FROM HISTORY PAGES: THE FIRST KASHMIR
The more things appear to change,
the more they remain the same.
It is again that season in the
subcontinent when optimism is on the rise and many see the ‘Rainbow’ of
Indo-Pak peace, as easily reachable! This will be the second Kashmir
centred negotiations between the two countries, the first having taken place in
1963, nearly 41 years ago. I do not consider the Tashkent
talks of 1966/1972 in the same category as those were centred on dealing with
the consequences of wars that had just ended
( 1965 Indo-Pak War and 1971 war for liberation of Bangladesh).
But the most interesting reason
to have a re-look at the 1963 episode is the striking similarity of the actors,
their postures and interests …… An even more pressing reason is that the
account of large part of the events of that year has been kept hidden from the
Indian public. I was fortunate to spend a fortnight at the John F. Kennedy
Centre in May 2003 and study the American official document archives. It indeed
proved to be a veritable treasure trove of information, still being denied to
Indian citizens from the Indian side.
BACKGROUND TO THE 1963 TALKS: THE
TRAUMA OF 1962 CHINESE INVASION.
The simmering border dispute
erupted into a full scale clash when China
launched an attack on 20 October 1962.
Under Nehru’s leadership since 1947, India
had neglected her armed forces. The ill-prepared, ill-equipped and badly led
Indian army suffered a major defeat. But more than the loss of territory, it
was the loss of nerve by Prime Minister Nehru that caused a political upheaval
in the Indian subcontinent. The Nadir
was reached on 19 November when in span of few hours Nehru sent two letters to
President Kennedy requesting American military help to stop the Chinese
advance. (Department of State Top Secret Telegram No 2167).
“ Within few hours of my earlier
message situation in NEFA command has deteriorated still further……….With advance
of Chinese in massive strength the entire Brahmaputra
valley is seriously threatened and unless something is done immediately to stem
the tide the whole of Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland would also pass into Chinese hands.
Chinese have poised massive
forces in Chumbi valley between Bhutan
and invasion from that direction seems imminent. Our areas further North
West in the states of U.P., Punjab
and Himachal Pradesh are also threatened……
Situation is desperate …….we may
lose whole of Eastern India……..delay in assistance
reaching us will be a catastrophe for our country. “
Abandoning the opposition to
presence of foreign troops on Indian soil and the ‘Non Alignment’ policy, Nehru
asked the Americans to send US
air force to protect Indian cities. For all intents and purposes, as far as China
was concerned, India
gave up all pretence of neutrality.
response was prompt and generous. Four squadrons of fighter bombers and 300
transport aircraft were alerted. Massive airlift of arms, ammunition and
clothing to supply Indian army was underway. But even more importantly, the US,
through its secret contact
( The Henry Cabot Lodge – Wang conferences) with the Chinese in Warsaw
( Poland) had warned the Chinese of a serious American
response. The Chinese announced unilateral cease fire on 21 Nov. and began
withdrawing from its forward positions just as the American aid began arriving.
The immediate danger had passed and India
did not need the American air cover.
But the American military aid to India
had to cope with one complicating factor-Pakistan. Right in the early stages of
Sino-Indian conflict, on 26 October
1962 ( Secret Telegram No. 1685) President
Kennedy wrote to President Ayub Khan of Pakistan,
tactfully telling him that the US
will not tolerate any action by Pakistan
to take advantage of the situation. He further urged Ayub
Khan to put aside the Kashmir dispute for the time being
and be generous to India.
Kennedy felt that such a response would in the end be in interest of Pakistan
and its cause by getting a favourable image in India.
did not create any diversion as it was too dependent on the US,
nevertheless, Kennedy’s advice was disregarded and soon ZA Bhutto, then foreign
minister of Pakistan,
made a visit to China.
The so called ‘All Weather’ Sino-Pak friendship was born in the crucible
The Chinese invasion was seen by
President Kennedy and the US
as a God sent opportunity to enlist India
in their Cold War struggle against expansionist Communism. Kennedy even
entertained an idea of getting Indian troops to fight in Laos
But on the other hand Pakistan
was a staunch ally of nine years standing, providing bases to US
air force and willing and eager to send troops to help the Americans.
In an office memo dated 12 Nov. 1962 to the President, R. W.
Komer ( Kennedy’s points man
for Third World countries) summed up the Pakistani
“ The Pakistani are going through a
genuine emotional crisis as they see their cherished ambition of using US as
lever against India
going up in smoke of the Chinese border war.”
He recommended ‘sympathetic
under4standing and no pressure’. The State department recommended that US
should not accept any Pakistani ‘Veto’ over arms supply to India
but tell Pakistanis that the US
has got the Indians to negotiating table, which was the Pakistani objective. To
stick to its promise of progress on Kashmir, the US
made all further and long term military aid conditional on progress on Kashmir.
Essentially the American problem
was how to be friendly with both India
The obvious answer was to prod for the solution of Kashmir
problem that was thought to be the cause of friction between the two countries.
Right in his first letter to Nehru on 28
Oct 1962, Kennedy mentioned this and his able Ambassador JK
Galbraith followed up In January 1963, India
announced that it is ready for talks with Pakistan
to solve the Kashmir problem.
COMPARISON: 1963 NEGOTIATIONS AND
It is both interesting and
instructive to see the parallels. Like in 1963, the US
again sees usefulness of Pakistan
in fight against Al Quaida and its greater
willingness to commit troops at behest of the Americans that contrasts with the
Indian reservations and foot-dragging. US needs a strong India
over long term to check growing power of China
while ( like in 1963) Pak continues to hobnob with it.
Like in 1963, military supplies
have again emerged as the basic tool of American diplomacy, F-16s for Pak
versus Anti Missile shield to India……
Having said all
that the situation today is opposite of 1963. It is Pakistan
that is desperate and India
hardly vulnerable. In that sense the only argument in favour of Indian
concessions is the one used by Kennedy on 9 March 1963,
that as a bigger and more powerful country India
should show generosity.
The 1963 talks also reveals the
general thought patterns of the US
be it mediation, partition of Srinagar
aim to have control over Chenab
river waters, internationalisation of administration in Kashmir
and partial Plebiscite. In the next part we would look at those negotiating
positions. It seems even after 41 years, very little seems to have changed.
Part II: Reasons for
Failure & Elements of Settlement.
“ The Chinese have over a million men in Tibet, not too far from Calcutta, which is the base of Communism in India. India was bound to break up within 15 to 20 years, so the key to the
defence of subcontinent was Pakistan NOT India”
“ Pakistan is living in the midst of tricksters, Russians, Chinese and those
President Ayub Khan in conversation with President Kennedy
, 11 July 1961.
Department of State,
Secret Memorandum: Kennedy-Ayub Talks. Approved in White House 3 Aug 1961.
In the ultimate analysis, the
1963 Kashmir talks collapsed due to three key elements:
deep seated Pakistani hatred of India
and its strategic need to annex Kashmir, change in Chinese and Russian approach and high handed
Western pressure on Nehru and India.
PAKISTANI APPROACH AND ATTITUDE.
The above verbatim quote from
Pakistani President Ayub Khan,
is illustrative of Pakistani attitude towards ‘Hindu’ India.
That these are the sentiments of supposedly ‘moderate’ Ayub
Khan, vividly shows the kind of mindset prevailing in Pakistan.
While due to intense American pressure Pakistan
could not take any military advantage of India’s
troubles with the Chinese in 1962, it wasted no time in immediately rushing
into Chinese arms. While the rounds of talks with India
were on, the architect of Pakistan’s
dalliance, Foreign Minister Bhutto, visited China.
As Nehru pointed out in his letter to President Kennedy of 11 August 1963, that this
hobnobbing with China
produced an impression in India
that Pak was using Chinese pressure. Under the circumstances, any ‘settlement’
on Kashmir was being viewed in India as succumbing to American and Chinese
pressure, and was ‘political suicide’ in words of Nehru.
During the second round at
Karachi, for the first time ever, India proposed territorial concessions to
Pakistan in Kashmir valley, essentially giving up the Northern portion of Neelum valley and Poonch salient and in return wanted areas in Kargil ( captured and returned in 1965 and again captured
and retained in 1971) to safeguard Srinagar-Leh road,
India’s life line to Ladakh. Pakistan
in response laid claims to the entire state of Jammu and
Kashmir other than Jammu,
Kathua, Udhampur and parts
of Kishtawar. Bhutto added a rider that in order to
safeguard Pak control over the waters of Chenab
river, she would also need some territory South of the
river. When questioned on the claim on Ladakh, Bhutto
responded by saying that since in any case India had failed to defend it
against the Chinese, it might as well give it to Pakistan. ( US Embassy Secret
Telegram No. 6573 of 10 Feb. 1963 giving details of conversation between Bhutto
and US Ambassador and UK High Commissioner in Karachi)
But most interestingly, Ayub Khan told the American Ambassador on 12 March 1963 that Pakistan’s
‘minimum expectations were,
Partition of Jammu
along the religious lines, with most of areas going to Pakistan
to ensure control over Chenab
Autonomy for valley for indefinite period.
was pursuing strategic objectives using the cover of ‘aspirations of Kashmiri
people’ as an excuse.
HANDEDNESS AND BRITISH MEDDLING.
The Americans under British
influence decided to link Kashmir solution with military
aid to India.
In words of Ambassador Galbraith, the US
in effect accepted the Pakistani demand for mediation on Kashmir
and arbitration position for itself on arms aid to India.
Once this became clear to New Delhi,
the Kashmir talks were doomed. Ayub
Khan floated the wild idea of requesting ex-President Eisenhower to be
appointed as the mediator. The idea was shot down by Ambassador Galbraith.
During the Swaran
Singh –Bhutto talks, Duncan Sandys and Mountbatten
to put pressure on Nehru. The British finally succeeded in getting Americans to
issue a joint statement by India
accepting mediation. Not so subtle hints were dropped that failure to accept
this would result in ‘freeze’ on arms aid to India.
Though the US made
it clear that the freeze would not be applicable to the aid already announced
at the Nassau Conference earlier. It was a classic carrot stick
On 11 August Nehru wrote to
President Kennedy rejecting the mediation proposal. He wrote,
pushing ahead of institutional arrangement for mediatory effort is no
Necessary preparatory work to
create appropriate atmosphere by quiet diplomacy has to be put in first.”
Along with this letter Nehru also
forwarded the advance copy of statement he planned to make in the Parliament on
13 August.( So much for the respect to Parliamentary
On August 15, 1963 (Embassy secret Telegram No. 394) , Kennedy wrote to Nehru expressing his disappointment at
the decision to call off the talks and reject mediation. He added that his task
of getting aid to India
has been made even more difficult. In the end he put the onus on India
to wean away Pakistan
from its budding relationship with China.
The brief ‘honeymoon’ between India
and the US had
begun to sore by mid 1963. India
had planned a major steel plant at Bokaro and was
keen to get the American aid and technology. In the changed context as it
seemed that the US Congress would oppose it, India
withdrew the request and instead went to the Russians.
In the meanwhile rumours were
rife that the US
was about to supply the supersonic F-104 Star-fighter aircraft to Pakistani air
force that would upset the military balance in the subcontinent. On 14 November 1963, Indian Ambassador
to the US, Mr
BK Nehru called on Secretary of State Dean Rusk and expressed his fears on this
count. ( Embassy Telegram No 1069 of 16 Nov 1963.) The
exchange between Philip Talbot and BK Nehru is contemporary relevance. Nehru
expressed concern that the US
seems to want to ‘balance’ military aid to India
On being asked as to why India
does not recognise that Pakistan
has similar complaints regarding aid to India,
the Ambassador replied,
are three fundamental differences between India
and Pakistan. India
is four times larger than Pakistan
and nothing they do can alter that fact. Second that Pak refuse to accept this
and clamour for ‘equality’. And finally India
wants nothing from Pak while Pakistan
wants unobtainable things from India
On 22 November
, Chester Bowles, the US
Ambassador to India,
had prepared a memorandum for Kennedy, strongly suggesting a stable and long
term military relationship with India.
He proposed a five year Military Aid Programme. The memo was never seen by
President Kennedy as on that very day, he was assassinated in Dallas,
It is indeed a big if of history
whether that marked a turning point in Indo-US relations that were to remain in
‘Cold’ for another 27 years!
CHANGE IN CHINESE AND RUSSIAN
Much of the panic in India
and Nehru’s loss of nerve were due to his innate distrust of military,
incompetence of the sycophants that surrounded him and institutional weakness
where the Indian Prime Ministers do not have a military Chief of Staff to give
alternative and immediate military advice. Incidentally, a weakness that
continues to date even in a nuclear armed India.
But as Generals Kaul and Thapars
were replaced by Manekshaw and Chaudhari,
military sense dawned over Delhi.
The threat of Chinese to Punjab, Himachal
Pradesh and whole of Eastern India (
mentioned in Nehru’s panic telegram of 19 November ) was recognised to
be what it was: a military nonsense! India
could thus take of more relaxed view of China.
The Chinese also did not keep the border alive and were infact
more than scrupulous in observing the cease fire. India
thus had no reason to give up Kashmir for the sake
countering of a waning threat from China.
The Chinese invasion widened the
breach between USSR
Russians felt that the Chinese had indulged in ‘adventurism’ by launching the
attack on India while the global level ‘ Cuban Missile Crisis’ was going on
between US and USSR. Retreating from its earlier formulation of this being a
conflict between a friend ( India ) and brother (China)
, the Russians began to openly criticise the Chinese actions. At a crucial time
in 1962, they supplied India
with AN-12 transport aircraft that played a major role in saving Chushul airfield from the Chinese. The Russians also began
delivery of MIG-21 supersonic fighters to India,
then not even with China.
The effect of changes in Chinese
and Russian attitude further reduced pressure on India
to come to agreement on Kashmir with Pakistan
at ‘ any cost’.
BETWEEN 1963 AND 2004 TALKS.
Many far reaching changes have taken place in
world politics since 1963. Yet some things seem virtually unchanged. To
enumerate a few,
Pakistani interest in ‘territory’ of Kashmir
as opposed to interests of Kashmiris.
American use of arms aid to twist the tails of the
sub continental rivals.
In place of the erstwhile threat of Communism
today it is terrorism and like then Paks continue to flirt with it while claiming to fight it.
Like then, the US
continues to pressure India
to give concessions so as to not drive Paks into the
arms of terrorists, while then it was the Chinese.
In all this the Kashmiris
were a tool.
As the US
prepares another military aid package for Pakistan,
it begins to lose its leverage on India.
Will the fate of 2004 talks be any different than those of 1963?