PAKISTAN’S National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz has said that there is no room for improvement in relations between India and Pakistan so long as Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India. This is the most undemocratic and anti-people remark any person could have made. That it comes from a top Pakistan official is all the more disappointing and deplorable. Modi is a duly elected Prime Minister and he and his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) were returned to power in an open, fair election. Dissent is a part of democracy but it does not mean that a dissenter should be given the No. 1 position. I do not like the ideology of Modi and his party but he is the Prime Minister of India and I, as a citizen of the country, accept him in that position.
Sartaj is only shutting his eyes to the facts. His opinion does not count in the face of reality: the return of BJP and Narendra Modi at the polls. The cat was out of the bag when the National Assembly, which he was addressing, passed a unanimous resolution on the “atrocities” in Kashmir. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also drew a blank at the UN where he tried to raise the issue. Seventy years have gone by and there is no normalization of relations between the two countries because of Pakistan’s insistence on raising the Kashmir issue at different world forums. It was agreed between Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi at Shimla in 1970 that Kashmir was a bilateral issue and it has to be sorted out by the two, without any interference of a third party.
Since the Kashmir problem had remained unresolved I met Lord Radcliffe during a visit to London to know his view point. He readily agreed to meet me but on the condition that I would not discuss the line which he had drawn between India and Pakistan at the time of partition. I assured him that I was not renewing the issue because I had no ulterior motive. But I just wanted to understand the rationale behind the line delineated. Lord Radcliffe lived at a flat on the Oxford Street, London. When he opened the door I thought that he couldn’t be Redcliffe because I had imagined that there would be fuss in meeting the Lord. On the contrary, when I went to his flat he asked me if I would have a cup of tea. When I said yes, he himself went to the kitchen and prepared the tea.
I knew that Lord Radcliffe had refused to collect his fee of Rs. 40,000 which Lord Mountbatten had offered him when he was approached to demarcate the border between India and Pakistan. As a sensitive man that he was, Lord Radcliffe thought that the blood of one million people who took upon themselves to migrate from one country to other was on his conscience. That is reason why he refused to the collect the fee. He said he was surprised that two countries had gone to war on Kashmir which he considered an insignificant territory. He blamed Lord Mountbatten for having given a tehsil in Gurdaspur to connect India with Kashmir. Without it, there would have been no link of India with Kashmir.
There was yet another evidence of Lord Mountbatten’s antics when a letter from him was retrieved from the debris of a plane crash in the northern part of Pakistan. The letter was being carried by his personal aide who was travelling in the plane. Pakistan has quoted this incident as a evidence of nefarious design by Lord Mountbatten who was nourishing the grievance against Pakistan for not making him the joint Governor General. I was amazed by the disclosures that Lord Radcliffe made when he said that while drawing the line he had given Lahore to India. But when he realized that Pakistan would not have an important place to locate its capital, he had allotted it to Pakistan.
Pakistan has itself to blame for the conditions prevailing in Kashmir. When the British quit, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir announced his independence. Pakistan sent its regular troops because it did not accept the Maharaja’s decision. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not accept the Maharaja’s accession until he made Sheikh Abdullah, the popular Kashmiri leader, in prison at the time, as Prime Minister of the state. There was so much delay in Nehru giving his nod to the accession that the Pakistani troops reached the outskirts of Srinagar airport. The Indian forces were flown and they reached at the nick of time to secure the airport. Captain Rai was the first casualty. Had the Pakistani forces not wasted time in looting and raping at Baramulla, they would have had the control of the airport. If they done so, the entire story would have been different.
Sartaj Aiziz, I think, it is wrong to pick on Modi because when he stopped at Islamabad, Kashmir’s accession was history. Modi has had no hand in it. He started with all the goodwill and visited Islamabad to participate in the birthday celebrations of Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter. Islam, that they made the state religion. Since Modi is considered an exponent of Hindutva—he was an RSS pracharak—he is blamed for all the wrong that had happened to the Muslims in India after partition.
Posterity will confirm that the border accepted on the basis of religion is a permanent wrong done to people on both the countries. They remain segregated because one is Hindu and the other is Muslim. I hope that the dream of Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah comes true. He said that the two countries would live like America and Canada. They would, Jinnah said, cease to be Hindus and Muslims, not in the religious sense but otherwise, and stop mixing religion with the state.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.