two thirds of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan administering one-third, with an UN-recognized ceasefire line separating them. The Kashmir dispute dominates Indo-Pakistan relations, and has also become central for peace and stability in the South Asian region. Since 1998 it has been described as a nuclear flashpoint. It is unfortunate that while in the beginning the international community supported the Security Council Resolutions, over the decades there has been a lessening of governmental interests in that commitment, of those very countries such as Australia, UK and US, which had earlier played an active leading role in the Security Council debates and resolutions with a view to solving the dispute.

Through Kashmir, India hoped to be in a better position to strangulate Pakistan by securing a strategic edge and by having control over the rivers flowing into Pakistan. India managed to obtain a land-link with Kashmir through the manipulated Radcliffe Award. While partitioning the Punjab, the Award divided the Muslim majority district of Gurdaspur in such a way that, besides Pathankot tehsil, even the Muslim majority tehsils of Gurdaspur and Batala to the south were awarded to India. India thus got access to Kashmir. There are strong indications that Mountbatten had earlier reached an understanding with the Congress in respect of Gurdaspur district. As mentioned by V. P. Menon, Mountbatten, during his visit to Kashmir in June 1947, well before the Radcliffe Award, ‘assured the Maharaja that so long as he made up his mind to accede to one Dominion or the other before August 15 no trouble will ensue, for which ever Dominion he acceded to would take the State firmly under its protection as part of its territory.’ Also, during his press conference on June 4, 1947, Mountbatten did mention that the Boundary Commission ‘would be unlikely to throw the whole of the Gurdaspur district into the Muslim majority areas.’ As observed by Lord Birdwood, in his book Two Nations and Kashmir, (1956), ‘It was Radcliffe’s Award to India of the Gurdaspur and Batala tehsils, with Muslim majorities, which rendered possible the maintenance of an Indian force at Jammu, based on Pathankot as railhead, and which enabled India to consolidate her defenses southwards all the way from Uri to Pakistan border.’ This collusion came to light after the British Empire rolled back, leaving behind a festering dispute.

In this connection it may be noted that the Indian government adopted a dual policy on the Kashmir dispute. For example, following the landing of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir on August 26, 1947, at the declaratory level, the Indian government expressed its commitment to resolve the dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiris through a plebiscite, but in practice the Indian leaders, particularly, Prime Minister Nehru, were interested in incorporating the State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union. In the words of Pandit Nehru, ‘Kashmir, because of her geographical position, with her frontiers marching with three countries, namely, the Soviet Union, China and Afghanistan, is intimately connected with the security and international contacts of India.’ Gandhi is reported to have said that Kashmir ‘had the greatest strategic value, perhaps, in all India.’ Sheikh Abdullah, while talking to reporters in New Delhi on October 21, 1947, said: ‘Due to the strategic position that the State (Kashmir) holds, if this State joins the Indian Dominion, Pakistan would be completely encircled.’ Also, when the partition of the sub-continent was accepted by the then Indian leaders, it was done with mental reservations, and the hope that Pakistan would not survive for long. The All-India Congress Committee (AICC), in its resolution of June 1947, said: ‘the picture of India we have learned to cherish will remain in our minds and our hearts. The AICC earnestly trusts that when the present passions have subsided, India’s problems will be reviewed in their proper perspective and the false doctrine of two-nations will be discredited and discarded by all.’  

Simultaneously, India also started taking steps to gradually change the status of Jammu and Kashmir, by tightening its illegal, unconstitutional control over the State with the ultimate aim of unilaterally absorbing it within the Indian Union. In January 1950, India accorded a ‘special status’ to the State through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Under the said Article three subjects, namely defence, external affairs and communications only were to be dealt by the Indian Parliament. Article 370 also limited the powers of the Indian Parliament to make laws regarding subjects mentioned in the Union List and the Concurrent List of the Constitution. While remaining within the framework of the Indian Constitution, the Kashmir State virtually attained an autonomous status not enjoyed by any other state of the Republic of India. Article 370 of the Constitution was specifically meant to be a temporary provision as the Constitution-makers were fully confident that the close association of the people of Kashmir with India would convince them of their future by becoming an integral part of the Republic.

While this status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir went so far as to allow the Jammu and Kashmir State, unlike any other Indian State, to have its own flag, constitutional structure and government as well as judiciary, in June 1949, India exiled the Maharaja, and installed his son, Karan Singh, temporarily as his Regent. The Indian government also put the National Conference, under Sheikh Abdullah, in charge of running the administration of the State, with the hope of using the National Conference as the rubber stamp for its other designs to absorb the State.

In October 1950, the National Conference, with the Indian Government’s backing, tried to convene its own Constituent Assembly to determine the future of the State. At Pakistan’s request, the UN Security Council discussed the efforts to convene the Constituent Assembly and in its Resolution 91 of March 30, 1951, stated: ‘the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations’. Sir B. N. Rau, the Indian representative, assured the Security Council that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not intended to prejudice the issues before the Security Council. The Kashmir Constituent Assembly met on November 5, 1951. The Indian government’s interest in the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was to obtain a ratification of the accession to the Indian Union, whereas Sheikh Abdullah intended to retain the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir State within the Indian Union. In July 1952, Abdullah and Nehru reached an agreement, the ‘Delhi Agreement’, whereby the special status of Kashmir under Article 370 could not be changed without the approval of the Kashmir Constituent Assembly. The Hindus in Jammu division and India agitated for a complete integration of Kashmir in India. In August 1952, anti-Abdullah demonstrations were held in the State. Sheikh Abdullah adopted a tough policy against these demonstrations and ordered arrests of the Hindu protestors. The Indian government, showing its displeasure, dismissed Abdullah as Prime Minister on August 9, 1953, and imprisoned him, replacing him by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. British historian Alastair Lamb notes, ‘With Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed in power, the state of Jammu and Kashmir drifted steadily into the Indian orbit. … In February 1954 the Kashmir Constituent Assembly, while adhering in principle to the special position of the State, confirmed (in language that would surely never have been used if Sheikh Abdullah had still been presiding) the legality of its accession to India.’ (Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, p. 190)

In 1954, the president of India promulgated a Constitutional Order, with reference to Indian-held Kashmir, empowering the Indian government to legislate on all matters on the Union List, not just defence, foreign affairs and communications. Finally, in November 1956, the Constituent Assembly of Indian-held Kashmir finalised the Constitution of the State. The UN Security Council in its Resolution 122 of January 24, 1957, reaffirmed that the ‘final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic means under the auspices of the United Nations’ and declared that ‘the convening of a Constituent Assembly as recommended by the General Council of the “All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference” and any action that Assembly may have taken or might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliating of entire state or any part thereof, or action by the parties concerned in support of any such action by the Assembly, would not constitute a disposition of the State in accordance with the above principle.’ Thus, India was not able to get UN approval for its constitutional dabbling to incorporate the State in the Indian Union. However, the Constitution came into operation on January 26, 1957. It provided that the ‘State is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.’

Moreover, Sheikh Abdullah, then in prison, protested against the decision of the Constituent Assembly. There was a split in the National Conference and the breakaway faction, which was pro-Abdullah, known as the Plebiscite Front, was founded by Mirza Afzal Beg. The Front advocated plebiscite under the UN supervision. When Sheikh Abdullah was released in January 1958, he supported the Plebiscite Front and vehemently criticised the decision of the Constituently Assembly. As a result Abdullah was again imprisoned in April 1958. Meanwhile, in 1958 the Indian government, as part of its designs to integrate the State, through another constitutional amendment brought the Indian-Occupied Kashmir under the purview of the central administrative services. According to an Indian scholar, Sumantra Bose, ‘any trace of substantive autonomy had been systematically eradicated from Kashmir by the mid-1960s, and without even the pretence of a reference to the wishes of its people.’ (The Challenge in Kashmir: Democracy, Self-Determination and a Just Peace, p. 33) 

As a third step to illegally incorporate the State into the Indian Union, and also to undermine the special status of the State accorded under Article 370, after the Constituent Assembly started its meetings, the Indian central government managed to hold elections for a State Assembly and the Lok Sabha in Indian Occupied Kashmir in 1951. After the 1967 elections, the central government invited Karan Singh, then Sadar-i-Riyasat, to join the cabinet as Minister for Tourism. He immediately resigned as Sadar-i-Riyasat and the central government appointed an acting Governor to the State. Thus, the central government was able to abolish the office of Sadar-i-Riyasat and in its place establish the office of Governor, which appeared, at least on the surface, to bring it into line with the structure of the rest of the Indian States. Later, frequent impositions of Governor and President’s Rule (1990-96) have practically eroded the principle of full autonomy supposedly accorded through Article 370, by allowing greater central interventions.

JKIM: First & largest Political Party of Kashmiri Shias

Copyright 2008-Ittihadul Muslimeen, Karanagar,Srinagar,Kashmir,190010