OF A BUS JOURNEY
April 08, 2005
agreed that the line would be gradually endowed with the 'characteristics
of an international border.' The transition was to take place in the
following manner. After the resumption of the traffic between India
and Pakistan across the International Border had gained momentum, movement
of traffic would be allowed at specified points across the Line of Control.
It was thought that the gradual use of the LOC as a de facto frontier,
public opinion on both sides would be reconciled to its permanence."
P N Dhar, Indira Gandhi's secretary, recounted the 'secret agreement'
at the end of the 1972 Simla Conference. Though this accord was never
formalised (or acknowledged), it was probably on the Indian foreign
minister's mind when on February 16 he agreed with his Pakistani counterpart
to allow bus journeys across the Line of Control.
Road to Peace . The
Rocky Road to Muzaffarabad
statement issued after the talks between the external affairs ministers
clarified: 'Travel will be by an entry permit system, once identities
are verified. Application forms for travel will be available with (the)
designated authorities in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.'
Singh added: 'All Indians would have to apply to the Regional Passport
Officer, Srinagar, the designated authority, and the entry permits issued
by India and Pakistan would be accepted by either side.'
the future will tell us whether this move is the first step to make
the LoC the new International Border. But there is no doubt that Natwar
Singh's follows the plan outlined in Simla and that ultimately he would
like to be the one to complete Indira Gandhi's unfinished roadmap.
N Dixit on The Errors of Simla
denies today that greater exchange between both sides of the International
Border (or even the LoC) is good and should be encouraged. The question
which remains present in everybody's mind is: Will only the genuine
elements benefit from the new scheme. One can only regret that the earlier
Indian stand on valid travel document being necessary for the travellers
was suddenly dropped. It cannot be replaced by a mere piece of paper.
attack Srinagar Tourist Centre
only the future will show if the government took the right path, but
a look into the genesis of the issue can certainly help us to better
understand the trickiness of today's situation.
end of October 1947, raiders entered the valley. They had been ordered
by their bosses in Karachi to celebrate Id (October-end) in Srinagar.
Unfortunately for their Pakistani sponsors, they lost too much time
looting, raping and arsoning in Baramulla. Maharaja Hari Singh realised
the seriousness of the situation and was persuaded by V P Menon, then
the secretary of the ministry of states, to sign the Instrument of Accession
to India on October 26.
next morning, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar. The Maharaja's
state was saved. After a decisive battle at Shalatang (outside Srinagar),
the Indian troops began to chase out the retreating raiders.
S K Sinha, today J&K governor, was a young major posted at Army
Headquarters in Delhi. He writes in his memoirs: 'We advanced to Pattan,
17 miles from Srinagar the same day and were in Baramula the following
afternoon. The enemy had been completely shaken and demoralised after
the hard knock at Shalatang.'
days after liberating Baramula, the Indian troops liberated Uri on November
13. The power house at Mahura was restored: 'The curtain of darkness
over Srinagar was lifted.' The light of hope had returned to the valley.
score a blast of a hit
was the next step? Brigadier 'Bogey' Sen and his officers needed to
receive orders from Army Headquarters to continue advancing, though
they all believed that this first success should be fully exploited
'while the enemy was on the run.'
to General Sinha, the recommendation to Delhi was 'that we should continue
our advance to Muzaffrabad on the Pakistan/Kashmir border and demolish
the two bridges on the border over the Kishanganga at Domel and Kohala.
Our troops should withdraw immediately thereafter, leaving the Kashmir
police to take over border policing duties at Domel and Kohala. The
brigade group in the valley would be available as a mobile reserve to
deal with any further incursions by the raiders which in the circumstances
point in time, Muzzaffarabad could have been liberated in a few days,
but Army Headquarters decided otherwise. The army was ordered to stop
their advance and divert their energy towards the garrison of Poonch.
says: 'I have reasons to believe that the decision to go to the relief
of Poonch was taken at the highest government level at Delhi.' He added:
'From the humanitarian point of view the decision to proceed to Poonch
may have been commendable but militarily it was not a wise move.'
though it would have not been an easy task, Sinha remarks: 'Yet with
all these attendant difficulties, I felt that an advance to Muzaffarabad,
when the enemy was off balance, would have been a calculated risk, well
worth taking. It would have perhaps drawn the final curtain over operations
in the valley as Pakistan may not at that time have ventured to launch
a fresh incursion with her regular forces across the border.'
has many good arguments to prove that the 'highest government level'
committed a blunder, but he concludes: 'Perhaps our decision not to
continue the advance to Muzaffarabad was a case of our permitting a
unique opportunity to slip by.'
bus: A lowdown
could have motivated the government to abandon Muzaffarabad and Mirpur?
The response is quite simple: these areas were ethnically, linguistically
and culturally very different from the rest of the valley. The Punjabi
speaking-population of these areas was closer to the Pakistani side
of the J&K border. The Maharaja, who was the only unifying factor
for all the areas such as Gilgit, Baltistan, Ladakh, the valley or Jammu
complained bitterly to Sardar Patel that nothing was done to preserve
the integrity of his state.
31, he wrote to the deputy prime minister: 'The military situation as
you know has been quite depressing since the arrival of Indian troops.
Except the first gains in the Kashmir valley there has been a debit
balance throughout so far as achievements are concerned.'
deeply unhappy that 'after the recapture of Baramulla and Uri there
has been a standstill. Two months have passed and the Indian troops
are still at Uri.'
that very little was done to take back Poonch because: 'The Indian military
advisers take an exaggerated view about the difficulty of fighting in
out the situation in the so-called Azad-Kashmir: 'In Mirpur district
at the time when the Indian forces arrived we were still holding Mangla
and our territory along the Jhelum Canal bank, but during the last two
months we have lost Mangla, Alebeg, Gurdwara and the town of Mirpur.
Not a single town has so far been recovered by the Indian troops. The
people judge an army from results and not from propaganda carried on
to life in the valley
deeply upset that: 'The name of the Indian Army is getting into the
mud in spite of its brilliant record (during World War II]. The effort
on the part of Pakistan is gaining ground every day. Their morale owing
to success is going up. They loot property, they take away cattle and
women and when they go back to Pakistan they incite people and tell
them how much loot and what benefits there are to raid our territory.'
problem for Hari Singh was that the 'civil administration is now in
the hands of the National Conference and military operations in the
hands of the Indian Union.'
tragedy was that as far as the civil administration of Sheikh Abdullah
was concerned, the regions of Muzaffarabad and Mirpur were of no interest
to them. The local population was close to the Muslim Conference of
Ghulam Abbas. Therefore why make an effort for areas not falling in
the National Conference's constituency? As for the army, till the end
of January 1948, the British generals were still all-powerful and directly
received their orders from London which wanted to keep the status quo
at all cost.
Maharaja was so dejected that he told Patel: 'There is an alternative
possible for me and that is to withdraw the accession and that may kill
the reference to the UNO because the Indian Union will have no right
to continue the proceedings before the Council if the accession is withdrawn.'
consulting Nehru, Patel tried to reassure the Maharaja: 'I can assure
you that I am no less anxious about the Kashmir situation and what is
happening in the UNO, but whatever the present situation may be, a counsel
of despair is entirely out of place.'
was not completely 'out of place.' The situation was totally bogged
down in the battlefield and in the muddy waters of Lake Success, the
UN Headquarters in New York; both scenarios had the full knowledge and
support of His Majesty's government in London.
first passengers on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad journey may not remember
the history of this road. As General Sinha says: 'In retrospect one
can be wise after the event,' but there is no doubt that a golden opportunity
was lost during the months following the Accession. Today the poor travellers
have to be escorted under heavy army protection to avoid terrorist bullets.
This could have been entirely different.