How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
FOR almost seven years India and Pakistan have been waging a frustrating and exhausting struggle for Kashmir, a struggle that largely consumes the heavy budgets that burden their uncertain economies. Still, today, their armies watch each other across the precarious cease-fire line which was established under United Nations mediation some five years ago. The problem itself--whether the State of Jammu and Kashmir will become part of India or Pakistan--has eluded the efforts not only of bilateral negotiations, but of United Nations mediation as well. The country continues to be divided into two hostile camps with irreconcilable aims; one, the Azad Government, striving for the unification of Kashmir and its integration with Pakistan; the other, the Srinagar Government, linking its existence with India. Mutual suspicions, hatred and anger have almost obliterated the longstanding agreement between the Governments of India and Pakistan that the fate of Kashmir is to be decided by the democratic process of plebiscite.
But in the last few months the dispute has taken on a new and ominous character. As India persists with increased vehemence in a course of policy independent of the power struggle between the forces of democracy and Communism, and as Pakistan sees her national security better served by doing her share in strengthening the exposed area of South Asia and the Middle East, the dispute over Kashmir has become even more inflammable. The quarrel has now been projected into the arena of the global East-West struggle, turning Kashmir into one of the real danger spots of the world.
While the Governments of India and Pakistan have been engaged in diplomatic battles over Kashmir and the United Nations has played (somewhat timidly) the rôle of mediator, the Communist Party of India and the Soviet Union have thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle and have systematically pursued at the same time inconspicuous but effective tactics to turn the country into a Communist base for infiltration on the subcontinent. If the free world has only now begun to realize how deeply it is involved in the implications of the Kashmir conflict, the Communists have been aware of the potentialities of subversion in the Kashmir situation ever since its inception.
The strategic location of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is tailormade for Communist strategy and aims. The country borders for some 900 miles on Sinkiang and Tibet, but most of these boundaries have not been internationally fixed. According to some maps and some Soviet writers, it touches a short strip of territory of the Soviet Union.[i] Newspapers have reported from time to time infiltration of agents from the Soviet Union and Sinkiang to Gilgit, the northern province of Kashmir. In April 1953, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Sir Zafrulla Khan, protested to the Chinese Government against violations of the Gilgit-Chinese border.
The Himalayan mountains and the Pamirs would not invite large-scale land operations, but the Soviet and Chinese military were reported constructing airfields on the edge of the Sinkiang-Kashmiri-Soviet border as well as in the vicinity of Lhasa and at Lharingo in eastern Tibet. Strategic roads have been under construction in both Sinkiang and Tibet. In the summer of 1950 Soviet technicians surveyed the Tibetan area of Lakes Manasarowar and Rakas which are reported to offer good bases for seaplanes.[ii] The Buddhist population of Ladakh (a region in the eastern part of Kashmir) have religious affinities with their neighbors in Tibet and their lamas recognize the authority of the Dalai Lama at Lhasa. The Moslem populations of Kashmir and Sinkiang and Soviet Turkestan are linked by the strong tie of Islam. This religious identity, as well as the scores of caravan routes known to the local tribes, present an ideal opportunity for infiltration, subversion and partisan warfare.
Internal conditions in Kashmir also offer promising possibilities for Communist agitation. The Kashmiris have no tradition of freedom. The poverty of their economic life has almost no parallel. The state lacks internal cohesion. Ugly communalist elements prevail among the Hindus in Jammu; the Buddhists of Ladakh have no sense of unity with Kashmir. The political conscience of the Kashmiri Moslems is being ground between the millstones of faithfulness to Islam and the governmental policy of secularism. Over this scene of poverty, confusion and split loyalties hangs the heavily charged cloud of the Indo-Pakistani conflict. Surely, no situation could more delight the hearts of Communist strategists.
The first uprising of centuries in this luckless nation occurred in the early 1930's and was ascribed by some writers to "Bolshevik influence."[iii] Indeed, the leaders of the Azad movement state that it was led by agents from Russia. But the Soviet writer, I. Mazdur, disclaims "the honor" and asserts that the upheavals were organized by bourgeois elements and were of bourgeois-religious nature. "There is no evidence from the material at [our] disposal of any participation of the revolutionary Indian organizations in the Kashmir insurrection," writes Mazdur. He concludes: "Only the Communist Party of India leading the struggle of the peasantry can bring them to the possession of land and liberation from feudal and imperialistic oppression."[iv] Whatever may be the truth of the political background of these outbursts, they did serve notice that there was a revolutionary potential in Kashmir. The Communist Party of India, suffering in this period from factionalism and intellectualism, did not exhibit much interest in Kashmiri politics. But the repercussions of the struggle for independence in India found an echo in Kashmir, and offered an opportunity for the Communists to slip through the backdoor into the political life of that country. This was the period when Communist parties all over the world adopted the tactic of seeking Popular Fronts with democratic forces. Although the Communist Party was then outlawed in India its members held many important positions in the National Congress, and a few Communists infiltrated the ranks and leadership of the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference.
In May 1946 Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of the National Conference, fired by the patriotic enthusiasm that was sweeping the subcontinent, launched a "Quit Kashmir" campaign against the Maharaja, and was sentenced to nine years in prison. This time the Communists were full of praise for such revolutionary fervor. "After the Second World War," wrote the foremost Soviet specialist on India, A. M. Diakov, "a national movement in Kashmir developed the program of doing away with the Maharaja, of turning Kashmir into a democratic republic, of giving to the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination."[v] Still later, in 1951, Diakov evaluated the endeavors of the National Conference in more concrete terms. "Till 1946," he wrote, "the National Conference was under the leadership of bourgeois elements which stood close to the 'leftist' wing of the All India National Congress. In 1946, however, the Kashmiri peasants accepted a plan in which the workers actively joined. Under the influence of the masses the National Conference accepted a democratic program."[vi] The forces of Kashmiri nationalism and of the struggle for freedom were on the march, and Communists were riding this wave, following the well-tested pattern of their policy in colonial and underdeveloped countries.
In September 1947, Sheikh Abdullah was suddenly released from prison. In a number of public meetings he immediately insisted that the country first wanted its freedom and only then would decide whether to accede to India or Pakistan. The Communists in India endorsed this slogan of "freedom before accession." The autocratic régime was indeed soon to be removed. Facing the tribal invasion in October 1947, the Maharaja acceded in haste to India and from exile nominated Sheikh Abdullah, his fiercest enemy, as the Prime Minister of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Communists had good reason to be jubilant over the development: India and Pakistan were fighting over Kashmir, and in Srinagar their protégé, the National Conference, was in power. After the tribesmen had been driven from Srinagar, the city was decorated with red flags, and the central square renamed Red Square. The Soviet journalist, Orestov, noted that though "Sheikh Abdullah's government, brought to power on the rising tide of a truly popular movement, had proved impotent in the face of the Indian reactionaries . . . nevertheless, in Kashmir, this friendship [for the Soviet Union] and the people's interest in the life of the Soviet Union are particularly great."[vii]
The events of the fall of 1947 set the stage for further promotion of Communist objectives in Kashmir, and the familiar pattern of infiltration again emerged. The party's chief (though undeclared) exponent, Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, is President of the Constituent Assembly. He has been prominent in the leadership of the National Conference since its foundation, and is the leader of the labor movement in Kashmir. In the summer of 1950 he organized demonstrations in Srinagar in support of the Stockholm Peace Congress, and more recently joined in the Communist clamor over the fictitious "germ warfare" in Korea. He maintains close contacts with the Communist leaders in India.
Several key positions in the Home Ministry, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Revenue are in the hands of Communists or men with Communist leanings. Many local governmental functionaries acknowledge allegiance to Communist beliefs; pictures of Stalin are not infrequently found in their homes or offices. Communists have infiltrated not only labor unions, but also the Students' Federation, the Youth League and the Cultural Front, and are in control of the Progressive Writers' League.
The "magna charta" of the National Conference is the leaflet called "New Kashmir," ascribed to the Communist writer, B.P.L. Bedi, and published in 1944. It proposes constitutional guarantees of basic political rights, and radical economic reforms emanating from Marxist convictions about the need to abolish private property. The National Conference gave little heed to the political promises embodied in "New Kashmir" when it came to power; it introduced and has maintained a one-party system, with complete governmental control of the Constituent Assembly, education and radio, and with supervision of the press.
On the economic side, however, it implemented a policy of drastic changes. Some were healthy for a country such as Kashmir which has suffered from exploitation by landlords and money-lenders and which lacks private capital. But they were accompanied by practices which parallel those of Communist régimes. Land reform, highly commendable in principle, soon became expropriation without compensation, and the land was broken up into tiny fragments. Each peasant received an average of 1.23 acres; by the end of March 1953, 188,775 acres had been transferred to 153,399 tillers. Collective farms were also established, and by April 1953 the government owned 87,500 acres of land. A desirable system of coöperatives broke down because of corruption and inefficiency. Now all forests and most of the factories have been nationalized, transport is run by the government, and foreign trade has been organized by the governmental Kashmir Peoples' Coöperative Society. Taxation and obligatory redemption of agricultural products are enforced with brutality. For all practical purposes, Kashmir is well on the way to communization. The government has adopted the name Awami Raj--People's Government; People's Brigades, People's Guards, People's Militia have been organized. Simultaneously, the words freedom, self-determination, democracy and peace are used by the National Conference leaders in a way which indicates that Kashmir, too, has become a training ground for these ominous exercises in Communist semantics.
Meanwhile, the problem of relations between the central government in Delhi and the government in Srinagar offered the Communists another field for their disruptive policy. Sheikh Abdullah was drifting step by step from India. In 1949, soon after the cessation of hostilities, he began to insist that the State of Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India only in matters of foreign affairs, defense and communications. In all other fields he jealously guarded Kashmir's autonomy, and, in July 1952, formalized this relationship with the Delhi Government in an agreement with Jawaharlal Nehru.
The leader of the Communist Party of India in the House of the People (in Delhi), A. K. Gopalan, welcomed the Nehru-Abdullah agreement. Abdullah was received with jubilation by the National Conference in Srinagar. But this triumph presaged his downfall. The provinces of Jammu and Ladakh reacted with threats of separation from Kashmir. The Hindu party in Jammu, Praja Parishad, declared that unless Kashmir merged fully with India the province would secede, and staged a series of demonstrations which resulted in the arrest of thousands of people. The movement was led by a group of dispossessed Hindu politicians and was, in Nehru's terms, "thoroughly misconceived and mischievous, narrow, bigoted, reactionary and revivalist." But it went deep into the rural areas. Though basically communalist and rightist, the Parishad received Communist encouragement; the Jammu representative of the Communist Party of India, Dhanwantry, criticized the reactionary character of the movement, but justified Hindu irredentist activities on a "linguistic basis." The Communist objective, of course, was simply to stir up trouble.
As the separatist agitation in Jammu grew it spread to Buddhists of Ladakh, another non-Moslem province. The Head Lama, Kushuk-Bakola, proclaimed that there was no place for Ladakh in a virtually independent Kashmir. "The only bond that linked Ladakh with Kashmir in the past was the Maharaja," he said. "With the abolition of the hereditary rulership, that bond had, however, broken." He went so far as to suggest that Ladakh might seek political union with Tibet, with which Ladakhis had "natural ties." Many of them, he hinted, "have begun to look at the changes in Tibet as a solution of their ills."[viii] One could hardly expect that this attitude would displease the Communists. The country, indeed, was on the verge of disintegration and economic collapse.
In April 1953, Abdullah opened a counterattack. He reminded both the Kashmiris and the Government of India of his principle of "freedom before accession," declared that "the communal happenings of last year have shaken the foundation" of Kashmir's relationship with India, and at the beginning of August went so far as to charge that Kashmir's initial accession to India had been forced on her by India.[ix] He refused several invitations from his longtime friend and protector, Prime Minister Nehru, to come to Delhi for consultation, and continued to hint at the possibility of independence.
In this campaign Sheikh Abdullah presumably relied on Communist support. Like him the Communists were opposed to Kashmir's union with Pakistan, though for quite different reasons. They knew that such a union would be tightly knitted within the Islamic society and would offer little room for their policy (though they have prepared a small group led by Ghulam Mohi Ud-din Kara for such an eventuality). Abdullah's policy of autonomy for Kashmir was exactly suited to their aim--to transform this area into another Outer Mongolia. They took an active part in the preparation of a constitution envisaging the creation of an independent Kashmiri army to replace the Indian army. Yet just when Abdullah's policy seemed to bring these dreams close to fulfillment, the Communist Party of India suddenly withdrew its support from Abdullah.
The explanation of the abrupt turn of Communist policy probably lies in a supposition which became current at that time in Delhi and Srinagar to the effect that the United States was supporting an independent Kashmir. The rumors were related to Mr. Adlai Stevenson's visit to Srinagar in May. In July reports appeared in the newspapers that the Kashmir dispute would be settled by allotting the predominantly Moslem regions to Pakistan, Jammu and Ladakh to India, and by carving out the Valley of Kashmir as an independent country under a guarantee of Pakistan and India. The plan was reported to have the approval of the United States.[x] Although Pakistan and India categorically rejected the truth of the rumor, and although any American intervention was later officially denied, the mere rumor seemed to be enough to convince the Communists that they had best move in the opposite direction.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India now issued a resolution expressing emphatic opposition to the idea of an independent Kashmir, warning of the danger of occupation of the strategic Valley of Kashmir by American military forces and calling upon "the democratic forces of Kashmir and Jammu to save the people from these new designs of imperialists and their conscious supporters and misguided votaries." The resolution also supported qualified accession of Kashmir to India, declaring that by limited accession the state would not only be united in friendship with India, but would also retain "its own status of virtual independence within the framework of the Indian Union."[xi]
On August 9, at 3:50 a.m., the drama came to a Shakespearean climax in the fabulous Maharaja palace: Yuvaraj, the Head of the State and son of the exiled Maharaja, who had been banished by Sheikh Abdullah in 1947, now revenged his father and dismissed Abdullah from the premiership. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed became Prime Minister and immediately denounced the idea of "an 'independent' Kashmir under the influence of imperialist power," and confirmed Kashmir's "indissoluble links with the democratic movement in India."[xii] Sheikh Abdullah, until now a willing and naïve servant of the Communists, was put in prison on charges of "corruption, nepotism and intrigues with foreign Powers." The Communists, however, remained in the new government. Their position has even been strengthened by the appointment of Sadiq as Minister in charge of education, public health, broadcasting and information.
The abrupt change of the Kashmir Government, accompanied as it was by large-scale demonstrations in which many Moslems were killed, caused an uproar in Pakistan. The sabers of the Azad fighters and North-West Frontier tribesmen rattled again in their scabbards. Mohammed Ali rushed to Delhi to consult with Prime Minister Nehru, and on August 20 they issued a joint communiqué. They reaffirmed the six-year-old agreement on plebiscite and decided to appoint a Plebiscite Administrator by the end of April 1954, if there could be a solution of "certain preliminary issues."
As strange as it may appear, the Soviet press and the Communist Party of India welcomed this new development. Even so, one is bound to wonder about the sincerity of Communist enthusiasm for the Delhi agreement, since if successfully implemented, it would defeat the objectives of Soviet policy in the area. More than likely the Communists have no profound fear that the agreement will have any significant result.
Present tendencies seem to confirm such expectations. Disruptive forces are again at work. The new Prime Minister of Kashmir, Bakshi, publicly stated that Kashmir is an integral part of India and "no power on earth can separate the two countries." The Head Lama of Ladakh has concurred, declaring: "Plebiscite or no plebiscite, Ladakh has made its choice and its decision to accede to India is irrevocable." The communalist parties, Hindu Mahasabha, Jan Sangh and Praja Parishad in Jammu thundered in almost identical language that "the accession of the state to India was final and irrevocable and there was no question of holding plebiscite to determine its future status."[xiii]
Nor have the Communists been quiet. Following the instruction of the Central Committee, local organizations of the Communist Party observed "Kashmir Day" on August 30, and passed resolutions asking for "immediate expulsion of the U.N. representatives and other imperialist agents" from Kashmir. A. K. Gopalan appealed "for the creation of an atmosphere in Kashmir conducive to the state's final accession to India," and suggested "that all U.N. observers should be asked to leave Kashmir State before the plebiscite was held."[xiv]
None of these utterances from India and Kashmir has been calculated to calm Pakistan's fear or to increase the possibility of an impartial plebiscite. In Pakistan and on the Azad territory, the Delhi agreement was received with coldness or open criticism. There were persistent rumors that the government itself was split in its evaluation of the agreement, though these were officially denied. The Azad leaders renewed their challenge that the Kashmir issue should be decided by the sword and announced the organization of a "Kashmir Liberation Front." The atmosphere of friendship between India and Pakistan fostered since last spring has been endangered, and now, in connection with the question of American military aid to Pakistan, Nehru publicly raises doubts as to whether the Delhi agreement can still be applied, declaring in effect that it was signed under circumstances that have now changed. Bakshi and Sadiq have put up a new barrage of the most violent language against Pakistan and the United States. The chances of a negotiated settlement were further diminished in February, when the Kashmir Constituent Assembly ratified the state's accession to India--an act contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Delhi agreement and contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the Security Council resolutions. The Communists appear not to have miscalculated the value of the Delhi agreement.
The Communists have persistently sought to bring the Kashmir dispute into the focus of East-West conflicts, and have claimed that all difficulties were the result of an Anglo-American plot. On June 9, 1948, the pro-Communist Bombay weekly Blitz published a special issue called "Great Conspiracy," purporting to show that the invasion of Kashmir had been planned and supported by the British and American Governments. The Communist writer, Rajbans Krishen, wrote a book on the theme that the United Nations acted in the Kashmir dispute on orders of the Anglo-American warmongers.[xv] Communist politicians, parties and press have never ceased to reiterate that the two Western Powers wish to turn Kashmir into a military base against the Soviet Union. The theme was repeated at every annual meeting of the National Conference, at the "Peace Conference" in Jammu in September 1952, at the "Peace Conference" in Peking in October 1952 and by the Soviet representative at the sessions of the Security Council.
Soviet Communist policy has for years sought to discredit the rôle of the United Nations in the Kashmir dispute. Whenever the issue has been discussed before the Security Council, the Soviet representative has carefully expressed no opinion on the merits of the case, but he plays up the slogan of self-determination for the Kashmiris, and accuses the United States and Great Britain of imperialist aims there. He has let the American and British representatives pursue the thankless efforts of mediation, obviously in the expectation that they would fail. In a sense this hope materialized, for when India and Pakistan entered into their most recent bilateral negotiations and signed the Delhi agreement, the United Nations was not even mentioned.
Jawaharlal Nehru has always been critical of the treatment of the Kashmir dispute by the Security Council, and particularly of the British and American proposals of its settlement. He has often raised his eloquent voice against "foreign interference" in this issue. When the Security Council recommended that the question of demilitarization of Kashmir be decided by arbitration, he stated that the United States and Great Britain "have completely lost capacity to think and judge anything . . . . No organization and no country has any business to interfere with what is done in Kashmir by India or the Kashmir people . . . . The whole thing is a fantastic nonsense."[xvi] When the Communists, as well as several non-Communist papers in India, accused the United States of standing behind Sheikh Abdullah's alleged scheme of independence of Kashmir, in spite of official American denial, Nehru said only that such reports were "greatly exaggerated," that, though "it would not be correct to call it governmental interference . . . there were hard cases of individual interference."[xvii]
Kashmir has, however, become an East-West question. As the governments of India and Pakistan have failed to reach a settlement, its importance has, with all the potential dangers, surpassed the boundaries even of the vast subcontinent. If Nehru's resistance to American military help to Pakistan points to the danger of turning South Asia into a "war area," the fact is that Kashmir has been for years a war area to the Communists. The West has had no other interest in the Kashmir dispute than to see it settled peacefully, and is not responsible for the failure to solve it.
With Pakistan ready to join forces with the free world and India committed to an "independent" policy, the Kashmir problem becomes more complex and the solution of it more imperative. Perhaps the growing knowledge of the gravity of the Kashmir situation may yet convince the parties concerned of the necessity of coming to an agreement. If, however, the bilateral negotiations falter, the United Nations must be ready to assume its responsibilities again and attempt by every possible means to assure the Kashmiri people of their right to decide their own future. But time is running short. For if the problem of Kashmir is not soon resolved with wisdom and in justice, a shadow may slide over the Himalayas and the Pamirs, engulfing in its darkness even Nehru's colossal experiment in democracy.
[i] This is not, however, sustained by the Bol'shoi Sovetskii Atlas Mira. Moscow: 1937.
[ii] See Robert Trumbull, The New York Times, November 22, 23, 24, 1950; Reuter's report in The New York Times, February 3, 1953; The New York Times, December 28, 1953.
[iii] "The Princes of India," by Sir William Barton. London: Nisbet, 1934, p. 127.
[iv]Revoliutsionyi Pod'jem v Indii. Moscow: Partiinoe izdatel'stvo, 1933, p. 182.
[v] A. M. Diakov, Natsional'nyi Vopros i Angliiskii Imperialism v Indii. Ogiz, 1948, p. 195.
[vi] "Indien und Pakistan," by A. M. Diakov. Berlin: Kultur und Fortschritt, 1951, p. 22.
[vii] "The War in Kashmir," by O. Orestov. New Times, No. 40, September 29, 1948, p. 24-30.
[viii]UPI (United Press India) as quoted in Kashmir Affairs (Rawalpindi), No. 49, December 6, 1952; The Christian Science Monitor, June 27, 1952; The Times (London), December 24, 1952; March 31, 1953.
[ix]The Hindu Weekly Review (Madras), August 10, 1953.
[x] Robert Trumbull, The New York Times, July 5, 1953.
[xi]The Times of India (Bombay), August 1, 1953.
[xii]The Times of India, August 10, 1953.
[xiii]The Times of India, August 24, 27, 1953.
[xiv]The Statesman (Calcutta); September 1, 20, 1953; The Times of India, September 19, 1953.
[xv] "Kashmir and the Conspiracy against Peace," by Rajbans Krishen. Bombay: People's Publishing House, 1951. (The book was extensively quoted and highly praised in Izvestia on February 6, 1953, in an article "Anglo-Amerikanskie proiski v Kashmire.")
[xvi]The Hindu (Madras), June 12, 1951.
[xvii] September 17, 1953, India News, Washington, D.C.: Government of India Information Services.