Former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh has reportedly claimed that Jawaharlal Nehru government moving the United Nations (UN) over the Kashmir issue was a ‘fundamental mistake’. Mr. Singh does not enlighten us on what Nehru should have done instead – to highlight Pakistani aggression to the world.
Mr. Singh seems to think that nobody other than Mountbatten and Nehru was involved in this process. But according to VP Menon’s book “Integration of the Indian States”, this was discussed in detail at the cabinet meetings. Mr. Singh’s narrative does not account for the fact that Nehru was a democrat who ran a transparent government. Nehru must have been even more sensitive at that time since he was not heading a Congress government but a national government.
What were the reactions of other members of the cabinet? More importantly, what was the involvement of the Law Minister Dr. BR Ambedkar? Did Dr. Ambedkar approve of the decision to move the UN or was he opposed to it? In case he was not even consulted on a legal matter of serious consequence to the nation, wasn’t Dr. Ambedkar offended?
On closer examination of his argument, Mr. Singh does not seem to think that the act of moving the United Nations by itself to be the ‘mistake’. The real mistake in his opinion seems to lie in the specific chapter that was invoked by India’s lawyers while filing the case with United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Apparently, everything would be perfect if we invoked Chapter 7 instead of Chapter 6. It appears that Mountbatten ‘pushing’ Nehru into UN would not even be an issue at all if our lawyers had captured Nehru’s intent correctly!
But then, what if we called it Chapter 7 but Pakistan called it Chapter 6? Would that still be a ‘dispute’? Conversely, if Pakistan did not cite Chapter 6, would that cease to be a dispute?
VK Krishna Menon successfully argued that territorial disputes would be under the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and not UNSC. But let us accept for a minute that India picking the wrong chapter was a fundamental mistake. What were the consequences of the mistake? Did India lose the case?
The Resolution 47 of the UNSC had asked Pakistan to vacate occupied areas so that India could hold Plebiscite! So, even if India called it a ‘dispute’, the verdict came in India’s favour. Hence, by April 1948, Kashmir should have ceased to a ‘disputed territory’. Then, why is Mr. Singh muddying the waters?
Why didn’t Pakistan comply with the UN Resolution? Because, in April 1948, Pakistan knew India would win the Plebiscite hands down between the popularity of Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. As a result of Pakistan’s defiance, the verdict of UNSC was not worth the paper it was written on. The international body could neither make Pakistan vacate the occupied areas nor penalise Pakistan in any way for its defiance.
Let us now assume for a minute that we indeed invoked Chapter 7 as Mr. Singh wishes we did. Would Pakistan pack up and leave just because this is now a different Chapter? Of course, not! Mr. Singh himself could not make any claims to that effect. So, what practical difference did it make whether our lawyers called it aggression or a dispute?
For a decision to be a ‘fundamental mistake’, it should have irrevocably bad consequences. Natwar Singh could not claim any possible difference in the outcomes in any of the scenarios. The outcome would not be any better if we invoked a different chapter or if we did not move UN at all. If UN cannot even enforce its own judgments, why are we worried of which chapter Nehru picked at that body? Why this Kolaveri Di?
At best, moving UN can be thought of as inconsequential or futile attempt, but it could not be termed a mistake, let alone a fundamental one! By repeated claims of India declaring Kashmir a disputed territory, the likes of Subramanian Swamy and K. Natwar Singh are stoking, emboldening and legitimising Kashmir Separatism. We cannot entirely be blaming a stone-pelter when our External Affairs Minister or ruling party MP approvingly calls Kashmir a ‘disputed territory’! Think about his renewed contempt for the policemen or soldiers.
Only tangible thing UN could do in Kashmir was to broker a mutually agreed ceasefire in January 1949 after 14 months of the bloody war. Yet, when Pakistan violated that ceasefire, be it 1965 or 1999, UN neither slapped Pakistan nor could penalise it in any way. It was up to India to remove them at our own cost! When neither Chapter 6 nor Chapter 7 could stop Pakistan from repeatedly violating that ceasefire with impunity, why is India feeling timid, constrained and deprived by the United Nations? Did United Nations stop Modi government from conducting surgical strikes?
What Mr. Singh reportedly alludes to later in the interview has some truth. India can never occupy PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan. If Nehru could not do something during his lifetime, it simply cannot be done!
In 1947, nobody except Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah was interested in Kashmir’s merger with India. State of Jammu Kashmir is in India because of these two men. Indians should be thankful to them for what they have, instead of blaming them for the supposedly lost territory. Blaming those two men who are long dead will not get India any more land from Pakistan. The only way is to get more territory is to launch an invasion which our ’56-inch chest’ Prime Minister should be able to do very easily.
In any case, the ‘Kashmir Problem’ will not be solved through military confrontation every government has undertaken. Pakistan will not stop fishing in troubled waters. Jammu will be even more insecure, and the Jammu-Kashmir divide will only get deeper.