Have Indian Muslims spoken out against the liberation war in Bangladesh

Cashmere - A Frozen Tragedy

by Jakob Rösel

The Kashmir conflict shares with the conflict over Israel its longevity, insolubility, and large geopolitical and potentially nuclear implications. However, it has been underestimated by the “Eurocentric” West for 70 years. Russia was characterized by Winston Churchill as a riddle, guarded by a mystery, surrounded by a secret. Cashmere would then be a dilemma, at the beginning of a dead end with an inevitable result, tragedy.

Kashmir is a dilemma because two rivals, Pakistan and India, have to claim Kashmir, one as an Islamic state and one as a secular state, for moral and ideological reasons. It is a dead end because, after four wars and 70 years of confrontation, this competition leaves little room for third paths, interim solutions and compromises. And in the end it is a tragedy because the occupied population, the Muslim majority, will always resist. On the other hand, the stronger actor, the government and occupying power India, is ready to suppress this resistance at any military, financial and moral price.

How could this happen?

“You cannot defeat geography,” said Napoleon Bonaparte. Therefore, political statements should always begin with it. The Indian state Jammu and Kashmir emerged from a native kingdom ruled by a Hindu dynasty, which was confirmed in the 19th century by the British East India Company - against payment of a high recognition bonus - and then used for geostrategic tasks: a perfect imperial camouflage. At the end of the 19th century, the princely state comprised Kashmir and Jammu terrain the size of Great Britain. It was formally under the rule of a Rajas (a Hindu ruler title) from the Dogra dynasty. The two capitals were Jammu in the predominantly Hindu south and Srinagar in the almost entirely Muslim high valley of Kashmir. The empire and its name were, however, a sham. Four fifths of the terrain and its small population groups had always been outside the control of Kashmir or even Jammus. Even isolated war campaigns had not brought these immense peripheries under permanent Dogra rule. This was only taken care of by the campaigns and subsequent treaties of the British-Indian administration, formally in the name and in the shadow of the Dogra dynasty.

The entire area was and is structured by the huge mountain ranges of the Himalayas and its mighty connecting mountains in the west. In the east the Himalayan mountains towers up with their plateaus. The western "Little Tibet" of Leh / Ladakh has been stretching here for more than a millennium, the most important first stage in the direction of Tibet and Lhasa. The headwaters of the largest river on the Indian subcontinent, the Indus, which is over a thousand kilometers long, also flows from the east. The caravan route from the Kashmir high valley to Leh partly leads along it. Further to the west, the Indus finally bends to the south, at the end of which it enters the Indus valley, a huge alluvial plain and desert plain, comparable to an Egyptian.

North of the Indus rises the Karakoram Mountains, the often 7,000 to 8,000 meter high wall that shields the Taklamakan Desert and its silk roads to the south. They cross few and difficult passes. For the passes and the subsequent north-south connection, the immense western periphery has always come into play. Here ran along the Indus, further north along the tributaries Gilgit and Hunza, a trade route towards the Karakoram and the Silk Road. While Buddhist Tibetans settled in the eastern plateaus and river valleys, Sunni and Shiite hill tribes, sometimes western and sometimes eastern, originally Tibetan origin controlled this trade route and its caravanserais - with the mountain fortresses Gilgit and Baltit. Demographically, these highland and trader groups were never significant. However, these geostrategic peripheries were all the more important for the British, as they are today for Pakistan, India and China.

Since the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, accelerated since the middle of the century, "The Great Game" has been played from the Balkans via the Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan to western China. The conflict between Great Britain and Russia in Central Asia is about curbing either Tsarist-Russian or British-Indian influence. Since Russian generals, railway engineers, diplomats, geographers, spies and traders travel from Central Asia to Xinjiang, Calcutta and London need listening posts, customs posts and increasingly precisely negotiated borders in this area. After all, the 'Kingdom' in the west almost encounters the Afghan Wachan Corridor, a no man's land created by Petersburg and London, which is supposed to formally prevent Tsar Russia and British India from a 'collision'. Here one encounters Manchuchina formally beyond the Karakoram, real unpredictable warlords and in the east the still mysterious, hermetically shielded Tibetan theocracy. At the time, the Empire cared little about this territory (on which over 90 percent of the population is concentrated), the high valley of Kashmir and the plains of Jammu.

There are geographical, ethnographic and religious features here. The high valley is surrounded by huge mountains and mountain ranges. A river rises from it, the Jhelam, the westernmost of the five rivers, the "five - ab", which form the "pandsch-ab". For thousands of years he and his trade route have formed the connection to the south: economically, militarily, culturally. The high valley is a dry, antediluvian lake. The valley floor, the former mud, is enormously fertile. The climate is extremely pleasant compared to the indescribable heat of northern India. The valley and the residential city of Srinagar are therefore considered a paradise for the Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and above all the Mughal rulers. Two thirds of the population live here in the high Kashmir Valley. For centuries they have converted to a syncretistic Islam characterized by mysticism and veneration of saints. These more than 90 percent Muslims have been ruled by a narrow, Hindu, Brahmin elite since the 16th century, on behalf of the Mughals in Delhi, and in the 19th century on behalf of the Dogras.

These 'Kashmiri Pandits' are among the most respected Brahman clans in India, the 'Gotras'. Pandit J. Nehru's family descended from them. Nehru romanticized and dogmatized his largely imagined homeland throughout his life. The highlands are shielded to the south and west by the 4,000 meter high Pir Panjal mountain range. Jammu extends on the southern slopes and in the lowlands: geographically, climatically and ethnically it is part of the plain, of the Punjab. Punjabi, not Kashmiri, is spoken and written here - so another script is used: Devanagari instead of Arabic. Two thirds of the population are Hindus, only one third Muslim.

The western district also contributes to a special political and ethnic complication, the small principality of Poonch / Punch, which was left to itself for a long time. Militant Muslim groups, 'Martial Races', have lived here for around six centuries, and they mainly serve in the British Sepoy Army. While the Kashmiri Pandits took care of the Dogra rulers, these Pashtuns and Pahari warriors beat down any rebellions. However, since the 1920s, a decade-long dispute broke out between Punch and Srinagar.

From the perspective of imperial Calcutta, everything was actually fine in the strategically sensitive northwest until the end of the Second World War. In the interior of India, however, uncontrollable developments are beginning in the long run. The congress movement, officially led by Nehru and "charismatically" led by Gandhi, has had a mass effect since 1920. She calls for an independent India for a single, secular nation. A Muslim notables association, the “Muslim League”, which was initiated by the British, finally emerged in 1936 as a Muslim mass party based on the model of and in deadly hostility to Congress. The Muslim League speaks of an India of two nations, a Hindu nation and an equal Muslim nation. Since the beginning of World War II, she has been calling for a "Pakistan" (an acronym for Punjab-Kashmir-Sindh-Balochistan) for Muslims.

This struggle for independence has been carried over to the backyards of British India since 1920, i.e. to the more than 500 princely states that take up a third of the area and one fifth of the population of British India. Above all, the question of a secular nation or two religious nations becomes important for the vast and complex Jammu and Kashmir. Here the Dogra rulers, based on Brahmins and punch warriors, prevented the population from any education, government employment and social advancement - especially the two-thirds majority of (Kashmiri) Muslims. Two high-valley Muslims are now founding a Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, which is renamed the “National Conference” (NC) a little later by one of the two co-founders, Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah wants to unite the resistance against the Dogra-Rajas. He sympathizes with the congress ideals and knows Nehru. Meanwhile, the overarching goal of Indian national independence since 1939 has been postponed by global World War II. Only after the end of the war in 1945 is the independence of India - but far from the entire decolonization - on the agenda in the finally battered Empire.

In the winter of 1945/46, a second, India-wide election was carried out - as in 1936, with voting rights extended to 20 percent of the adult population. This choice is clear in its polarization. The Congress now represents the overwhelming majority of Hindus, all smaller, for example regional parties are marginalized. The Muslim League, on the other hand, has brought the majority of Muslims behind it. Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, previously “The Sole Spokesman” for Pakistan, has made the demand for a separate state and therefore the partition of India inevitable. In 1946 the cycles of violence and the Hindu-Muslim massacres became uncontrollable. The basis of colonial rule, the Indian army's obedience to orders, splintered: Muslim soldiers no longer shoot Muslim immobs, Hindu troops no longer shoot Hindus. Louis Mountbatten is sent to New Delhi as the last Viceroy and Governor General. It is supposed to accelerate the "end game", because by the middle of 1947 India must be independent and at the same time divided: into an India, a West and an East Pakistan. Only since 1945 has another problem moved into the center of the decisions. What should happen to the princely states, especially the largest ones, in the independence process? Where are Jammu and Kashmir going?

Since the beginning of the conquest of the subcontinent in 1756, London had developed the useful and knightly romantic concept of suzerainty. A formally sovereign state recognizes the sovereignty of another. British India was (largely) sovereign; the princely states, on the other hand, were in noble vassalage, in "suzerainty" to the British viceroy in Calcutta and later New Delhi. Domestically completely independent, they had ceded foreign, alliance and defense policy to Calcutta. Certain traffic rights had also been assigned so that Calcutta could build telegraph and railway lines through its area. Specially trained political agents watched over the good behavior of these Rajas, Nawabs, Nizams or Bahadurs. According to this doctrine, independence means the elimination of the previous vassal status, "The Lapse of Paramountcy". The princes, and only they, were now independent again. With it they could go wherever they wanted: to India, to the new Pakistan or to independence. Beyond this aristocratic fiction, however, Realpolitik prevailed from the start. It was a matter of course for India and the future Pakistan that they would integrate not only the small but also the largest principalities within their territories, with or without violence. The future of Jammu and Kashmir as the largest, most complex and morally and geopolitically most important princely state remained open.

The dilemma

For Jinnah and the Muslim League it was a matter of course that it was not the vote of a despotic prince, but the religious affiliation of the majority of a province or a princely state that had to decide whether the area should be awarded to Pakistan or India. Pakistan should become a state for the Muslims. Kashmir, as a predominantly Muslim principality on the northeastern border, naturally belonged to the newly emerging Pakistan. Also because all transport connections and economic and cultural contacts have been running through the Jhelam Valley from the west, now from Pakistan, into the high valley for centuries. To the east, in the direction of East Punjab and Delhi, there was only one mostly impassable runway.

For the “One Nation” theory of Congress and Nehrus, there was a contradicting political and moral compulsion. In the secular nation, apart from the Laccadive archipelago, there was no Muslim-majority territory. The kingdom as a future federal state was and would be an obvious confirmation and legitimation of secularism, which is irreplaceable for the existence of India: Muslims also belong to us. The affiliation of the kingdom is also democratically beyond question for Nehru. The political leader and spokesman for the people, not just the Muslim Kashmiris, Sheikh Abdullah has renamed the Muslim Conference the "National Conference"; the still existing “Muslim Conference” is meaningless. The leaders of both parties are in jail at the time of the "Endgame of Empire". But there is no doubt about Abdullah's popularity and Nehru is his friend.

The two future states, India and Pakistan, the secular and the Muslim nation, must therefore insist on rule over Kashmir for reasons of their basic legitimacy, their raison d'être. In the upcoming trial of strength, however, Congress and Nehru, supported by the departing colonial power, have the far stronger means of power. And they can use these months before independence plus division. Under the partition plan, the Muslim majority provinces in the west, Sindh and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), go to Pakistan. There is silence about the fate of Balochistan, that is, the independent “State of Kalat”. This is done in 1948 as part of a Pakistani military intervention. The huge, most populous provinces of Punjab in the west and Bengal in the east have to be divided, however, because half of them are inhabited by Hindus and half by Muslims. East Punjab goes to India, and East Bengal forms East Pakistan, future Bangladesh.

The expert drawing up the partition plan, colonial official Sir Radcliff, has never set foot in India before. That is why he is considered impartial. It supposedly works completely shielded. Bengal and Punjab should be divided administratively gently, based on a simple criterion: Muslim majority districts in Punjab go west to Pakistan; Hindu majority districts to the east, on India. Thanks to this measure, the essential administrative building blocks of British India, the districts, with their courts, archives or tax registers, will remain in the successor states. This rule is strictly adhered to - with the exception of two Punjab districts in the south of Jammu, Gurdaspur and Amritsar. This is where dividing takes place at the sub-district level. As a result, India will in future remain a rail link to the princely state, to Pathankot, and thus access to a mountain road will be retained, the only connection into the high valley. Pakistan still regards this as treason to this day. The new borders will only be revealed in Punjab and Bengal on Independence Day. The Punjab is sinking into chaos. Huge masses of desperate farmers, Hindus, Sikhs from western Punjab and, conversely, Muslims from eastern Punjab are fleeing to India and Pakistan. A total of 12 million people are displaced on both sides of the new Punjab border. Nobody knows the number of dead; Estimates vary between half a million and a million.

In Kashmir, there is initially a deceptive calm: The Dogra ruler cannot choose between risky independence and a bitter annexation to India, between possible full possession of power and foreseeable decline. Finally, in the fall of 1947, the Pahari and Pashtun warriors attacked in Punch. You are trying to decide the game for the Muslim majority side.Their tribal and clan comrades, the Khaiberpass Pashtuns, come to their aid from the nearby North-West Frontier Province with weapons, trucks and other warriors. Together they advance towards the high valley and Srinagar. Fortunately for India and the reluctant Raja, the Pashtuns and military veterans are not only good warriors but have always been outlaws. They plunder and pillage extensively at the bazaars and Hindu traders on the wayside. That gives the ruler and India one last chance. Under pressure from India, the Raja dismisses his “vizier” and replaces him with an Indian elite official, a confidante of Nehru. Sheikh Abdullah is released from prison. His former companion, now head of the Muslim Conference, which is close to the Muslim League, remains behind bars. The Raja himself flees, he flies to New Delhi. However, Nehru only promises him military aid after signing an affiliation contract, an "Instrument of Accession", at the last minute. Sikh elite regiments are now being flown into the high valley in great haste - with 300 British military aircraft, which coincidentally are already waiting in the vicinity of New Delhi. They push back the Pashtun invaders in bitter fighting over the next few weeks.

After a ceasefire was finally negotiated in the UN Security Council, the disparate front became the "Ceasefire Line". It has been guarded by a UN mission ever since. For the use of diplomats, this later becomes the "Line of Control", the new de facto border. In the southwest, India has lost around a tenth of the high valley and Jammu due to the hesitation of the Maharajas. Since then, this area has formed the "free Kashmir", Azad Kashmir, which is occupied and administered by Pakistan. In the north the losses are far greater. Here the immense ice deserts, long stretches of the Indus mountain valleys and the old trading posts and British listening posts, Gilgit and Baltistan, fall to Pakistan. Parts of this border, especially on the Siachen Glacier, have not yet been marked. Since then, the troops of both countries have been fighting each other on the 5,000 meter high glacier: if you are short of breath, with helicopters that are barely operational and in relentless cold.

The result of Kashmir's accession is therefore highly ambiguous for India. Substantial parts of the geostrategically important border with China have now fallen to Pakistan, including the Indus, Gilgit, Baltit and the trade route connecting western China. Pakistan will normalize this border with the People's Republic of China in the future, cede an extremely considerable area north of the highest Karakoram peaks - K2, Gasherbrum - to China and have the People's Republic build a geostrategically important road along the Indus and Gilgit to western China: the Karakoram Highway over the Khunjerab Pass. All of this cemented an important strategic, military and nuclear alliance. With China at its back, little Pakistan can in future provoke the Indian superpower at will and humiliate it internationally. This, while China itself is pushing back India along the remaining eastern border, defeated in a border war in 1962 and exposed to ridicule. Among other things, China is also appropriating the Aksai Chin sector on the eastern Karakoram border, an area larger than Belgium, and building a strategic border road here that extends as far as Lhasa. India did not notice the usurpation and road construction until months later.

In 1948 India lost around 40 percent of the area of ​​the kingdom to Pakistan. Pakistan now controls substantial parts of the strategic border, and the new "Great Game" will be played here in the future against the People's Republic, an overpowering opponent. As China explained early on with regard to Asia’s geopolitics: “Two tigers cannot live on a mountain.” As far as Kashmir’s domestic policy is concerned, Nehru has also fallen into an insoluble trap: to provide democratic legitimation for military action and “accession” , he promises the world and the population a referendum. Confident of his friendship with Sheikh Abdullah, he believed in 1948 that the Sheikh and the National Conference would determine the future democratic process and win a pro-Indian referendum. But Sheikh Abdullah would prove to be the scourge of Nehru, his daughter Indira and his grandson Rajiv in the years to come.

The dead end

Even in the exuberance of accession and the affection for Abdullah, Congress comes far to meet the Sheikh and his demands. The Dogra monarchy is swiftly abolished, the new federal state of Jammu and Kashmir, on the other hand, receives extraordinary privileges: Its flag always flies next to the national flag. Strangers cannot buy land - which is why Indians will buy houseboats in the future so that they can spend their holidays at Srinagar on their own premises. Federal laws only apply here if they have also been passed by the regional parliament beforehand. The rulings of the Supreme Constitutional Court do not apply to the state. In contrast to all other major principalities, the Sheikh secures unique special rights with such regulations. He makes Jammu and Kashmir a sui generis state. This creates a spring bed for any further demands for autonomy. It will be years before these privileges can be partially withdrawn.

But that creates a further dilemma: to the extent that the status of Jammu and Kashmir is brought back into line with that of the other federal states in the future, the scope for future autonomy concessions, i.e. conflict solutions, will narrow. This would create a precedent on which the other states can invoke. However, the promise of a referendum turned out to be the greatest mortgage of entry in 1948: Nehru let his friend, this charismatic spirit of idealized Kashmiri tradition and tolerance, out of the bottle and will never be able to control it again. Sheikh Abdullah, the "Lion of the High Valley", as he is now called, is establishing his own "National Conference" supremacy in the rest of India, comparable to the "Dominant One Party" system of the Congress. Other parties have little to say in his state. He is starting a supposed socialist revolution from which primarily his family and party followers will benefit. Above all, he went on trips abroad on his own in the 1950s, during which, in the middle of the Cold War and with reference to his geostrategic region, he raved about the role of peace and neutrality that an independent Kashmir could play in the future.

Abdullah talks about the "wayside cross of religions and cultures", which is symbolized in "Kashmiriat" or the "Kashmiri being". He transfigured Kashmir into the Switzerland of South Asia. Congress and Nehru do not want to entrust such a man to a referendum on the future membership of Kashmir; the outcome of the vote would be too uncertain. Over the next several decades, from 1952 to 1991, Congress and three generations of the Nehru dynasty attempted to regain control of domestic politics and Sheikh Abdullah, with moderate success. In a rollercoaster of tactics and decisions, the Sheikh is usually removed from his office with the help of the so-called "President's Rule". He is placed under house arrest, released after negotiations, whereupon he soon demands another referendum or autonomy concessions - and disappears behind bars. At the same time, Delhi is trying to bring the Jammu and Kashmir Congress into play, also through the two-thirds Hindu majority in the Jammu area. Until the death of the "lion", however, all attempts to discredit Sheikh Abdullah or to weaken the National Conference failed.

His son Farooq initially successfully continued the party. By the end of the 1980s, domestic politics would stand still. There is no referendum. Instead, Delhi claims that the regular provincial and national elections and their turnout are the equivalent of such a pro-Indian vote. In addition, Pakistan holds 40 percent of the territory, an area in which Pakistan does not allow or cannot guarantee a free referendum. In the next three decades, there will also be little changes in the multiple election manipulations, votes and parliamentary purchases from all sides. The Kashmiri protest for more autonomy or independence remains peaceful, but it is increasingly taking on extra-parliamentary forms.

The fact that two wars were waged between Pakistan and India during these almost four decades does not change the stalemate: directly the one from 1965, only indirectly the Bangladesh war of 1971. They do not change anything in the continuously accepted "Line of Control" . In 1965, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Zulfikar ("The Sword of Muhammad") Ali Bhutto persuaded the aging military dictator Ayub Khan to instigate an uprising in the high valley of Kashmir. It was supposed to provide the pretext for a war of liberation as well as a tank frontal attack on India, towards East Punjab and New Delhi. A classic first strike, because in 1965 Pakistan was able to win another war against the overpowering enemy. But the war of aggression is becoming a disaster. In the largest tank battle since Kursk in 1943, the Indian tanks roll across the border into western Punjab, shortly before Lahore. However, no uprising breaks out in the high valley. Indian long-suffering and an internal Indian succession crisis save Pakistan. Nehru died in 1964, his transitional successor Bahadur Shastri died during the Soviet-mediated peace negotiations in Tashkent.

The West and Kashmir played a minor role in the 1971 Bangladesh War during the Indian invasion of East Pakistan. But the catastrophic outcome of the war for Pakistan, the loss of East Pakistan and half the army as well as the "birth" of Bangladesh, have changed the power constellation between the surviving rump Pakistan and the Indian Congress, which triumphed in the negotiations in Shimla. Bhutto, who has risen to become Prime Minister of the rest of Pakistan, has to sign everything in Shimla that Indira Gandhi dictates to him - above all a new "bilateralism". Since then, Kashmir has been a problem that can only be negotiated between India and Pakistan, to the exclusion of any international or UN Security Council mediation.