Mr. Powell wants to re-write history. His assertion that the J&K issue is an "international" issue smacks of some sinister design. Is the USA trying to fish in the troubled waters of Indo-Pak relations? Is Powel trying to give further credibility to the utterly discredited regime of Musharraf? If so, for what end?
It is now certain that the US priorities have shifted to West Asia where it is trying to combat another anti-America warlord Saddam Hussain. It is also clear that the US wants to enlist the support of as many Muslim nations as possible in its upcoming fight against Saddam so as to give an impression that their fight is not against Islam but primarily against certain tyrants only.
Also, Pakistan, with an acquiescent leader like Musharraf, is a prize catch for America. It will serve America’s political, war and economic interests well to have control over the region. American oil lobby, of which the American president George Bush is a loyal servant, can now complete its dream project of the pipe line through Afghanistan and Pakistan from Central Asian oil rich countries. Political and war interests are too well known to repeat here.
Mr. Powell’s statements have to be looked at from this perspective. This reversal from their previous declared position that the dispute is bilateral is essentially aimed at placating Musharraf. Mr. Powell’s fondness for Musharraf is nothing new. He is the one man in the entire American administration who has displayed unambiguous support and adulation for the Pakistani dictator from the beginning.
J&K ceased to be an international issue the day Shimla Agreement was signed in 1972. This position was accepted by the UN as well. Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, also concurred with this position when he admitted that the issue should be resolved bilaterally under the Shimla Agreement. Mr. Bush’s administration has time and again taken this position publicly. Even Mr. Jack Straw, the British Secretary of State, in his statement in the British Parliament on 10 June 2002 declared emphatically, "The dispute between India and Pakistan is at root a bilateral matter which can only be resolved by direct dialogue between the parties."
By making a U-turn now, the US administration is adding fuel to the fire that is burning South Asia for quite some time.
It may be pertinent here to remind the world about the 1994 unanimous resolution of the Parliament of India in which it was made clear that the only outstanding issue between India and Pakistan that needs discussion is the status of the Pak occupied Kashmir. The Parliament had, with one voice, rejected the idea that India needs to entertain dialogue with Pakistan over J&K.
The accession of Jammu & Kashmir State to Indian Union is total and unconditional. The Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir was in no way different from the ones executed by over 535 other Indian States. "It was unconditional, voluntary and absolute", opines noted jurist and former Chief Justice of India Justice J.S. Anand.
It was Mr. Mountbatten who tried to raise the issue of ‘wishes of the people’ in his letters subsequent to the accession. The Maharaja never accepted Mountbatten’s view. "The finality, which is statutory, cannot be made contingent on conditions imposed outside the powers of the statute. Any rider which militates against the finality is clearly ultra vires and has to be rejected", notes Meher Chand Mahajan, the then Prime Minister under the Maharaja.
In fact it was Mir Liyaqat Ali Khan, the then premier of Pakistan who called the Accession ‘a fraud’. Although Mr. Nehru took the dispute to the UN in 1949, the core issue at that time was not the Accession but the Pakistani invasion and illegal control of some parts of the State. The 1994 resolution of the Indian Parliament had reiterated that position.
By terming the J&K issue ‘international’ Mr. Powel is toeing the line taken by successive Pak leaders starting from Mir Liyaqat Ali Khan up to Musharraf. As far as India is concerned, J&K is an integral part of India. Section 3 of the J&K Constitution, which was adopted unanimously by the State’s Constituent Assembly in 1956, clearly states this.
By calling the J&K issue international, Mr. Powel is questioning the validity of the very fundamental issue of Accession of the State to Indian Union.
In fact students of American history would remember the way Americans had annexed the State of Texas in 1845. Texas, along with Mexico, was a part of the Spanish empire from which they secured independence in 1844. Texas became an integral part of the new State of Mexico. But Texas revolted against Mexico and established its Independence. The US and many European powers immediately recognized the new State of Texas.
Peeved Mexicans tried to regain control over Texas through incursions. The Government of Texas then urged the US to annex it in the US and protect from Mexico, which the US did promptly by passing a joint resolution in American Congress in March 1945. Subsequently the US army was sent to push back the Mexican incursions.
When Mexico protested against the violation of the US of its sovereignty, the reply given by the US was: " The Government of United States did not consider this joint resolution as a violation of any of the rights of Mexico, or that it offered any just cause or offense to its Government; that the Republic of Texas as an independent power, owing no allegiance to Mexico, and constituting no part of her territory or rightful sovereignty and jurisdiction."
Why doesn't Mr. Powell apply the same yardstick to J&K? Is Texas issue international? Can there be a dialogue with Mexico over that? Then why over J&K with Pakistan?
While American annexation of Texas can still have certain question marks over its legality and finality, there was no such thing at all in the accession of J&K. In Mission with Mountbatten, Allen Campbell-Johnson writes: "Indeed, the State’s Ministry, under Patel’s direction, went out of its way to take no action which could be interpreted as forcing Kashmir’s hand and to give assurances that accession to Pakistan would not be taken amiss by India".
It is time India made it clear to the world powers that as far as J&K is concerned it is not even a bilateral issue as there is nothing to discuss about it with any other country, least of all with Pakistan.
(The writer is Joint Spokesman of the RSS)