NOW that the Kuomintang has been overthrown and the Chinese Communist armies are sweeping toward Tibet and Burma, with a consequent threat to the Middle East as well as to southern Asia, there is need for a realistic appraisal of the dangers inherent in the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The Indian sub-continent is the strategic place at which Communism in Asia will either be contained or will irrupt east, west and south with consequences almost surely fatal to the peace of the world. Both the American and British Governments are inclined to look to Pandit Nehru to take the leadership in the opposition to Communism. But Pandit Nehru's India is only a part of the India of old days. The new India cannot by herself play the rôle of the defender of southern Asia against the Kremlin's ambitions; she must have her neighbor, the new Dominion of Pakistan, at her side.

Pakistan is at the moment responsible for Kashmir, which adjoins northern Pakistan on the east. On the northeast frontier of Kashmir, the Chinese province of Sinkiang has opted for the Communist Republic, thus forming a new Communist front. To the northwest, in Afghanistan, the Soviet Embassy in Kabul is intriguing with the border tribes, and especially with the Fakir of Ipi, a declared enemy of the Pakistan Government. And north and northwest of Afghanistan, the Uzbeks, Tadzhiks and Turkmen who, like their neighbors the Hazaras further south, have no love for their Afghan masters, are exposed to the infiltration of Communism from the Soviet Republic of Uzbek just beyond the Oxus. There is also an eastern wing of Pakistan, between India and Burma (not shown on map). This is exposed to Communist irruption from Burma and Malaya. Should there be war between Pakistan and India, Soviet intervention on the side of Pakistan seems likely.

In population, as well as geographically, Kashmir is logically a part of Pakistan; 85 percent of the people of Kashmir are Moslems. However, at the time of partition the state was under Hindu rule. This came about through a much-regretted act of British policy. About a hundred years ago, after the first Sikh War, Kashmir was ceded to the British by the Sikh Government. At that time Gulab Singh, the ruler of Jammu, a small Hindu-Dogra principality, agreed to liquidate the indemnity of £750,000 which the Sikh Darbar had promised to pay the British, and in return the British gave him Kashmir with its overwhelming majority of Moslems. They have never been happy under Hindu rule.

Before partition there had been a Congress movement for self-government in the state led by a Moslem, Sheikh Abdullah, who

enjoyed the support of Pandit Nehru even when he was a Minister of the Government of India. Sheikh Abdullah went too far and was imprisoned by the Maharajah's Government despite Nehru's protests. After the British withdrawal, a section of the Moslem community, influenced by rumors that the Maharajah intended to accede to India, started a revolutionary movement. It was savagely dealt with by the Maharajah's Hindu and Dogra troops. News of the oppression of their coreligionists spread among the fanatical Afghan tribes of the Pakistan border, with the result that thousands of them swept into Kashmir on what they regarded as a holy war. They drove back the Maharajah's troops, sacked Baramula, a town at the entrance to the Vale of Kashmir, and would have seized the capital, Srinagar, had they not moved in other directions to loot.

The Maharajah appealed for help to Pandit Nehru, and aid was promised on condition that the Maharajah acceded to India and placed Nehru's protégé at the head of the administration. The Maharajah agreed. The approach to the Vale through Jammu, the southern capital of the state, is feasible only through the Pakistan town of Sialot -- hence the only possibility was to send in troops by air. This was done. The tribal attack was held, Srinagar was saved, and the tribesmen were driven halfway down the Jhelum valley, where with reënforcements they held the Indian advance. Desultory fighting went on for several months, but meanwhile Indian engineers built a road from Pathankot in Indian territory through the foothills of Chamba, a Hindu state that had acceded to India. This made strong reenforcements possible and the tribesmen were pushed back; but finally, at a critical stage, Pakistan sent in her regular troops and checked the Indian forces. Thereupon Nehru appealed to the United Nations and a commission was sent to investigate.

India pointed out that Kashmir had acceded to India, that Pakistan had no right to intervene on the side of the revolutionaries, and that instead of holding back the tribesmen, as was her duty, she had permitted many of the tribal contingents to move across the districts she administered and had helped them in many ways. India charged further that Pakistan, by finally sending in her regular troops, had brought on what was in fact an undeclared war.

The Commission succeeded in the beginning of 1949 in inducing the two Dominions to agree to a cease-fire and a truce, with the respective forces occupying the territory in their hands at the time the truce was accepted. Thus Pakistan controlled a large slice of the hill province of Punch adjoining Jammu, a thin strip on the west, the tribal country of Astor, Chilas and Gilgit, and most of the north and northwest mountain country adjacent to Sinkiang. In this territory an Azād, or free government, had been set up supported by a force of 35 battalions recruited from the men of Punch who had fought for their country in the last war. Both sides had all along agreed to abide by the result of a plebiscite; the Commission proceeded to consider the necessary conditions for carrying it out. Meanwhile the Pakistan Government had induced the tribesmen to withdraw, but had maintained its own troops in their positions as well as the 35 battalions.

Pandit Nehru's attitude has been ambiguous. On several occasions in public speeches he has declared that Kashmir is part and parcel of India and will never be given up, though he has also said that if the people vote against Indian citizenship he will accept their verdict. The extension of representation to Kashmir in the Indian Constituent Assembly has also created difficulties. Not unnaturally, it was felt in Pakistan that this meant that Pandit Nehru intended that the plebescite should be carried out by his adherent, Sheikh Abdullah, and, if so, that a verdict in India's favor would be a foregone conclusion. That this view of the situation was not entirely fanciful was shown by Nehru's insistence that, as a preliminary to the plebescite, the Azād battalions should be disbanded and the country now administered by the Azād government be handed over to Sheikh Abdullah.

Pakistan would not agree to these conditions; nor was the Commission prepared to go to such lengths. In the end the Commission proposed that the questions at issue be settled by arbitration. Pakistan agreed, but India refused. Letters from the British Prime Minister and President Truman to Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, the Pakistan Prime Minister, and Pandit Nehru, urging them to come to a friendly settlement, have left the position unchanged. Pakistan welcomed the intervention; Pandit Nehru apparently regarded it as uncalled for. The next move is up to the United Nations, and meanwhile the tension grows. The Pakistan frontier tribes are urging the Pakistan Government to permit them to move into Kashmir. It will not be easy for the Government to prevent an explosion of fanaticism, which would make civil war inevitable.

II

As already noted, the vast majority of the people of Kashmir are Moslems. Of these, the men of Punch and the Jhelum valley are of the same breed as the Punjab Moslems -- good military material. The tribes of the frontier hinterland -- Astor, Chilas, Gilgit, Hunza and Nagar -- are also of the hardy hillman type. This group of Moslems, one might say, would almost to a man vote for Pakistan. They have never accepted Dogra-Hindu rule and now their detestation of Sikhs and Hindus has been raised to fever heat by the atrocities committed on their people and the wholesale expulsion of Moslems from the Jammu province. On the other hand, the majority of the Moslems of the Vale of Kashmir are a listless, apathetic lot, submissive to a heavy-handed bureaucracy. Even so, Pakistanis are quite convinced that, left to themselves, most of them would vote for Pakistan.

One wonders whether the Indian Government has considered the military implications of the retention of Kashmir in India. With half or more of the population hostile, especially in the frontier hinterland, it would have to maintain an army of occupation in the country. This would be all the more necessary because Hindu rule in Kashmir would be a standing affront to the tribes of the Afghan borderland; there would be constant raids, since the tribes can enter Kashmir without crossing territory administered by the Pakistan Government. Ten thousand Pathans from Swat moved into Kashmir in this way in the winter of 1947-48. Admittedly it is the obligation of the Pakistan Government to prevent such aggression by their tribesmen, but to do this Pakistan would be compelled to maintain at least a division in the border territory of Swat. Such a measure would excite the bitter hostility of the tribes, thus creating a new and difficult problem for Pakistan. Could India fairly expect Pakistan to incur such risks?

Much has been made of the culpability of the Pakistan Government in not preventing the tribal people from entering Kashmir in the winter of 1947-48. If an attempt had been made to drive them back, the whole border from Chitral south to Quetta would have burst into flame, and at that time Pakistan forces were still disorganized and largely unequipped, thanks to India's refusal to hand over Pakistan's share of the military supplies left by the British. They could not have held down a tribal rising and might have been driven across the Indus. This would have given the Afghans an opportunity of taking territory as far as the Indus, which they look on as Afghanistan irredenta. In such an event Pakistan would either have been absorbed in India, or have become a satellite of that country. But would Hindus view with complaisance the establishment of a militant Islam on the Indus even with the Moslem West Punjab as a buffer state? Surely not.

It may seem on a cursory view that Pakistan was utterly in the wrong in moving regular troops into Kashmir in the summer of 1948. However, there is something to be said in extenuation. Punjab opinion was dangerously excited at the rumors that Dogra troops were driving thousands of Moslems out of Punch into Pakistan, and action to hold up the Indian advance seemed the only possible answer. Opinion in Pakistan would say in further justification that, in any case, India had no right to be in Kashmir at all.

The two Dominions are at variance on other matters. Thus, for example, there is a dispute over the waters of the Sutlej, a tributary of the Indus, which are essential for irrigation in the West Punjab. Trouble has also developed over the settlement of claims to evacuate property; and now economic relations have been further distorted by the refusal of the Pakistan Government to devalue her rupee, thus creating complications in the supply of Pakistan jute essential for the Calcutta textile industries. Pakistan is in a strong position as regards foreign trade, and took this occasion to strengthen it. Whether this will be to her advantage in the long run is a matter of conjecture. In the economic sphere the two countries are complementary, and must work together to prosper.

The Indian budget is unbalanced. This is partly because more than half of her expenditures are for defense, and also because her huge imports of food produce a heavy adverse balance of trade. The ruling Congress Party is weakened by internal disputes and is meeting considerable opposition from left-wing elements, including Communists. There is trouble with the Sikhs, a militant group strongly represented in the Army, who demand a separate province in the East Punjab in association with the Sikh state of Patiala. Another militant group, the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh, or R.S.S. -- an offshoot of the great orthodox party of the caste Hindus, the Hindu Mahasabha -- whose object is to absorb Pakistan, has of late been asserting itself. Pandit Nehru is said to regard it as almost as dangerous as the Communists. Moreover, the administration, both central and provincial, seems to be progressively deteriorating; young and inexperienced officials occupy high positions to which they are unsuited. The fact that every man in a Gandhi cap considers himself a ruler is a standing embarrassment to officialdom. Democracy is breathing heavily. Even the General Secretary of the Congress Party went so far the other day as to express the view that Congress might go the way of the Kuomintang; a movement to the left would, he said, mean a dictatorship. And only a month or two ago Sardar Patel, Deputy Prime Minister, told the popular Congress Ministries he had set up in the states that if they would not stop their squabbles he would administer the states from Delhi.

Congress is indeed fighting for survival. Moderate opinion is, however, on its side and it is generally felt that only the Congress Party can for the next few years hold the country together. The Indian political horizon would undoubtedly clear once a lasting peace had been established with Pakistan.

III

India was more fortunate than Pakistan in inheriting a central government as a going concern. Pakistan had to start from scratch, and this involved many complicated problems. Yet despite a shortage of senior officers and many other difficulties a sound and balanced government has been set up.

The economy of Pakistan is based on agriculture. There are practically no organized industries, and the lack of ordnance factories has, incidentally, been a serious handicap in the building up of adequate military forces. But as against this the country has a flourishing agriculture, which in normal years not only gives the country an adequate food supply, but also leaves something for export. Pakistan jute is the most important item sent abroad from the whole sub-continent; but much of it is consumed in Indian mills in Calcutta. The enhanced price of jute arising from the refusal of Pakistan to devalue her currency has held up supplies to India to the detriment of the grower and of the Calcutta mills. The Pakistan Government had pledged itself to indemnify the growers, and a way will doubtless be found to dispose of the crop at a reasonable price. West Punjab also produces high grade cotton, most of which goes to India or overseas; and hides and wool are also exported.

The Pakistan Government is trying to utilize its raw materials to the greatest extent possible; three jute mills, for example, are to be set up in Chittagong, a port in East Bengal. There is a lack of coal suitable for use in industries, but the Government is endeavoring to supply the deficiency by developing hydroelectric power on a large scale both in East and West Pakistan. Lack of capital is a difficulty. People with money, including the merchant class, have not shown much initiative in investing in industries. The financial position is, however, on the whole sound; the budget is balanced, and there is a favorable balance of trade. There is money in the country and it will come into the open when peace is established. Rural debt has disappeared with the flight of the Hindu money lender. It is hardly necessary to say that the position would quickly improve if the major part of the budget, as in India, did not have to be spent on defense.

Politically Pakistan is in smoother waters than her great neighbor. The men of the stormy borderland who might have made control of the North-West Frontier impossible have thrown in their lot with her. There is no left-wing element, no militant group like the R.S.S. or the Sikhs. Still there has been trouble. The administration of the West Punjab had at one time threatened to dissolve into chaos due to the incompetence and corruption of the popular ministry. Equilibrium was restored only when the Governor General dismissed the ministry and placed the administration in the hands of the Governor. In Sind, two Premiers were involved in charges of corrupt practices. Both were convicted in the lower courts but were acquitted on appeal.

In external affairs the attitude of Afghanistan has been a cause of anxiety to the Pakistan Government. On the withdrawal of the British, the Kabul authorities put forward a claim to Afghanistan irredenta, i.e., the country between the international boundary (the so-called Durand line) and the Indus. It had for 50 years or more from the middle of the eighteenth century been a part of the then Afghan Empire. Pakistan could not, however, consider any such claim, whereupon the Afghan Government demanded control of the tribal belt between the Durand line and the administrative boundary at the foothills. This claim had no real basis; the tribes concerned have no desire to associate themselves with Kabul.

The Afghan authorities, rebuffed, continue to pour abuse on Pakistan in their official press and radio. Attempts are being made, so far without success, to influence the Pathan tribes on the Pakistan border in favor of the Kabul policy. It is one of Pakistan's grievances against India that she seems to support the Afghan attitude: the Delhi newspapers reproduce the outpourings of the Afghan press and there are rumors of an Indian loan to Afghanistan. The only explanation that occurs to Pakistan is that India is anxious to create embarrassment for her on the Afghan frontier, to distract her attention from Kashmir.

IV

The attitude of Pakistan toward His Majesty's Government unfortunately lacks cordiality. For this several reasons are given. Pakistan feels that very little has been done by the British to assist her in the field of economic development and it is generally felt that it was the duty of the Britain, as leader of the Commonwealth, to intervene in the Kashmir trouble, which the British Government definitely refused to do. Another count in the indictment is the failure of the British Government to support Hyderabad against the power politics of India. But perhaps the strongest criticism is directed against the acceptance in London of Prime Minister Nehru's conditions for remaining in the Commonwealth. It was expected in Pakistan that such conditions would be refused, since they confer on India all the advantages of Commonwealth membership without any of its obligations. That the British Government seemed to assume that Pakistan would stay in the Commonwealth under any conditions was much resented.

There is a widespread belief in Pakistan that India is only waiting for an opportunity to attack her. Pakistanis feel that if war broke out over Kashmir neither the United States nor Britain would intervene, because they rely on the Nehru Government to save middle Asia from Communism, and that India would be allowed to overwhelm her weaker neighbor if she could, and reunite the two Indias. In support of the view that both Britain and the United States are partial to India, Pakistanis comment on their advocacy of India's claim to a seat in the Security Council of the United Nations, which to Pakistan seems a demand by the delinquent to sit on the body that is to judge his conduct. The claim, however, has been conceded.

The clouds on the political horizon in Pakistan seemed to lift when her Prime Minister was invited to Moscow. "Russia is on our side," was a headline in most of the newspapers. People generally were almost hysterical with delight. The significance of the episode was doubtless exaggerated, and the visit has since been delayed; but it is practically certain that Pakistan as a whole would prefer to be a satellite of Russia than submit to Hindu domination. This does not mean that Pakistan is attracted by Russia's ideology; Islamic principles are opposed to Communism. It is hardly necessary to say that in a war with India Pakistan would have at her back half a million well-armed tribesmen of the border hinterland reënforced probably by another half a million from Afghanistan. India would stand up against them only by dint of superiority in modern armament.

It should not be overlooked that the Moslem countries of the Middle East are watching with interest the course of the Kashmir quarrel, and that a decision adverse to Pakistan would undoubtedly be resented there. There is real need for efforts to dissipate the distrust and suspicion of the west which prevail in Pakistan. As Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, observed the other day in a public address, "If strengthened, the Moslem belt in the Middle East would be a barrier to Communism." Today oil counts for much strategically; without Moslem support the oil supplies in the Middle East may well fall into Communist hands.

Something also might be done to bring the Afghan Government into a more reasonable frame of mind, for its endeavors to incite the border tribes against Pakistan could lead to trouble on that explosive frontier. Afghanistan is in the grip of an acute economic crisis and needs outside help. Pakistan is probably prepared to forget the past and coöperate with her, especially if economic support is given by the west.

Recognition by the western Powers of the immensely important rôle Pakistan is destined to play in Middle Eastern politics should help to induce Pandit Nehru and his Government to be less uncompromising. International opinion is beginning to realize that no American efforts can revivify India's economy unless there is a mutually acceptable settlement of the Kashmir dispute. An impartial plebiscite is almost impossible unless the United Nations takes over the administration of the whole country, a scheme not easy to carry out. The best decision would be a compromise which gave the predominantly Moslem regions to Pakistan, leaving that part of the Jammu province lying south of the Chenab to India as a Hindu enclave. This would practically restore the boundaries as they existed before the tragic blunder of the British a century earlier. The record of Hindu rule since then can hardly constitute a claim to anything more than the original Hindu state. Recent reports from Washington seemed to indicate that Pandit Nehru is thinking of mediation as a possible means of settlement. Here perhaps is a new and fruitful approach.

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  • SIR WILLIAM BARTON, for 35 years in the Indian Civil Service, most recently as British Resident in Baroda, Mysore and Hyderabad; author of "India's North-West Frontier," "India's Fateful Hour" and other works
  • More By William Barton