PFS 11: Kashmir, Plebiscite, Wars and Genocide

Chapter 11


It is beyond the scope of this book to enter into a detailed military discussion of the wars that Pakistan has fought with India. Much has been written on this subject and many references are available, including some excellent online references complete with photographs, documents and video clips on the Internet (109, 110, 111).

But a brief description of the background and outcome of the wars that have been fought give an insight into how Pakistani leaders have viewed the world around them and their relationship with India.

The 1947-48 War:

The first conflict started in 1947, shortly after independence and the formation of Pakistan. The exact circumstances under which this war started is generally lost in a maze of rhetoric, myth and misinformation, and needs to be described.

Demographer PH Reddy pointed out in an article in the newspaper The Deccan Herald on January 25th 2002 that the basis of division of British India into India and Pakistan was Sir Cyril Radciffe’s Boundary Commission which had been tasked with demarcating the districts in India that had a Muslim majority of more than 75% which were to be allotted to Pakistan. The commission found 76 out of 435 districts with such a majority, in two clusters that were to form West and East Pakistan. It is interesting to note that, Kashmir was not one of them.

Pre-independence India (British India) consisted of present day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Within this area were also about 600 states that were not directly ruled by Britain, but were Princely States with kings or rulers of their own. When it was decided that British India was to be split up into India and Pakistan and given independence, the 600 Princely States were given the option of joining either India or Pakistan by signing a document called the Instrument of Accession. The Instrument of Accession was a legal document saying that a state ruled by a Prince or King had acceded - or agreed to join India or Pakistan.

The dominion of Kashmir was one such Princely State that was ruled by a King (Maharaja Hari Singh) who had to make the decision of joining India or Pakistan. This King had not made up his mind about signing the Instrument of Accession at the time of Indian independence on 15th August 1947. He was hoping to retain his kingdom, and he therefore requested both India and Pakistan to sign a treaty called a standstill agreement to maintain supplies and postal services to his landlocked state while he made up his mind. India wanted to formalize this agreement with a representative of the King. Pakistani leaders suspected that this was a ploy by India to make the Maharaja of Kashmir accede to India, and hastily commenced an invasion of Kashmir to take over the Kingdom before the Maharaja made up his mind (112).

In a tradition that was to be repeated in 1965 and 1999, the Pakistani army sent in irregular non-army forces as well as army personnel in civilian attire at the forefront of the invasion of Kashmir. Faced with this invasion from Pakistan, the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the instrument of accession to India and requested assistance from the Indian Armed forces in protecting his people who were being subjected to rape and pillage by the invading Pakistani forces.

The letter of accession to India written by the Maharaja of Kashmir (113) is as chilling as it is telling. The entire text of the letter is reproduced in Appendix 1, but an excerpt follows:

The Dominion of India desired further discussion with representatives of my Government... Though we have got a standstill agreement with the Pakistan Government, the Government permitted a steady and increasing strangulation of supplies like food, salt and petrol to my State.

Afridis, soldiers in plain clothes, and desperadoes with modern weapons have been allowed to infiltrate into the has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and property and the looting of the Mahura power house, which supplies electric current to the whole of Srinagar and which has been burnt. The number of women who have been kidnapped and raped makes my heart bleed. The wild forces thus let loose on the State are marching on with the aim of capturing Srinagar... armed with up-to-date weapons, cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provincial Government of the North-West Frontier Province and the Government of Pakistan.

After the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India, the Indian armed forces started their process of evicting the invading Pakistani marauders in a war that continued till an official UN sponsored cease fire was declared in 1949, at a time when Pakistani forces still occupied about one third of Kashmir in the North West.

The United Nations resolution on Kashmir (Appendix 2) called for a withdrawal of military forces within five months from the date of the resolution, 14th March 1950, after which a plebiscite, (meaning a vote, or a referendum) could be held to poll the people of the state of Kashmir on the issue.

History has shown that Pakistani forces have not withdrawn from the portions of Kashmir that they occupied even 600 months, or 50 years after the UN resolution was passed. In the meantime, a portion of Kashmir that Pakistani forces occupied was gifted away to China it appears that no plebiscite of the people of Kashmir was required for giving away a part of the state to China.

Pakistan’s failure to get Kashmir on their terms, and the failure to bend the terms of the now defunct UN resolution to suit Pakistan has been the basis for all further attempts by Pakistan to take Kashmir by force, deception, subversion or diplomacy.

The Pakistan-India war of 1965:

The early 1960s were great years for Pakistan. Under military rule, Pakistan allied itself with the United States of America in the cold war against the Soviet Union. The US in the 1960s had just emerged from the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when Soviet nuclear missiles were placed in Cuba right under the nose of the US. The US was also fighting communist forces in Vietnam, and communism was considered the most serious threat by the US. Any ally was welcomed as long as he declared that he was opposed to communism.

Pakistan’s alliance with the US allowed a great deal of aid money to flow into Pakistan, as well as the most sophisticated arms that were available. These included state-of-the-art supersonic F-104 Starfighter aircraft, armed with Sidewinder air to air missiles. Pakistan could do no wrong, and was lauded as a progressive leader among developing nations. The economy was booming, held afloat by aid dollars.

India on the other hand was smarting from a military defeat in the hands of the Chinese in the 1962 war, after having naively trusted China to do good. Indian forces in 1962 fought valiantly but valor is no substitute for planning and equipment in a war that the Indian Army had not been given the funds or strategy to prepare for.

Pakistan’s military leader felt that the 1960s offered him a chance to invade and take over Kashmir from India. In the heady 1960s, Pakistanis, starting from their military supremo Ayub Khan, genuinely believed that one Pakistani soldier equals six Indian soldiers (68), and that the Muslims of India were waiting to rise up in revolt and join Pakistan. Pakistani leaders were wrong on both counts. Columnist Hamid Hussain quotes from a letter written by Ayub Khan, the military dictator of Pakistan (58):

General Ayub Khan in his letter to C-in-C General Muhammad Musa stated, as a general rule Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows delivered at the right time and place.

Through August 1965 Pakistani forces in civilian clothes were infiltrated into Kashmir as part of Operation Gibralter (sic). The plan was to conduct acts of sabotage and create mayhem after which a radio broadcast was to be made saying that Kashmir had been taken over by revolutionary liberation forces, who would ask for international assistance, mainly from Pakistan, against India. In the event, the infiltration of Pakistani forces was not welcomed with the pro-Pakistan rebellion of Indians in Kashmir that the Pakistanis had expected. The planned broadcast did not take place, though leaflets were distributed.

At this stage, on September 1st 1965 Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam, a massive armor attack on India, beating back Indian defences. The attackers were planning to take the town of Akhnoor, en route to the taking of Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. In order to relieve the intense Pakistani pressure in Kashmir, India opened a second front by attacking Pakistan across the border in Punjab, and advancing toward the Pakistani city of Lahore.

By the time a cease fire was declared on 23rd September 1965, Gen. Ayub Khan’s plan of annexing Kashmir had been foiled. India ended the war holding about 1,100 square kilometers of Pakistani territory in the Poonch and Lahore regions, with Indian troops occupying the Pakistani town of Barki in the Lahore sector. Pakistan occupied about 490 square kilometers of Indian territory in the Akhnoor region. The cease fire was formalized with the Tashkent declaration of January 10th 1966 (Appendix 3)

The 1971 war of liberation of Bangladesh:

The 1971 war was one of the most shameful episodes in the history of Pakistan. At the time of writing of this, the instability that Pakistan displays more than three decades after the 1971 war is indicative of the deeply dysfunctional internal forces that have kept Pakistan in turmoil since then.

The lessons and punishment suffered by Pakistan should really have been an eye-opener for any responsible and patriotic forces in Pakistan, but no such awakening has occurred. Pakistan appears to be repeating the same mistakes again and again.

West Pakistanis always considered their East Pakistani Bengali compatriots as somehow inferior and weak. But East Pakistan had a population greater than that of West Pakistan, which meant that true democracy in Pakistan could pave the way for an East Pakistani Bengali to become leader of Pakistan. That was unacceptable to the ruling elite of West Pakistan as well as the Pakistani army. Elections were somehow postponed or avoided until 1971, when General Yahya Khan, the incumbent military dictator of Pakistan allowed an election to be held, gambling that no party would get an overall majority.

He was wrong. An East Pakistani party, the Awami league, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman won a landslide victory and should have formed the government of all of Pakistan, East and West. The Pakistani army could not countenance this, and martial law was clamped in East Pakistan, followed by a genocide of East Pakistani Bengalis. This was the beginning of the Pakistani army’s darkest and most shameful phase to date. The killing of Bengalis, who were all Muslims and fellow Pakistanis was shocking and brutal.

One description, by Prof. Rafiqul Islam of Dhaka University reads(114):

Just after midnight on the night of 25th March, the Pakistani Army began their attack on the Student Halls and Staff Quarters of the University...Just after midnight Iqbal Hall came under a barrage of heavy mortar and machine-gun attack from near the pond in front and the police barracks behind it....I don’t have the words to express the bestiality and barbarity that was perpetrated on the Dhaka University area, especially Iqbal Hall, Jagannath Hall, and adjoining residential areas, for a period of 36 hours from the night of the 25th till the 26th night. What transpired around Iqbal Hall, I saw with my own eyes. Raging infernos everywhere; the slum was burning, the cars parked around the residences were burning. The heaped bodies of the dead from the slum were also set on fire near the Nilkhet rail gate petrol pump. The sound of shells bursting and guns firing, the smoke and fire, the smell of gun-powder and the stench of the burning corpses all transformed the area into a fiery hell.

The genocide by the Pakistani army in East Pakistan was the worst seen after the holocaust of Jews by the Nazis in the second World War. One online source (115) has a collection of references to this and the descriptions are horrific:

R.J. Rummel likewise writes that “the Pakistan army [sought] out those especially likely to join the resistance—young boys. Sweeps were conducted of young men who were never seen again. Bodies of youths would be found in fields, floating down rivers, or near army camps.

Bangladesh is a nation criss-crossed by rivers, and the Pakistan army tended to line up men along river-banks at night and shoot them, allowing their bodies to float down-river (115)

They were in batches of six or eight, and in the light of a powerful electric arc lamp, they were easy targets, black against the silvery water. The executioners stood on the pier, shooting down at the compact bunches of prisoners wading in the water. There were screams in the hot night air, and then silence. The prisoners fell on their sides and their bodies lapped against the shore. Then a new bunch of prisoners was brought out, and the process was repeated. In the morning the village boatmen hauled the bodies into midstream and the ropes binding the bodies were cut so that each body drifted separately downstream. (Payne, Massacre [Macmillan, 1973], p. 55.)

Descriptions of rape and killing of Hindus abound and over over 3 million people were killed over a 267 day period an average of one murder committed every 8 seconds by Pakistani army personnel for nearly 9 months.

The killings in East Pakistan led to a massive influx of refugees into India. More than 10 million people were accommodated in refugee camps in India, putting a great strain on resources, while Bengali resistance fighters sought Indian help. Unable to stand by and watch the horrific events in East Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Armed forces into East Pakistan on the humanitarian mission of stopping the killing. A two-front war broke out when the Pakistani Air Force commenced hostilities in the West with air raids on Indian targets on December 3rd 1971. In a whirlwind war the Indian armed forces overran East Pakistan, comprehensively defeating the Pakistani army, taking 93,000 prisoners of war. At the end of this action, the new nation of Bangladesh was born out of the ravaged remains of East Pakistan. The army of the martial races of Pakistan had capitulated and surrendered a nation of 144,000 square kilometers along with 93,000 of its men in a mere 16 days.

Military historian Brig. Shelford Bidwell summarized the military action as follows (48):

A close study of this campaign will edify military students for a long time to come. Bengal, now Bangladesh (literally Land of Bengal), is an eminently defensible country cut up by rivers five miles wide and obstructed by marshes. The Indian plan was a masterly combination of airborne, guerrilla and conventional forces, based on complete mobility and the bypassing of all centres of resistance. The advance was not held up for bridging operations; troops and guns were ferried over the rivers by helicopter, and ‘supply and transport’ was by air, boat, canoe or country cart as suitable. An astonishing momentum was maintained from start to finish - it was a Blitzkrieg without tanks.

The 1999 Kargil conflict:

It was a while before anyone realized that a war had erupted between India and Pakistan in 1999, albeit a war limited in area. For the third time since independence, the Pakistan army had sent soldiers disguised as civilians into Indian territory, and tried to deny any involvement with the conflict.

One of the major disadvantages of a state trying to deny involvement in a war is that neither escalation nor pullout are possible without admitting involvement or conceding that the earlier denial of involvement was a lie in the first place. This ultimately has a great bearing on credibility and international standing. Pakistan seems to have gleaned more shame than honour from this action.

Pakistani soldiers in civilian garb occupied and fortified themselves within Indian territory in the heights of the mountains in the Kargil region of Kashmir. These soldiers were then in an advantageous position to defend their positions and to direct accurate artillery fire to cut off a major Indian highway and Indian army supply route.

While the entry of these Pakistani forces had gone undetected, the war started after their discovery, when Indian forces began the process of evicting the Pakistanis from their positions within India. Using the overwhelming firepower at the disposal of the Indian army and air force, mountain bunkers and supply depots occupied by Pakistani forces were systematically destroyed. Pakistan denied any involvement in the war until coffins of their soldiers started turning up at their hometowns in Pakistan, accompanied by Indian media coverage of captured Pakistani army identity papers and weapons. The war ended when the last few surviving Pakistani soldiers were pulled out in a humiliating retreat that Pakistan conducted under the fig-leaf of American mediation - the retreat being announced after a visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to meet US President Clinton. By the time the last abandoned Pakistani soldiers’ corpses had been buried by the Indian army, Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry had been all but wiped out in a war that Pakistan denied till the last moment (105).

The Kargil conflict is very difficult to explain from the Pakistani viewpoint. Why did Pakistan do it? And having done it, why was it done so half-heartedly? If they wanted to be involved in the conflict, why did they deny involvement? If they did not want to be identified as being involved, why did they admit to involvement later? What was it that Pakistani leaders hoped would be achieved by this action?

While there are more questions than answers, any answers that fit the known facts suggest a frightening disconnect between perception and reality among the seniormost leaders of Pakistan, and an equally frightening lack of communication and cooperation between the leaders themselves. Small organizations, let alone nations cannot function if leaders display a disconnect between their actions and reality.

What could have been Pakistan’s motive and ultimate objective in sending army troops dressed in mufti to fortify themselves and occupy positions above 15,000 feet high on mountains just within the Indian border? One explanation is that they sought to salami slice into Indian territory by surreptitiously occupying unguarded Indian territory. But did they not expect Indian retaliation when they were discovered? Were they so worried about the possibility of discovery that they refused to allow their men to wear uniforms? But that was futile, since they could not prevent their men from carrying identification papers in their personal effects.

Another theory, the more commonly quoted one, is that the men on the mountains were there to help cut off the Srinagar-Leh highway, after which a Pakistani attack would have isolated and encircled Indian positions in the Siachen glacier region. If that was the case, why was Pakistan so concerned about keeping the identity of its men secret, and pretending not to be involved? Why did the Pakistani military not plan a counter-offensive to blunt or stop India from relentlessly clearing the heights as it did?

The logic defies explanation, and some of the explanations are ludicrous enough to be unbelievable. It has been said that after Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998, Pakistani military leaders believed India to be very afraid of Pakistan. Furthermore, it was believed that the morale of the Indian armed forces was at breaking point and that Indian soldiers would be ready to run away from battle at the slightest threat. In the 1965 war, India had taken Pakistani pressure off Kashmir by opening a second front in Punjab. It appears that Pakistani generals believed that India would be afraid to repeat that in 1999 because they feared nuclear retaliation from Pakistan. And within Kashmir it was expected that the Indian army would capitulate and run away.

In February 1999, at about the time when Pakistani army men were secretly taking up their positions in the mountains near Kargil, senior Pakistani General Javid Nasir wrote in the prestigious Pakistani Defence Journal (116):

I say with all the authority and professionalism that ‘The Indian army is incapable of undertaking any conventional operations at present what to talk of enlarging conventional conflict’

It is inconceivable that a professional Pakistani soldier and senior officer should deliberately and publicly choose to underestimate an adversary without paying the slightest heed to the possibility that the assessment may be wrong, or that there may be alternate, less reassuring assessments.

This statement by a senior Pakistani army general eerily echoes the assessment made by Pakistani dictator Ayub Khan 34 years earlier when he stated that Indian morale would break after a couple of hard blows. As indicated in the description of the Pakistani mind in chapter 5, such assessments are more indicative of the psychological state of the Pakistani army officer, with a self-image amounting to delusions of grandeur rather than objective and rational military judgment. It is interesting to note that the large and powerful army of Pakistan has cultivated a leadership that somehow believes that the Indian military will be a pushover in battle. Such an attitude can be termed as nothing short of suicidal, as events have shown.

After the Kargil conflict, Gen. Ved Prakash Malik, the Indian Chief of Army Staff who oversaw the defeat of Pakistani forces in the Kargil conflict wrote about Gen Javid Nasir’s article and misperception within the Pakistani army’s high command that led them to attempt the Kargil misadventure (117):

This was not only a gross underestimation of a possible adversary but also a poor assessment and misperception. Some other assumptions and misperceptions which led to the Pakistani offensive operation in Kargil were:

  1. Nuclear umbrella allows offensive action without risk.

  1. International community would intervene or stop the war at an early stage.

  1. The coalition government in India, weak and indecisive, will either over-react or under-react.

  1. India is militarily weak and unprepared.

  1. Indian frustration will lead to escalation, putting the onus of escalation on India.

  1. Military operation under the garb of Mujahideen would focus attention on Kashmir and Pakistan would be able to claim this as a victory.

Assumptions regarding enemy weakness and fear can only be termed as high hopes unless they are balanced out by other, less rosy scenarios. But it does not appear that the Pakistani army had planned for anything but easy and cheap victory in Kargil. That is a disquieting thought. If Pakistani Generals persist in thinking of war and easy victories against India, the chance of Pakistan viewing India with any sanity or objectivity can also be dismissed as high hopes.

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