Left: Cover of the Book from which this is excerpted. Right : Amal Kiran (K.D. Sethna), 1904-2011
This was originally published in the monthly journal ‘Mother India’ sometime between 1949–50, and is currently excerpted from the book “India and the World Scene”. The article is published below as is, except for the added emphasis.
Kashmir- International Cockpit
The Vital World-Issues at Stake
When President Truman and Prime Minister Attlee made an appeal to India and Pakistan to submit to arbitration on the Kashmir issue, what had appeared to many people a purely local affair, a merely Indo-Pak problem, stood out in its true colours as a question of international importance. To see precisely the pattern, so to speak, of this importance it is necessary to cast a look backward at the very creation of the two dominions that are now contending over Kashmir.
Pakistan and Kashmir from Britain’s Viewpoint
Pakistan, no doubt, was a child of Mr. Jinnah’s brain, but every child has a mother as well as a father. The two-nations theory on which Mr. Jinnah sought to build Pakistan was assiduously encouraged by the British Government, first as a means of dividing and thereby weakening the country it desired to keep within its power, but afterwards as an instrument by which it could secure in South Asia a bastion against Soviet expansion. While Congress was foolishly sitting on the fence between Russia and the western democracies, even casting sympathetic glances towards the former, the Muslim League under Mr. Jinnah’s leadership cleverly produced the impression of being distinctly anti-Soviet on grounds of religion and also of gratitude to the British for open or secret support against Congress. The partition of India, therefore, seemed to assure Britain of an excellent military base from which Russia’s aggressive designs in the Asian continent could be counteracted.
With China going Communist, Pakistan became doubly valuable for the western democracies, especially as India had not yet shed her somewhat pro-Soviet inclinations. Pakistan’s growth in value turned western eyes more anxiously upon Kashmir. For, in Kashmir there was a common border between Russia and South Asia, leading directly to the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, the region around this border was of great strategic significance for a swoop down either on India or Pakistan. Pakistan coveted Kashmir not only because she had the fear-complex in an acute form but also because, as Pandit Nehru has lately declared, certain parties in Pakistan have always been acutely war-minded and set up the slogan: “First Kashmir, then Patiala and then on to Delhi.” But it was not Pakistan alone that wanted Kashmir within her fold: Britain too did so, in the belief that world-safety called for the accession of this province to the Muslim Dominion.
Russia’s Relations with India and Pakistan
The partiality of Britain and also America for Pakistan in the Kashmir affair was a matter of considerable pain to India. But surely, at that time, India herself was half to blame for the western democracies’ attitude. Unable easily to give up her animosity against what she named Anglo-American imperialism, she had seen in the strength of the Red Army in Europe the only real reason why Britain had made friendly gestures to her: she suspected that if the Red Army were to be defeated in Europe, Britain and other “imperialist” countries would stretch again a greedy hand towards Asia. Consequently, India planned never to come into conflict with Soviet interests. With such an outlook she was bound to drive the western democracies into Pakistan’s camp. She, however, counted on Russia to exert international pressure on her behalf. When she took the Kashmir dispute to the U.N.O., she expected that Russia would throw her whole weight against Pakistan. Russia did nothing of the sort. The Soviet press, on the outbreak of hostilities in Kashmir, had indicted Pakistan with brutal aggression against the people of Kashmir, but in the U.N.O’s Security Council Russia refused to vote against Pakistan. She remained neutral. This was a terrible eye-opener for India and it precipitated the realisation that had been slowly growing - namely, that Russia had little in common with India’s cultural no less than political aspirations. A definite trend towards the Western bloc took place in the mind of India’s government: she still desired not to be mixed up in European power-politics but she could not help understanding on what side her own cultural and political interests lay. As a result Nehru opted to remain within the Commonwealth even while affirming his country’s independent republican status.
A little foresight should have told India that Russia would always have been too shrewd to come out openly against Pakistan. Firstly, she has a considerable Muslim population of her own in Tadjistan, Turkmenistan and her other Central Asian republics. Secondly, she was not any too sure about India herself, dependent as India was in so many respects on Britain. Thirdly, she was not meeting with all the success she had hoped for in the issue of the Berlin-blockade, and would not therefore miss any chance offered by circumstances to feel for an opening in Asia. Fourthly, there was something in the Pakistani mentality that struck Russia as being opportunist and easily temptable, besides being not really in tune with the spirit of the West. Thus it was not unnatural for Russia to stand aloof from India’s protest in the U.N.O. and to wait and see whether any developments would bring the important north-western parts of Kashmir within her sphere of influence. And when India chose to retain her link with the Commonwealth, Russia as good as made up her mind to take a hand against her as soon as the slightest opportunity came along. Not a slight but a huge opportunity presented itself when Pakistan and Afghanistan developed a controversy over the Durand Line. If Afghanistan’s claims were granted, Pakistan would be broken up beyond repair, for the former demanded the whole of the region between the Indus and the hills as her terra irridenta. Now Russia threatened to back up Afghanistan and supply her with arms. Pakistan, in mortal terror, changed her policy overnight: hence the projected visit of Liaquat Ali Khan to Moscow in November in response to Stalin’s invitation. Furthermore, Pakistan had been feeling rather slighted and neglected ever since the Commonwealth Conference where Nehru had been made much of and Liaquat Ali Khan had to play a very small second fiddle. Soviet friendship would not only teach the western kaffirs to be more attentive but also get Pakistan concrete military aid both from Russia and from Czechoslovakia which is a prominent armament-producing country and is totally under Stalin’s thumb. The buying of very expensive arms from Italy would be obviated and there would be a first-rate equipped army ready to face all emergencies. Pakistan has grabbed the hand of friendship stretched out by Stalin: The Dawn, her mouthpiece, has even announced that Pakistan will be prepared to change her ways of living and approximate as much as possible to the Russia ideology. All this must be veritable vodka to Stalin. Not that he cares a rouble for Liaquat Ali Khan: he would take the first chance to eat up Pakistan, but – at the moment it pays him to play at being cordial neighbours. At the least, Pakistan will refuse to lend a base in Gilgit to the Anglo-American powers; at the most he himself, with Pakistan’s friendliness towards him, will hover near enough to Gilgit to send a shiver up the spines of both Truman and Attlee, not to mention the naughty Nehru who had the effrontery to keep India within the Commonwealth and who persists in preventing the Indian Communists from turning his country into a chaos.
The Mistake of Truman and Attlee
Truman and Attlee have succumbed to the cold war waged by Russia and Pakistan. Their arbitration-appeal clearly indicates a desire to appease Pakistan by reopening the question whether there should be disbandment and disarmament of the “Azad” Kashmir bandits and by suggesting the partition of Kashmir so that the strategic north may remain with Pakistan and that Pakistan, thus appeased, may drop the idea of the proposed entente cordiale between herself and Russia. We must not blame the American President and the British Premier too much: hurriedly thinking in terms of international politics, they have failed to gauge the uncertain nature of Indo-Pak relations as well as the true posture of the Kashmir dispute. They fear lest the dispute should spell the establishment of Soviet influence in Gilgit and the areas around – with perilous possibilities as regards the whole of South Asia. But, while understanding their intense concern for the world at large, we must point out their grave mistake. Luckily, Nehru has stood like a rock and, against his firm conviction that under no circumstances can India compromise, Truman and Attlee are likely to get jolted into a realisation of the folly they were countenancing. To partition Kashmir would not cut across Stalin’s scheme to penetrate into Pakistan and cast a grim shadow over India. The claim of Afghanistan will still serve as a counter for putting his own demands across. There is no law against supplying arms inexhaustibly to the Afghan Government, and Pakistan would be pretty helpless against an enemy backed by Russian resources. If England and America try to placate Pakistan they will hardly succeed in restraining the endless ambition of Russia who is resolved to make Kashmir a stepping-stone to the aggrandisement of her ideology in both Pakistan and India. What England and America will only achieve is India’s utter enfeeblement and the dissolution of the democratic party of the Muslims under Sheikh Abdullah, who are giving the coup de grace to the two-nations theory. Nehru knows all this and therefore has rejected the fatuous proposal for arbitration. If only he could throw the real situation into clear relief before the eyes of Truman and Attlee, the deadliest danger to which India and the rest of South Asia have been exposed up to now will be averted.
Nehru’s Vision and True World-Peace
If Truman and Attlee are genuinely desirous of saving the international situation in Kashmir from becoming explosive, they should adopt here the same policy that they did when Russia blockaded Berlin. The least appeasement then would have resulted in a major defeat of the cause of true world-peace. At present it is not by giving in to Russia and her friends that world-peace can be maintained with honour: a determined and fully armed front has to be shown, for only the readiness to meet the Russian monster serves as a restraining force on the advance of the Godless and soulless darkness that is made visible by the Red Star. The recent disclosure that Stalin has the atom bomb should make no difference. On the contrary, now that Russia is almost evenly matched with the U.S.A., there is all the more reason for eschewing a policy of appeasement which may enhance her sense of power and encourage her ambition. If, against the cordial relations sought to be established between Stalin and Liaquat Ali Khan, there is pitted a staunch friendship between Nehru and the heads of the American and British Governments – if Truman and Attlee insist with Nehru on spurning the idea of Kashmir’s partition and on holding a free plebiscite whose sine qua non is the disbandment and disarmament of the “Azad” forces, Russia will know that her support to Pakistan will avail her nothing in securing a sphere of influence in the Gilgit region and that any further egging on of either Pakistan against India or Afghanistan against Pakistan will mean ultimately an atomic world-war involving America and Britain and herself. Realising this, she will drop her aggressive attitude, relax the tension she is creating and leave interfering in a direct manner with South Asia as she has left interfering in a direct manner with Western Europe. Kashmir is today as much an international cockpit fraught with terrible possibilities of democracy’s defeat on a world-scale as Berlin was a little while ago. Let the western powers adopt the same method as they did in that testcase and history will happily repeat itself. We should be thankful that we have amongst us a statesman like Nehru whose eyes are not blind to fundamentals and whose international standing is high enough to bring him respectful hearing from both Truman and Attlee. On his vision and resolution the safety of the world appears to hinge. The mind and heart of every true Indian is with him in this crisis and we wish his coming visit to the U.S.A. unqualified success in taking the blinkers off the eyes of the American President.