All posts in the Kashmir category

Blaming Nehruji – Part 1; The 1948 War

Published November 15, 2014 by vishalvkale

The modern Indian – regardless of political dispensation {IMHO}, has a rather disturbing propensity to blame Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for a variety of errors of omission and commission. A simple glance at a normal Facebook page, newspaper coverage, political utterances by a select few politicians etc all convey this rather sad fact; sad because this is done on the basis of incomplete facts. 

It is not my position that Panditji did not make mistakes; he was human, and was thus prone to error. But what were those errors? Under what situation were those erroneous decisions taken? And is every “error” that is blamed on him an error? Was he the one who actually committed that error, or are we in error in blaming him? 

In this series, I shall attempt to examine a few of his more popular errors, and attempt to present a more complete picture, basis the more than several books I have studied and reviewed on my blog. Further, this is not a political comment on any political party, or the present party in power. This is just an attempted factual examination of the sequence of events. 

In the first part, let us examine the war of 1948. I am not a military expert, and thus cannot comment on the specifics of the war per se. But it is a common statement that I have been hearing for years that had we fought on, we could have won back Kashmir. Or that Nehruji stopped the war; or that he went to the UNO; or some other such thing. Is this based on fact? In the following paragraphs, I shall lay down some facts that I have come across in my readings that certainly queer the plot for people who blame Nehruji.

{This is by no means  a complete picture; I cannot summarize in a blog post something that has taken authors in excess of a 100 pages to put across. My only attempt here is to kindle the thought process of my readers, and kindle a desire to know more about what exactly transpired. References can be found, as is my habit, at the end of the post alongwith a link to the relevant book review}

First, what was the British attitude towards the JK dispute? They werent disinterested and innocent bystanders, or kind and helpful gentlemen. Let us look at a couple of incidents – with documented proof, to establish that :

1) It would have been natural for Kashmir to eventually accede to Pakistan on agreed terms – British Secretary of State of Commonwealth relations in a top-secret communique to the high commissioners of Delhi and Karachi, 31 October 1947, 5 days after the accession of Kashmir to India

2)  Second, why was this critical? Answer : Gilgit, which was considered strategically important. India would not allow defence movements by external forces from within its area, whereas Jinnah had already agreed to cooperate and allow defence moves from within Pakistan. Nehru, Patel et al where specific {yes, including Nehruji} : India would never allow foreign troops on Indian soil. This remains as the most important principal of our policy structure. I have previously established, with proof – in other blog posts – that US-UK preoccupation with Russia, as was made clear in the July 1945 post-war meeting, wherein CENTO was visualised, with Pakistan as a founding member. Please remember that in 1945, the UK was ostensibly trying to forge a united India, whereas in its top-secret papers, it was planning the reverse. The other aspect is that Jinnah had alreaady committed cooperation on the 3rd September 1939! 

3) “The broad post-partition plan had been discussed by [Major] Brown and the Colonel [Bacon] in June 1947. And after Mathieson arrived in Gilgit, the two British officers refined contingency measures, should the Maharaja take his state over to India..  On 2nd November, the Major raised the Pakistani flag, and announced that they now served Karachi.” 

Being British, they should have been neutral, or asked for a transfer. Major Brown was conferred the Most Exalted Order Of The British Empire in 1948. This is proof positive. With the local Gilgit scouts firmly pro-Pakistan, delivering Gilgit to Pakistan was a guarantee, almost. This needed one other support, which knocked the sails from the Indian side almost totally. 

The question remains, why was Gilgit so critical? This can be seen in one statement by Ernest Bevin, The British Foreign Secretary, To George Marshall, The American Secretary Of State : “The main issue was who would control the main artery leading into Central Asia…” 27 October, 1948

4) The other area that the British definitely wanted to go to Pakistan was the strip from Naushera to Muzaffarabad.”

Bucher admitted to Gracey, the Pakistan C-in-C, that he had no control over Cariappa but hit upon an intriguing scheme to now stop the advance of his own army. Graffety Smith, British high commissioner in Karachi, reported to London the arrangements reached privately between the commander-in-chiefs of the 2 dominions. General Bucher indicated to General Gracey that he had no wish to pursue an offensive into what is effectively Azad-Kashmir controlled territory i.e. to Mirpur and Poonch sector… the object of these arrangements is to reach a situation in which each side will remain in undisputed military occupation of what are roughly their present positions… An essential part of the process… is that 3 battalions of the Pakistan Army should be deployed opposite the Indian forces at Jhangar, in or around Poonch and at Uri…”

This was a tell-tale interlude between the Pakistani Army chief and Indian Army chief in 1947-48. A paragraph that strips naked the United Kingdom, exposes fully and finally how it was playing a dangerous double game… and shatters all pre-conceived notions about parition! The Indian Army Chief, a Britisher, is advising the Pakistani chief, also a Britisher, what to do, and sharing his plans as well. 

Thus, it seems to me that the result of a military solution to this problem was a foregone conclusion –  it was never going to deliver all of Kashmir to India. In either case, there is enough documented and authentic evidence available for us to stop blaming Nehruji, and instead attempt to read up a little more to understand precisely what transpired, which was very different from what is generally understood. 

Next, Panditji. I wish people would stop blaming him for everything, without reason. Firstly, Nehruji did NOT approach the UN out of the blue; the first suggestion was made to Jinnah by Mountbatten on 1 Nov 1947. He did not have GOI approval for this. Second, because of the support to India in the matter of the princely states, Mountbatten enjoyed the complete trust of everyone in the cabinet. Third, we know from hindsight how we were double-crossed; they didnt. Fourth, the newly independent India was new to matters of state and international duplicity and diplomacy. Fifth, we have no idea of the kind of international pressure that was being brough to bear. Read this little gem,  to get an idea of the kind of international pressure on Nehruji : 

There was no alternative to the UN approach; if war came, the world would blame India because Pakistan was seen as too weak to seek belligerency; war would mean the Indian Leaders abandoning all they have stood for; if the UN declares India an aggressor, even India’s best friends would have to conform to the world body’s decision; war would result in a communal carnage inside India; and finally, India did not have the means to prevail on its own. What have you got? A few old Dakotas…” – 15th August, 1948

The key aspect here was Gilgit; which was strategic, as also the corridor to Muzaffarabad. Gilgit was transferred to the British by the Maharaja in 1935 in a lease agreement effective for 60 years. This led to an erratic Indian position, in 3 communiques, one omits any reference to Gilgit; this lease also proves the strategic importance of this land to the West, as subsequent history has proven. India’s only fault : not taking a firm position on the Gilgit lease, and that erratic wavdering communiques, which did nothing to ease the problem. And remember the pressure being brought to bear on India by international powers, and the strategic vitality of the regions of Kashmir under dispute. But that is another story, not relevant to this question. 

Regardless, Gilgit was already in Pakistani hands, firmly so. Furthermore, every international hand as well as the British Officers of the Indian Army were clear : Gilgit and the strip should not go to India. Pakistani Army was aware of Indian attack plans. In this scenario, a military victory was never a guarantee. Quite the opposite, in fact. And the icing on the cake, this was just at the end of the WW2, in an atmosphere when the predominant focus of what I like to call The Great West was on Russia; and the overarching, most vital Western objective was ensuring the presence of a military option against Russia. As history subsequently proved, this came in handy during the Afghan campaign. 

Please stop blaming Nehruji. Due to the incomplete picture presented in front of us, we just do not know the entire story, nor do we know what kind of problems he had to deal with – some of which I have highlighted above. We tend to ignore the British role in this episode, which I have proven quite clearly. We further tend to ignore The Great Game, and the use of Pakistan in that Great Game against Russia. Fact of the matter is, our only fault was naivete; which is excusable given that we were newly independent. 

He stands tall as one of the strongest, most far sighted and most powerful  architects of Modern India. Yes, he did make mistakes; but that made him human. Blame him all you want, but do so after studying in depth the situations under which he operated, and understanding the full nature of the decision and the underlying parameters. For that, you will perforce have to abandon the internet, and go back to books – pedigreed books that have analysed these matters in considerable detail, based on documented facts and irrefutable proofs. 

In conclusion, in this atmosphere wherein we {or a few of us}, are blaming Nehruji for lots of things, I would like to say :

Thank You, Sir. Thank You, Panditji. I shall never forget what you did for India, and under what difficulties you did it! India owes you a deep debt of gratitude. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Main aapki poori kahaani apne bete ko zaroor sunaoongaa…

References : The Shadow Of The Great Game – The Untold Story Of India’s Partition by Narendra Singh Sarila {Reviewed here}

This book is written by the ADC to Mountbatten in 1947-48; it has further been researched extensively in 3 countries national archives, libraries, communications and documents : USA, UK, and India. It is based  on solid documented evidence,  and each claim is solidly referenced and annotated, even to the extent of dates, photographs etc.

India-Pakistan : Joining Hearts Vs Pointed Guns

Published October 12, 2014 by vishalvkale


An effort of peace, of bridging the gap, in the backdrop of blazing guns… and not the first, either. I was part of one such initiative : Jodey Dilon Ko, which was an interesting experience. In this post, I had observed : “Will this interaction {culture + trade} bridge the divide? All that lies in the future, and depends upon a peaceful coexistence between the two of us, devoid of terrorist attacks, and cross-border violence. That is the core, the non-negotiable reality. The ball is firmly in Pakistan’s court; I just hope the moderates in Pakistan win the day…”

Today, as we stare at yet another violation in the backdrop of this peace process, it is time for us to try and analyse whether these efforts are worth it, or are they a complete waste of time and energy. This is especially so, since we now have a Government that is intent on a firm stance – no talks in the shadow of the gun. This is a shift, a significant shift, that cannot be ignored, as it has far-reaching implications


It has been a real pleasure, seeing the response from the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the Indian Government : No Talks, No Discussions in the shadow of the Gun. This, combined with an invite to the Pakistani PM for the swearing in ceremony, sends a clear signal – we are open to discussions, we are open to talks : but not until the Guns stop blazing. This has now been firmly established as a non-negotiable reality, a bottomline for normalcy. 

This seemingly over-the-top and ultra-hardline response is welcome, since we have soft pedaled the entire Pakistani intervention and violence for far too long; virtually everything has been tried. We have been talking to them for donkeys years with absolutely nothing to show for it. It seems to me, a lay citizen, that even those Pakistani commitments actually made in talks arent worth the paper they are written on. And, while we talk, blood has continued to flow, the flow stemmed only by the iron-will of our security forces, and their incessant sacrifices. The price we Indians have paid for Pakistani violence has been heavy indeed – a price the entire world ignores in totality. It is a story written in large amounts of blood, and the blood-soaked words on the parchment of history are still wet. 

This response is in reality, only mildly tougher, and eminently reasonable : it stands as one of the Narendra Modi-led governments successes, and acts of sheer brilliance. All The Government of India is saying is : Talk to us, and only to us; Dont create trouble while we are talking to each other; No Violence; And No intervention. This is, any which way you look at it, a completely reasonable stance, and sets a paradigm in which some progress can perhaps be genuinely attempted. 

Critically, it sets a bar for the Pakistanis – a bar that will have to be reached by them in order to demonstrate their genuine commitment to peace, and order. We are willing to talk – it isnt on our terms, as some in the Media have reported it. It is simply that we are willing to talk in conditions that can foster calm discussion, negotiation, genuine sharing of views in a conducive atmosphere. This is a basic minimum for talks, for discussions that can lead to a solution, and a win-win situation – howsoever remote that may seem under the current set of circumstances. 


It is in the backdrop above that peace moves and cultural interchanges have to be seen; it is in the above backdrop that the way forward has to be analysed. A full analysis is of course beyond the scope of this blog, but we normal citizens can at least get a grip on the entirety of the situation across the border, and view it in its entirety, not through our own views, opinions and experiences

There are 2 views in primacy – a view of enmity and perhaps open dislike, even hatred; and another view of bridging the divide or the gap, and moving on, side-stepping the violence. It is my submission that both are way off the mark; one being dangerous, and the other ludicrous.  On both sides, emotions can get away with themselves; leading to hasty statements. Such hasty statements, if made by people like you and me, may or may not have a significant impact; but such hasty statements made by someone in authority – perhaps influenced by public opinion, can be extremely effective in swinging things, if you get my point. 

The NaMo handling of this entire affair has set off jingoistic chest-thumping and showers of praise on side of the spectrum, with its attendant social media chatter. These are emotion-charged, and are extremely effective in building public opinion, which is vital in the modern world. While there can be no question that the entire matter has been handled with elan and class by NaMo, let us not go overboard. Please remember that Indians have died on the border; Indian blood has been spilt. Spare a thought for them. Fine, we didnt start the shooting, but that doesnt mean we celebrate or go over-emotional; not in this powder keg. 

A calm and satisfied response is, in my opinion, what is most called for : Calm and Satisfied since the violence has been  met, defeated, a stern message sent by an excellent Government, a hard spine has been revealed, and a tungsten core shown to the world, a view of a nation not in a mood for nonsense of any kind. That would also be the best support to this Government, and in keeping with our PMs quiet, firm and clear stance and words.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have events like the 2 referred to above, efforts which bring the people of the 2 warring nations together in cultural exchanges of views, or in trade, or other such peaceful activities. While no doubt welcome, we cannot set much store by such activities, for they completely ignore the ground reality of Pakistan, and its internal conflicts, and makeup; as also the one fundamental fact that is unalterable – Pakistan is in every way a nation that defines itself as Not-India. 

History is proof of the above – for example, even as the conference in Lahore was underway, and platitudes of peace were being stated, The Kargil War was being planned. There have been regular episodes of  violence from the other side, even as talks continued; terror was and is constantly being exported from that nation. This is a fact that cannot change; and is not likely to in the foreseeable future. What use is cultural interchange as a method of pushing peace, when that same nation is exporting terror to us? 

Cultural interchange can only bring about appreciation for each others similarity, or culture, or some such aspect. These aspects are of no importance in the sphere of politics and defence – and the issues are defence related issues. Further, the people of that other nation are in no position to alter the fundamental positions taken by their Armed Forces and politicians. Not now, not in the foreseeable future. Seen in that light, all such measures frankly make for good Media coverage, but have no impact on the relations between the two sides, inasmuch as the participants are completely unable to make a dent on their nations’ policies on one side of the border. Enough said. 

That is why it is far better to me middle of the road on this – not go in for too much jingoism, and not go in for too much hoopla over peace initiatives. There is precisely nothing to celebrate about – we, too have spilt blood. Fine, they started it first, and we have responded emphatically. We are not to blame, but try and tell that to the families of the dead or should I say, the martyrs. 

If anything, let us be thankful for our open society, democracy and tolerance that has ensured internal peace within a sea of violence all around us; for the presence of a strong-willed Central Government which knows how to handle this matter. Let us be thankful to the Armed Forces and the BSF for keeping us constantly safe, and pray for them, for their well-being. May God grant them continued courage and strength; May God Protect them from harm

Once again, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You, all the martyrs who have given their lives so that we may live in peace, and for the men who put their lives in danger for us. We live in  dangerous times; that we a are calm and peaceful nation in a sea of violence all around us, is also a tribute to the selfless sacrifices of these braves who have given their lives for us…

Understanding Article 370 of The Indian Constitution

Published May 19, 2014 by vishalvkale

There is a Whatsapp message doing the rounds on Article 370, and its import… I am not an expert, but have read parts of the Indian Constitution – enough to know that this is a highly complex matter, and not given to such summarisation as in a Whatsapp Message that has the potential of giving a one-sided picture.

Please go through the Actual text of Article 370 given below {Source : Article 370 of the Constitution of India; }, verified with the constitution updated to 92nd amendment here : Page on cgsird.gov.in}

Please update me in case of any error… I have personally read all the amendments after the 92nd – till the the 98th; and none concerns with Jammu and Kashmir. Do update me in case of a mistake; I have no intention of being wrong even inadvertantly

1.      Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution:

a.       the provisions of article 238 shall not apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir,
b.      the power of Parliament to make laws for the said State shall be limited to;
                                                        i.            those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which, in consultation with the Government of the State, are declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the Instrument of Accession governing the accession of the State to the Dominion of India as the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may make laws for that State; and
                                                      ii.            such other matters in the said Lists, as, with the concurrence of the Government of the State, the President may by order specify.

Explanation—For the purpose of this article, the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers for the time being in office under the Maharaja’s Proclamation dated the fifth day of March, 1948;
c.       he provisions of article 1 and of this article shall apply in relation to this State;
d.      such of the other provisions of this Constitution shall apply in relation to that State subject to such exceptions and modifications as the President may by order specify
                                                        i.            Provided that no such order which relates to the matters specified in the Instrument of Accession of the State referred to in paragraph (i) of sub-clause (b) shall be issued except in consultation with the Government of the State:
                                                      ii.            Provided further that no such order which relates to matters other than those referred to in the last preceding proviso shall be issued except with the concurrence of the Government.
2.      If the concurrence of the Government of the State referred to in paragraph (ii) of sub-clause (b) of clause (1) or in second proviso to sub-clause (d) of that clause be given before the Constituent Assembly for the purpose of framing the Constitution of the State is convened, it shall be placed before such Assembly for such decision as it may take thereon.
3.      Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of the article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may notify:
Provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification.
4.      In exercise of the powers conferred by this article the President, on the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, declared that, as from the 17th day of November, 1952, the said art. 370 shall be operative with the modification that for the explanation in cl.(1) thereof the following Explanation is substituted namely:

Explanation—For the purpose of this Article, the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly of the State as the *Sadar-I-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir, acting on the advice of Council of Ministers of the State for the time being in office.


As can be readily, this is not such a simple matter. Not one point of the message is mentioned above… that does not mean that all the points are wrong. My point – let us leave this to experts; this requires legal and constitutional experts, which we are not. Please dont forward such messages; we citizens simply do not know whether the content is accurate or not.

Further, there is a history involved in this, which we are not aware of. There are repercussions of this as well, and there is a history of negotiations, presidential decrees, and a lot of water under the bridge. It is not our task to create unwanted pressure on our newly elected Government – let us trust them to do the right thing. They have experts, we dont. If at all, as we are interested in this, please stick to known sources like our Media, or books.

Understanding Article 370

The above link analyses this in its entirety.  Please read it for a better understanding; or read any of the other articles on this matter in the media.

An excerpt :
Third, is Article 370 still intact in its original form? One of the biggest myths is the belief that the “autonomy” as envisaged in the Constituent Assembly is intact. A series of Presidential Orders has eroded Article 370 substantially. While the 1950 Presidential Order and the Delhi Agreement of 1952 defined the scope and substance of the relationship between the Centre and the State with the support of the Sheikh, the subsequent series of Presidential Orders have made most Union laws applicable to the State. In fact today the autonomy enjoyed by the State is a shadow of its former self, and there is virtually no institution of the Republic of India that does not include J&K within its scope and jurisdiction. The only substantial differences from many other States relate to permanent residents and their rights; the non-applicability of Emergency provisions on the grounds of “internal disturbance” without the concurrence of the State; and the name and boundaries of the State, which cannot be altered without the consent of its legislature. Remember J&K is not unique; there are special provisions for several States which are listed in Article 371 and Articles 371-A to 371-I.

Let us trust of Parliament, Our Prime Minister Modiji, Our Opposition and Our Courts to sort this matter out; please dont believe everything you read…that SMS may be 100% accurate, or it may not. We dont know; and as you can see from the text of the article, it is no simple matter. Further, we have no idea of the history… so let us forget it, and move on.

Trust our institutions, people… trust them. In this, they have delivered admirably well!

Book Review : India’s Military Conflicts And Diplomacy

Published March 5, 2014 by vishalvkale

The only good histories are those that have been written by the persons themselves who commanded in the affairs whereof they write; rest is hearsay – Michel Eyquem Montaigne, {from the Preface of the current book}
This is the second book by General V P Malik – and it is as good as the first; and in some ways, far more reader friendly. While the first – Kargil – was a deep and involved analysis of the Kargil War, this is one comprises a set of real-life incidences from his Army Experience; incidences which are known in almost every educated household in India. This takes up half of the book; the second half is a short, and to-the-point analysis of Military Diplomacy. Again, in this part as well, the author has delved into his personal experience, which gives the reader the entire story from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. 
This part will be the interesting part for those readers who are not too interested in Military Diplomacy or Foreign Policy. This part alone makes it worth the money spent on it. For, in this part you get to read about some of India’s most famous military operations – from a person who was an integral part of the entire matter. This lends considerable weight to the book, as well as makes it doubly interesting; you are not reading a third person telling a story. You are reading history as it happened, through the eyes of one of the major players in these historically vital events; you get a blow-by-blow account of things as they happened and when they happened. 
The events I am referring to are the IPKF, Kargil, Commando Operation in the Maldives, Nuclear Tests, and UN Peacekeeping at Sierra Leone. For those who dont have the patience to read the voluminous Kargil – From Surprise To Victory – this book will give a short but complete summary of the Kargil War, alongwith an insightful but interesting analysis. And for those who have read the first book, this book contains new material, including analyses and reports from retired Pakistani senior Military Officers and journalists who have ripped into the Pakistani ruling elite for the entire fiasco. 
For the first time, we get an understanding of the sad sequence of events that led to Rajiv Gandhi’s assasination; a true and no-holds-barred account of the entire IPKF saga that is disquieting and frank, honest and transparent in its appraisal. The book makes no bones about it : as the heading of the chapter itself states: Wrong From The Start. You feel sad – not just for Rajivji; but actually for all the needless lives lost in that entire IPKF mission. And yet, you also feel pride in the performance of our warriors despite the immense pressure and problems they had to face; the struggle of coming to terms with a sudden 180-degree turn in political orders, and the brilliant performance despite such factors. You feel a sense of pride, tinged with grief at what was inarguably the second-worst episode in our military history. This chapter will be a stunner to the uninformed; a punch to the solar plexus, since the entire saga goes far deeper than what is generally known; as well as will raise some very very pertinent questions for Indians.
Moving on from this, we are treated to a fast-paced and deeply interesting account of how India helped the Maldives President avoid a military coup, in all the classic detailing by a person who was there. Even here, the more informed will wonder at the turn of events, as a close relationship has gone slightly awry in recent times, as reported in the latest papers – educating us about the need for keeping good relations on a healthy level, and giving due importance. You get a ringside seat {in every chapter} of the decision making process; it is an experience to be savoured, as you read about momentous and well known decisions being made. 
Then you get to read the details of the Nuclear Tests, and the way India went about it – alongwith the international repercussions. You also get to read an insightful yet simply worded analysis of the Nuclear Issue, which is an education in itself. The last operation covered is a UN peacekeeping operation at Sierra Leone. Like the other chapters, this one is also chock-full of surprises that will bring questions to your mind; like the hardly known fact that Indian casualties in UN operations are the highest suffered by any nation, and that India is one of the most active members in peace-keeping missions in the UN. You cannot avoid a feeling of pride as you get to know how highly regarded Indian soldiers are in UN missions due to various factors. It is such simple insights, simple analysis and fast-paced narrative of actual on-ground operations that make this part of the book a highly engaging and energising read. 
This part is much shorter {happily so for those readers who are not inclined towards deep analysis}, but is equally – if not more – full of surprises and unknown or lesser known facts of the Indian Armed Forces. This part starts with the role of the Military in Diplomacy, which will be both a surprise to us, as well as a very highly informative and interesting look into a side of the Armed Forces that is not too well known. It contains a short but to-the-point and effective analysis of our relations in Military as well as diplomatic terms with China, Maldives, Nepal, Israel, Tajikistan, Myanmar and the USA. Again, you get a ringside seat on the authors visits to these places, as well as interesting background on how relations were repaired {Israel, for example – or Myanmar} and the role of the Military in these matters. 
The last 3 chapters are on Myanmar, Nepal, and an analysis of our strategic culture and the way forward for us. The chapters on Nepal and Myanmar are replete with surprises; I would prefer each reader discovers what they are for themselves. Suffice it to state that these are the most surprising of all, and contain the real meat of the book. These 2 chapters are the most engaging and informative, alongwith IPKF – and form the real meat of this fast-paced, interesting book that both educates us on our Military Operational And Strategic Culture, as well as raises some deeply disquieting questions.
This book  is a great resource for every educated Indian; a must-read for all of us, given that we as a nation do not have a very transparent culture on these matters, Further, there is little understanding of how a public discourse of these matters can help give shape to national policies, which are currently made in exalted halls, with little information being shared with the public, leading to a situation where the common citizens are just not aware of strategic matters, and thus cannot help shape the national dialogue, which is an essential part of any democracy. That is why this book, alongwith Pax Indica, is an important contribution towards a more open public discourse on matters relating to strategy, as they ultimately impact all of us… 


Published September 25, 2013 by vishalvkale

The mere mention of the word Pakistan is enough to drive an Indian to extremes of behavior: ranging from a devout hoping for peace and brotherhood, to outright hatred. This is a subject that is fraught with bitter memories, blood and betrayal; a subject that is extremely hard to deal with sans emotion – at least if you are either an Indian, or a Pakistani. Therefore, for the above reasons, the book under review is a special surprise, a treat and a treasure; an experience to be savoured, a moment to be treasured – and a lesson to be learnt. A book which is head and shoulders above any I have read on this topic… a true delight; a collectors’ item. 
This book is a collection of essays by various Indian and Pakistani personalities on this subject. If you were expecting fireworks, think again. The book is singularly devoid of any fireworks; and in fact comprises a remarkably controlled and informed set of essays, which are well thought out, with the subject matter well presented. The book deals with the issue very delicately – and in a mature manner; yet fully, leaving nothing out.  And that is quite a tremendous achievement, given the nature of the  subject at hand. 
Every single facet of the India-Pakistan relationship finds a mention here: comparisons of growth, Kashmir, the art and culture scenario, journalistic comparisons, history, terrorism etc. I cannot offhand find a single point which has been left out. This gives an in-depth look at the entire relationship, as well as gives a fairly good idea of the road towards normalcy, and the challenges that lie ahead. The piece de resistance of the book is the presentation by both Indians as well as Pakistanis; which gives a 360-degree look at the problem. 
Through this book and its component essays, one gets a look at the situation inside Pakistan; for the primary focus of the book is Pakistan. You begin to form a basic idea of the pulls and pressures within that country, its multiple power centers and the scale of the challenges it has created for itself, largely due to its own short-sighted approach. And from that realization comes the realization of the true face of the problems that are bedeviling this relationship, and consequently us Indians. For example, the myth that the people at large want freedom, and that the politicians don’t, has, to my mind, been well and truly shattered.   This assumption does not take into account the increasing radicalization of the society, as becomes evident from the various essays  that deal with Pakistani History. This factor indicates that while at present, the educated elite may want peace and friendship, but there is no guarantee that this will continue, given the radicalized educational set-up and POV presentation. 
“The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic Radicalisation is a problem only in FATA, and that  madrassas are the only institutions serving as Jehad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except  strictly their own kind. The kind of mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation-state… “ :  Pervez Hoodbhoy, in Newsline,  January 2009
And yet, the very fact that such bold words can appear in the Media, from the pen of a Pakistani, holds out hope that perhaps, given the chance, the forces of positive change and peace may win out. While on the one hand, it serves as a warning to us not to relax, on the other hand, it underscores the need for patience and peace – not rhetoric and diatribe. A Pakistani contributor has gone so far as to state that India may have to absorb some more terrorist attacks before things stabilize – as Pakistan internally struggles to cope with the serious internal threats it faces to its own existence. The alternative, as the essay points out bluntly, does not bear contemplation. I agree. 
One of the most powerful and enlightening essays is the interview of a terrorist, with the police officer a muslim and the interviewer also a muslim. This is an eye-opener; read it to experience it. The book also covers the art, culture, music and related scenarios, with poignant lamentation at the loss of a once highly-regarded tradition as a form of music suffers under the new dispensation post-independence. The food habits and specialities, reminiscent of a time gone by; and the memories of partition not heard before – the good ones; as shared in another essay just add spice as well as dimension to the book, giving it a complete 360-degree approach. 
In conclusion, it can be gleaned from  the book that the assertion of some people  – Pakistan is not paranoid about India, and does not harbor envy   – is just hogwash. This is evident in the war-game story, wherein Indian and Pakistani retired generals played a war game; while Indians attacked the terror training camps, the Pakistani side attacked Infosys! Reason: symbol of India’s growth! This is also borne out by the views of a general of the ISI! At the same time, this book is one of the most powerful presentations of peace that I have ever read; as it brings you face to face with the internal contradictions within Pakistan, its multiple power centers and its serious self-created issues; as well as the inescapable fact that there are some within that country that desire development, growth, and most of all… peace. The learning is that we, the elder, more mature society and people, had best not react – for our own sakes, as well as that of the younger child of Mother India…
Can we ever be friends? I somehow doubt it. But can we co-exist? As to that, only time will tell… or, rather, only Pakistan and its future will tell. For the ball is firmly in Pakistan’s court; and is likely to remain there for quite a bit of time… the road is long and arduous, and the challenges huge, and varied.
Coming Book Reviews:
1.      Operation Red Lotus – (The Real Story Of The First War Of Independence) by Parag Tope
2.      Asian Juggernaut: The Rise Of China, India And Japan by Brahma Chellaney
3.      What India Should Know by V Lakshmikanthan / J Vasundhara Devi
4.      Kill List – Frederick Forsyth
5.      Bankerupt – Ravi Subramanian

Kashmir – The Genesis Of The Problem

Published May 6, 2013 by vishalvkale

Kashmir… the mere mention of the word is enough to draw strong emotions in almost all Indians. Kashmir… the mere mention of the word evokes, unfortunately, the sounds of gunfire, the ugly reality of terrorism, the incalculable loss of life and the heart-rending scenes of families crying over their dead. Kashmir… the mere mention of the word reminds one of Pakistan, and the attendant enmity that 2 nations have been condemned to. Kashmir… the mere mention of the word reminds us of 1948, 1965, 1971 and the most recent Kargil conflict in 1999. Kashmir… the great tragedy of Kashmir, which reminds the Indian of all these sad scenes – in place of the scenic location and lovely state it is supposed to be. Kashmir… the most enduring tragedy and result of Partition!


It has become fashionable – especially among the internet generation – to question India’s stance on Kashmir. The penchant of the younger lot to question this entire dispute is disturbing. Happily, there are few such instances – but reading of them on Quora has brought home the reality of how little we know about the dispute. I am not an expert on Kashmir – but I have read on Indian Independence quite extensively, and have learnt not  to question India’s stance. This post is an effort to try to put across the genesis of the problem – how it all started way back in 1947. 


This problem is further exacerbated by the total lack of material on this crisis. All material and books I have read – save one – have glossed over the details, and shortening it to Pakistan invades; Hari Singh accedes to India, First Indo Pak War, India goes to UN… and that is it. From this data, young Indians tend to make several inferences; that first of all, why should Kashmir go to India if it was a Muslim State? That India had no right etc etc. 


Let us examine this in some detail. First – Muslim State. In 1947, being a Muslim State itself was no guarantee of accession to Pakistan. Till the very end, NWFP was pro-India; Baluchistan was against Pakistan. In the Kashmir Valley, The Sheikh Abdullah led National Conference had to upper hand over the Muslim League led Muslim Conference. According to the British Resident of the time, WP Webb, Agha Shaukat Ali of the Muslim Conference had threatened Direct Action – but had failed. All attempts to stoke communal tensions failed in the state. Kashmir remained free form communal tensions all through – this is confirmed from reports of the British officers. Thus, there is every chance that a referendum would have worked to advantage!


Next, why should Kashmir go to India? For this, let me start with 2 passages which are self-explanatory:

1.      In India, in the absence of any homogeneity, a penetration in any direction can result in … separation of different units geographically as well as morally because there is no basic unity among the Shudras, Brahmins, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims who will follow their own different interests. At present, and for a long time to come, India is in the same position as she was centuries ago, exposed to disintegration in emergencies – Major General Akbar Khan, Pakistan Army, 14 November 1947

2.      Personally , when I recommended to the Government of India the acceptance of accession of the Maharaja of Kashmir, I had in mind one consideration and one consideration alone, viz., that the invasion of Kashmir by the raiders was a great threat to the integrity of India. Ever since the time of Mahmud Ghazni, that is to say, for nearly 8 centuries… India had been subjected to periodical invasions from the North-West… and within less than 10 weeks of the establishment of the new state of Pakistan, its very first act was to let loose a tribal invasion through the North-West. Srinagar today, Delhi tomorrow – VP Menon


Whenever one is trying to understand history, one should first attempt to understand the backdrop as it existed in those days. Unless you understand what atmosphere was prevalent in 1947, any conclusions you draw from the current scenario are bound to be erroneous. It is not my objective to teach the reader exactly what happened; this I cannot do in a blog post. This is the subject of an entire book! I just want to instill some basic questions in the readers’ mind, as well as explain the ground scenario as it existed in those days.


Every hand was drawn against India. The British and the Americans were concerned with a possible invasion by Russia, and wanted a sphere of influence in West India – including military bases. Independent India was crystal clear: we will not be a part of any such shenanigans. This was clear to the westerner right from the start, as the views of the leading  freedom fighters were well known. They were also deeply skeptical of the chances of the continued existence of India itself as a united entity for very long. The Pakistani attitude becomes clear from the statement above. It is also a fact that Jinnah had approached many, many other princes for accession. It is no secret that the Muslim League wanted a much larger Pakistan. It is on record – “you have given us a moth-eaten Pakistan”. 


India was a new nation; to people outside India – it was an experiment. The money was on the survival of Pakistan – not India. No one understood the cultural unity of India outside India in those days. These are not peripheral matters; these are central to our quest to understand the entire Kashmir imbroglio. As can be seen by VP Menon’s statement – this was seen as an existential threat by Indians. This visceral and primeval fear cannot be ignored; this was central to the problem. What we need to question is, was this fear real? Or was it imagined? Keep in mind that there were abundant statements by enemies that India will break up, that we can absorb break-away parts, that Junagarh, Bhopal etc were approached by Jinnah and Pakistan. Also remember this was just 2 years after a massive war. Most critically, while we may think the fear was imagined – these fears were real to the Government of India in those days. This is brought out very clearly in VP Menon’s words from those days. 


Next, independent states was not an option; allowing one state to go independent would open a Pandora’s box – as unleash a string of other such demands. That is why there were only 2 options in front of the princely states – India and Pakistan. Also, Attlee’s demand that India send troops to defend Kashmir without accepting accession does not hold water; it in fact strengthens the fears outlined above. Also, with Kashmir still independent, the danger given above remained. Not only that, it would have left Pakistan with a free hand to have another go. Hence, there was no option but to have Kashmir accede to India in order that troops could be sent in. 


And thus it is that we come to the matter of the referendum… but that is another story. The referendum was first offered by Mountbatten in Lahore – not Nehru. Jinnah was reluctant to hold a referendum – and kept referring to the accession as a fraud. That it was not a fraud had been accepted by every nation in those days. Pakistan knew very well indeed that a referendum would likely go India’s way; at the very least, they were not certain of winning. The terms were specific- Pakistan had to withdraw its troops and irregulars. This they have not done till date; hence the question of UN intervention does not arise. As a mater of fact, as shown in the below paragraph from the book, the entire war was almost stage-managed; the Pakistanis and the British together had reached a state when they had no intention of withdrawing. 


“Bucher admitted to Gracey, the Pakistan C-in-C, that he had no control over Cariappa but hit upon an intriguing scheme to now stop the advance of his own army. Graffety Smith, British high commissioner in Karachi, reported to London the arrangements reached privately between the commander-in-chiefs of the 2 dominions. General Bucher indicated to General Gracey that he had no wish to pursue an offensive into what is effectively Azad-Kashmir controlled territory i.e. to Mirpur and Poonch sector… the object of these arrangements is to reach a situation in which each side will remain in undisputed military occupation of what are roughly their present positions… An essential part of the process… is that 3 battalions of the Pakistan Army should be deployed opposite the Indian forces at Jhangar, in or around Poonch and at Uri…” India and Pakistan are fighting a war… and the head of the Indian army is actually advising the head of the Pakistan army on what to do…. 

The problem of Kashmir is not a new one; it is 66 years old. It has to be understood in the context in which it arose. Rather than blame India, Young Indians should rather try and understand the reality as it happened. This is a complex and involved scenario; you have to look at it in the backdrop of the freedom struggle, the matter of the princely states, partition as well as the atmosphere that was prevalent in those days. There are many layers to this matter; the role of the British, for one. I have just peeled off one or two layers… In conclusion, have some pride in our handling of this matter – which, considering the overall constraints we operated under, is truly commendable! Jai Hind!

Reference: The Shadow Of The Great Game-  Narendra Singh Sarila

Book Review: Shadow Of The Great Game – The Untold Story Of India’s Partition

Published January 9, 2013 by vishalvkale

“Bucher admitted to Gracey, the Pakistan C-in-C, that he had no control over Cariappa but hit upon an intriguing scheme to now stop the advance of his own army. Graffety Smith, British high commissioner in Karachi, reported to London the arrangements reached privately between the commander-in-chiefs of the 2 dominions. General Bucher indicated to General Gracey that he had no wish to pursue an offensive into what is effectively Azad-Kashmir controlled territory i.e. to Mirpur and Poonch sector… the object of these arrangements is to reach a situation in which each side will remain in undisputed military occupation of what are roughly their present positions… An essential part of the process… is that 3 battalions of the Pakistan Army should be deployed opposite the Indian forces at Jhangar, in or around Poonch and at Uri…”

This was a tell-tale interlude between the Pakistani Army chief and Indian Army chief in 1947-48. A paragraph that strips naked the United Kingdom, exposes fully and finally how it was playing a dangerous double game… and shatters all pre-conceived notions about parition!
In choosing an opening for this review, I had to choose a powerful, hard hitting opening – one that would grasp the Indian reader, and pull him into wanting to read the book. I could find no better paragraph than the above – a paragraph that exposes the double game that was being played by the British. India and Pakistan are fighting a war… and the head of the Indian army is actually advising the head of the Pakistan army on what to do…. 
Written by Narendra Singh Sarila
The author was an ADC to Mr Mountbatten in 1947-48. That is itself lends considerable authority to the tome. Further, the book has been extensively researched in the Oriental and Indian Collection of the British Library, Hartley Library Southampton, Public Records Office Kew, Archives Of The State Department of the USA, National Archives Washington, Library Of The US Congress… 
At the end of the book, you are not left with a feeling of hopelessness, or anger at the UK; you have, in its place, a tremendous pride in the achievement of a modern India, as you realise that India was achieved despite all odds, in an environment where every single hand, every single gun was drawn against us… our India is an achievement that stands all by its lonesome as a success of human spirit, decency and indomitable courage against all odds by the greatest set of leaders that any nation has ever had. The book also serves as a warning at our naivete in world affairs, and how we were taken for a royal ride.

The book systematically destroys all notions anyone may have had about partition. It begins with a thunderclap: “Muslim Areas should be seperated from Hindu India, and run by Muslims in collaboration with Great Britain- Jinnah to Linlithgow, 4 Sept 1939“! “He [Jinnah] represents a minority, and a minority can only hold its own with our assistance Linthgow to the Secretary of State” The issue was the congress insistence on self rule immediately after the war as a pre-condition for supporting the British war effort – something the Brits were in no mood of doing. And this time, the congress were not in a mood to relent.
{It has been said that it was a mistake; I beg to differ. Pankaj Mishra – From The Ruins Of Empire (my next book review) covers this phase well: apparently, the Brits had offered some similar assurances to all its colonies in the First World War, and later reneged. So, congress was absolutey right in doing what it did…}
The book traces a full-scale Anglo-Muslim league alliance with the single objective of ensuring a British and Allied presence in the event of a Russian advance. All the players in the Allies were insistent on retaining some form of control over some part of North-Western India to combat the Communist threat. This was the backdrop against which Jinnah’s offer of cooperation on 4th September 1939 began to make tremendous sense; thereafter every British move was solidly in favour of Jinnah and Partition…
The book then goes on to dwell on the increasing pressure by the United States on The UK to grant  India Independence. On this, the Brits were in a bad spot: until they happened upon Jinnah. They assiduously built up Jinnah, and created the impression in the eyes of the World that Hindus and Muslims were not capable of staying together, that it was the British that were keeping India from chaos. The deft way the Brits handled this and successfully turned over the Americans to their point of view reads like a lesson in ugly diplomacy and espionage
The book proves in no uncertain terms that the Brits were aware of the August 1946  riots and deliberately chose to do nothing. The Brits were informed by their own people of the massacre that would undoubtedly take place in Punjab in 1947 if they continued on their plans. This information and warnings were studiously ignored. It proves how each and every attempt by the Congress to hold onto an United India were stymied by the Brits, of how genuine but naive Congress attempts were checkmated effectively by the Brits. Playing both sides of the coin: the Brits achieved what they had set out to from the start: maintain control of North-West India. There was even a plan to hold onto Baluchistan in case India remained undivided. It showcases how Jinnah and company used the communist card and the availability of Pakistan as a base for Allied military operations in future as carrot to keep British and US interests. This is told in the backdrop of an idealist but correct Congress which was clear that India would become a republic, and would never allow foreign forces on its soil ever again…
It showcases the May 1945 plan which envisaged Pakistan’s role alongwith Iran, Iraq and Turkey, as a foil for operations in the Middle East and against Communism. This became a reality in the early 50s – but was visualised by the Brits in May 1945 in a secret strategy paper. Please remember that publicly, the Brits were trying to maintain Indian unity in 1945! The only conclusion I found myself at odds with was the role of Mountbatten… 
Mountbatten has been credited, alongwith Patel, for the unification of India. Yes, Mr Mountbatten did support Patel (despite playing a reprehensible double cross on Kashmir); but this was only as part of a larger strategy planned out in England. The plan was the only way: the Brits offered to drop their insistence of the princes having the option of independence if congress accepted partition… This is superbly proven in the book; and leaves no doubt. 
The book does all this and much, much more… it looks at the entire Kashmir dispute, and brutally exposes how the Indians were outmanoeuvred by the Allies. NWFP and how a totally Indian area went to Pakistan is also looked at.  Nehru did not call in the UN, this was not what had happened. Read the book to find exactly what happened, and just how US and UK pressurised the newly free Indian Government. The “fair” allies were even planning to let in Pakistani troops into Kashmir as impartial observers (!!!!!) – plan which was thankfully shot down by Nehru. The plan of the Indians was to continue Military ops; but that did not happen…  It also raises the very pertinent observation of Sardar Patel that Kashmir is vital simply because each successful invasion of India was happened through Kashmir..  
A book that strips the Brits naked- proving that they went from this land as they came – naked. They came as a destitute and naked beggar, and went as a rich but equally naked brute… It also serves a warning to India – that we need to be more conscious and more worldly wise. Read it to find how the Brits actually caused partition, as well as created the Kashmir dispute… all for the Great Game against Communist Russia
In closing, I can only reiterate my earlier view: India has always been alone; a lone wolf in the world. Yes, this has been due to our principled stance, and unique heritage; but it has also been due to our naivete. But that does not take away the fact that we got India against all odds, and in a world where every hand is drawn against us. Basis current developments, you can see that this state of affairs continues in the blind support to Pakistan despite Indian proofs of how Pakistan is using them. Dont expect this to stop anytime soon; our market size apart – we have nothing to offer the allies. Pakistan does… leaving us, as always, alone.. all alone… a matter of some pride!