FROM HISTORY PAGES: THE FIRST KASHMIR TALKS-1963.

PART 1

By

Anil Athale.

 

The more things appear to change, the more they remain the same.

A French proverb.

 

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 or  Simla 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 between India and China 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 Sikkim 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.

 

US 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.

 

While Pakistan 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 of anti-Indianism.

 

 

AMERICA’S DILEMMA.

 

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 and Vietnam. 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 reaction,

 

  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 keep India 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 and Pakistan? 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 2004 TALKS.

 

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 and Pakistan, be it mediation, partition of Srinagar valley, Pakistan’s 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.   

 

By

Anil Athale.

“ 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 bloody Hindus!”

 

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 China 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,

1.      Partition of Jammu along the religious lines, with most of areas going to Pakistan to ensure control over Chenab waters.

2.      Autonomy for valley for indefinite period.

 

Essentially Pakistan was pursuing strategic objectives using the cover of ‘aspirations of Kashmiri people’ as an excuse.

 

WESTERN HIGH 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 visited India to put pressure on Nehru. The British finally succeeded in getting Americans to issue a joint statement by India and Pakistan 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 approach.

 

On 11 August Nehru wrote to President Kennedy rejecting the mediation proposal. He wrote,

“ Mere pushing ahead of institutional arrangement for mediatory effort is no solution…..

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 privilege).

 

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 and Pakistan. On being asked as to why India does not recognise that Pakistan has similar complaints regarding aid to India, the Ambassador replied,

“ There 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 ( Kashmir).”

 

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, Texas.

 

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 ATTITUDE.

 

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 and China. 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’.

 

 

COMPARISONS 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?