By Karmanye Thadani
An Australian historian and strategic analyst, Christopher Snedden, wrote a book, titled Kashmir: The Unwritten History, which was published earlier this year. The book generated much excitement in circles that have a keen interest in the Kashmir issue, for Snedden claimed that he had, in his book, challenged the narrative of the Kashmir issue as it has been known till date, and that rather than the Pashtun tribal raid from Pakistan, an armed rebellion by pro-Pakistan Muslims of the Poonch district of Jammu marked the beginning of the conflict, and that it is therefore surprising that Pakistan should accept the blame for starting the issue by accepting that its own citizens raided Kashmir. He has also claimed that Nehru concealed the facts about the Poonch rebellion for it would have strengthened Pakistan’s case. This was, time and again, portrayed as the selling point of his book, and heated debates on this erupted in Facebook groups discussing Kashmir (without people having read the book), with Kashmiri separatists using Snedden’s argument to establish their case of India treating Jammu and Kashmir as one of its own provinces not being legitimate, though most of them do not desire their province joining Pakistan either and would prefer an independent country, which would also include not only Kashmir but even Jammu and Ladakh, much against the wishes of most people in these regions, and the creation of such an independent country would also be much against the wishes of some Sunnis and most non-Sunnis even in, or displaced by the militancy from, Kashmir.
A Kashmiri newspaper Greater Kashmir had a column by one excited Z.G. Muhammad, claiming the following-
“Manufactured narratives do not stand test of the time. Like a soap bubble these burst once put to the litmus test of history. Christopher Snedden, an Australian politico-strategic analyst, author and academic in South Asian studies in his recently released book, ‘Kashmir: the Unwritten History’ has dismantled much orchestrated ‘dominant discourse’ about the Kashmir ‘dispute’.”
Likewise, left-liberals in India, like their counterparts in other parts of the world who rush to defend or provide an academic apologia for anything seen as Islamist (the words ‘Islamic’ and ‘Islamist’ are not interchangeable, just like ‘Jewish’ and ‘Zionist’ or ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindutvavadi’ are not), rushed to defend this book, and we had a column in the left-liberal magazine Frontline to this effect. Indian strategic analysts too commented on it, like Sushant Sareen, and he seems to be reading too much into certain things, and a counter to the subtle dig Sareen has taken at William Dalrymple, without naming the latter, has been presented by me in this piece of mine; that said, I have the highest regard for Sareen, him being a scholar of a high stature, and have found his writings on Balochistan to be very insightful) and BG Verghese (his piece, which is more balanced, can be seen here).
In this piece, my focus is not to review Snedden’s book for its literary quality, minor factual errors (like mentioning Pakistan’s Independence Day as 15th August at one place or mentioning that the Indian Independence Act dealt with standstill agreements) or significant omissions made in tracing the history of the Kashmir issue [as Sareen rightly points out – “he glosses over the ugly reality of the Kashmir problem and doesn’t acknowledge that the entire issue started as an unvarnished communal problem (Muslim majoritarianism) which in the 1990s took on hues of communalism varnished by ethnic nationalism and later became part of the international jihadist narrative”], or look for the reasons for the same in terms of the flaws in his research (being based almost entirely on Pakistani sources). My focus here is to examine his research and analysis in the light of how it shapes the discourse on the Kashmir issue.
At the very outset, his selling point of the Poonch rebellion may be examined. As a historian, Snedden has done a remarkable job of bringing to fore a much forgotten chapter of South Asian history, especially considering that the rebels had tried to establish a pro-Pakistan parallel government (which Pakistan did not recognize!). But, how does it influence how we should view the Kashmir issue? It does go to show that the Dogra king was unpopular among his subjects, but that is something already acknowledged by Indians and Pakistanis alike. From the Indian point of view, Jawaharlal Nehru’s trips to Kashmir in which he peacefully took on the monarchy and even faced arrest in the princely state are well-known. But when he assumed the role of India’s prime minister, Nehru did not engage in such adventures and did not interfere, at least blatantly, in the internal affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, which would amount to disrespecting sovereignty.
It may have very well been legitimate for the pro-Pakistan Muslims of Poonch to rise in armed revolt against their king, just as it may have been legitimate for the pro-India Shaikh Abdullah to lead peaceful movements against the monarchy in the valley (and Shaikh Abdullah’s mass struggle has a history predating the Poonch rebellion in 1947), but how do these become the starting point of what we conventionally understand as the “Kashmir issue” involving India, Pakistan and the people of the (now erstwhile) princely state? And if the Poonch rebellion is indeed taken as the starting point, it can only be on two grounds-the first being that these rebels wanted accession to Pakistan [in Snedden’s words-“The only way the Maharaja could possibly appease Poonch Muslims would be to accede to Pakistan; they would not have settled for anything less.” (page 32)] and the second being that there were elements in Pakistan that supported the rebellion. To quote from Snedden’s interview given to Tehelka correspondent Baba Umar (who is a Kashmiri separatist and happens to be an acquaintance of mine)-“there was some degree of support from the Pakistan government”.
Let us examine both points one by one. As regards Poonch Muslims wanting accession to Pakistan, this hardly goes very far in suggesting that the majority of the populace in the whole of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir favoured accession to Pakistan. On the contrary, Snedden himself points out that the populace of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Muslim majority, was divided in its leanings towards India, Pakistan and independence. Produced below are some passages from his book highlighting this fact (some of them are lengthy but would make an interesting read)-
“J&K was politically disunited by forces that had strong- and differing- post-British desires for the princely state’s status.” (page 27)
“Despite J&K’s inherent disunity, Hari Singh’s accession would have been much simpler had Muslims in J&K been united in their desire for the state’s future status. Indeed, Muslim disunity is one of the most significant explanations of why the so-called Kashmir dispute began – and continues.” (page 35)
“…the core of the problem in J&K was its people. They were ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse, diffuse and different; they lacked religious and political unity; they were divided in their aspirations for J&K’s future international status.” (pages 35, 36)
“An important trait evident among Kashmiris partially explains why Kashmiri Muslims were ambivalent about Pakistan in 1947. Called ‘Kashmiriness’ or ‘Kashmiriyat’, a newer term with Perso-Arabic roots, this trait was a fundamental and apparently long-held part of Kashmiri identity and culture. Kashmiriness emphasises ‘the acceptance and tolerance of all religions among Kashmiris’. It is ‘manifested in the solidarity of different faiths and ethnic groups in the state’. The concept was apparently epitomized by the patron saint of Kashmir, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, a Muslim born in 1375 of a Hindu convert to Islam. Popularly known as Nund Rishi, he repeatedly poses a question in a poem; ‘How can members of the same family jeer at one another?’ The answer is the essence of Kashmiriness; Kashmiris, whoever they are and whatever their religious backgrounds and practices, are all members of one indivisible Kashmir Valley ‘family’. It is a recipe – or even a requirement – for tolerance.
One significant consequence of Kashmiriness was that, compared with Hindus and Muslims in Jammu or northern India, Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) had relatively few social divisions or antagonisms. While they nevertheless had disputes and rivalries, the two groups generally were more liberal and more tolerant and, in many cases, had amicable, even close relations. This harmony arose because both shared the same ethnicity, language and geographical region and the same recent history under repressive rulers comprising Muslim Afghans (Durranis), Punjabi Sikhs (Ranjit Singh’s empire) and Jammu Hindus (Dogras), although the latter was less repressive for Pandits. It was important that Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits also enjoyed a similar culture, including revering each other’s religious figures and festivals, eating halal mutton instead of beef or pork (even though Pandits were of the Brahmin or priestly caste that elsewhere usually practised vegetarianism), and not being particular about ‘defilement or pollution by touch’. As a leading Pandit put it, ‘Racially, culturally and linguistically the Hindus and Muslims living in Kashmir [were] practically one’. That said, Kashmiri Pandits also enjoyed greater influence and economic wellbeing than Kashmiri Muslims. This was due to the Pandits’ position as Hindu subjects of a Hindu ruler, from which flowed benefits such as being landowners and their numerically large involvement as state employees. Nevertheless, relations between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits generally were far more amicable than the relations between Hindu and Muslims in Jammu Province.
One significant result of the concept of Kashmiriness was that Kashmiris may have been naturally attracted to secular thinking. This was partly because they were apparently nor afflicted by the ‘majority-minority complex’ that was evident among Muslims in other parts of the subcontinent, and partly because they were ‘a deeply religious people who abhor[red] politically exploitation of their faith. Hence, the pro-Pakistan stance of the major pro-Pakistan party in J&K, the Muslim Conference, and its Pakistan ally the Muslim League was not automatically popular with Kashmiri Muslims. To join Pakistan simply because it would be a Muslim homeland was an insufficient reason.” (pages 18-20)
“A further factor that caused Kashmiris to be ambivalent about Pakistan was the significant role played in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah and the political party that he dominated, the National Conference. Abdullah’s role in J&K is very important. For over fifty years (1931-82), he was Muslim Kashmiris’ most popular politician, whether in power or denied it. (Abdullah was jailed for long periods by the Maharaja, by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, his successor as Prime Minister in J&K, and by the Indian Government). According to his autobiography, Abdullah’s political career began as early as 1926, when he joined the ‘relentless struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed’ and, desiring the become the people’s savior, began to oppose the Maharaja’s regime and its practices on an individual basis. He disliked a number of the Maharaja’s practices, including discrimination on religious grounds, exploitation of the people through taxation, corruption, the inequitable land system, and the people’s lack of political freedom. Abdullah sprang to prominence in 1931 during the major anti-Maharaja agitation in Srinagar, and event of ‘seminal importance’ that temporarily – but severely – challenged Hari Singh’s rule. Indeed, it was due to Abdullah’s bold part in this uprising that he became known as the Lion of Kashmir. A further consequence of this major uprising was that, as a result of the Glancy Commission formed I order to investigate the uprising’s causes, the Maharaja allowed the formation of the first political party in J&K. In October 1932, the All J&K Muslim Conference was formed in order to safeguard Muslim interest in J&K. Abdullah, a Muslim, later remained this party the All J&K National Conference. Espousing secularism, it would later play a significant role in delivering a large part of J&K to India and in ending the Maharaja’s rule.
Because Sheikh Abdullah had a strong aversion to autocracy, he regarded the concept of Pakistan negatively. Abdullah disliked the Maharaja absolutism. The United States’ Consul in Lahore agreed: saying, ‘according to all disinterested informants [the Maharaja] has never displayed the slightest interest in the welfare of the people over whom he has maintained an autocratic rule. For Sheikh Abdullah, both Jinnah and the Islamic Pakistan that the autocratic Muslim League leader envisaged establishing were also unappealing. The influential Kashmiri leader considered that Pakistan was the result of an emotional Muslim reaction of Hindu communalism and ‘an escapist device’. Abdullah and his colleagues, many of whom were Muslims, also received (correctly) that Pakistan would be dominated by feudal elements, as well as being a society in which Kashmiris and their reform agenda would have little power: ‘Chains of slavery will keep us in their continuous strangehold. Conversely, Abdullah considered that secular India would be different. I would have people and parties, including India’s major party, the Indian National Congress, whose views largely coincided with Abdullah and his part’s. India also representated an option that would accept the National Conference’s enlightened and progressive ideas’. It embraced more democracy that either Pakistan or the Jinnah-dominated Muslim League, ‘whose leader had a very high opinion of himself’.” (page 21)
Speaking of the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference formed in 1941, Snedden says-
“…the Muslim Conference faced a major challenge in the numerically and politically important Kashmir Valley; it lacked a charismatic Kashmiri-speaking politician who could rival Sheikh Abdullah and his coterie of Kashmiri colleagues. The Muslim Conference’s stance also was unpopular elsewhere, especially among the non-Muslim majority in eastern Jammu, as its killings of Muslims were clearly showing.” (page 24)
“Although Jinnah (falsely) believed that J&K would fall into Pakistan’s ‘lap like a ripe fruit’ once the Maharaja realized his and the people’s interests and acceded to Pakistan, and although he was prepared to allow the Maharaja’s ‘autocratic government’ to continue, support for independence enabled pro-Pakistan forces to woo the decision maker rather than the people. This approach was pragmatic. However, it also made the Muslim Conference appear keen to gain the Maharaja’s support at any cost. And although this tactic adhered to Jinnah’s statement in July 1947 that princely rulers were free to join Pakistan, India or remain independent, many Muslim Conference members wanted their party’s support for independence reversed. Also, by allowing the ruler to decide the issue, the Muslim Conference enabled its National Conference rival to advance the populist – and eminently mire ‘sellable’ – view that the people should be given self-government so that, ‘armed with authority and responsibility, [they] could decide for themselves where their interests lay’. Apart from advancing its own popularity, the National Conference’s stance also served to reveal the Muslim Conference as simply an appendage or surrogate of the Muslim League – as it was.
The Muslim Conference’s pragmatic approach towards the Maharaja built on a previous stance Jinnah instigated during the National Conference’s ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign that started on 20 May 1946 with the aim of ridding J&K of Dogra rule. This campaign was significant between the positions of Jinnah and Nehru on J&K. Jinnah opposed Quit Kashmir as a movement ‘engineered by some malcontents’. This stance, coupled with his lace of criticism of J&K’s unpopular ruler, particularly when compared with criticisms made by Nehru and the Indian National Congress, made Jinnah appear pro-Maharaja. This lost the Muslim League leader support among Kashmiri Muslims, especially among the ‘malcontents’, most of whom were National Conference members. Indeed, one such National Conference member, Mir Qasim (who later became the Chief Minister of Indian J&K), believed that Jinnah’s unpopular and insensitive attitude ‘killed the chances of Kashmir going to Pakistan’. The Muslim Conference lost credibility because it did not initially oppose the Maharaja when Quit Kashmir commenced in May 1946 – a policy Jinnah ordered because he believed that the party would do better working through constitutional channels.” (page 26)
“…the Muslim Conference appeared to be steadily lose support, certainly in the Kashmir Valley, owing to poor leadership and increased factionalism; conversely, support for the National Conference increased because it was united and had strong leadership.” (page 27)
I may add to this that Jinnah, in his visit to Kashmir in 1941, received much hostility from sections of Kashmiri Muslims and conceded that he did not get unanimous support. To add to that, when he sent an envoy to Kashmir in 1943 to assess whether Kashmiris would be willing to join Pakistan, his envoy gave him a response, which, to use the language of acclaimed historian Alex von Tunzelmann, was “disheartening” (The Indian Summer, p. 284).
It may be added that Shaikh Abdullah continued to be popular with Kashmiri Muslims after his having taken a stand in favour of India and after the Dogra monarchy was displaced, Abdullah ensured that land reforms were carried out by abolishing landlordism anmd giving peasants ownership over land, which won him tremendous affection from the people of the valley. Pakistan had retained the feudal system of landlordism, as it still has, and many Kashmiri Muslims realized that this was possible owing to Kashmir being a part of India rather than Pakistan. To quote the noted scholar Michael Brecher from his book The Struggle for Kashmir-
“The vast majority of Kashmiris have benefited from these reforms and many of those interviewed by the author expressed the feat that in Pakistan, where no comparable land reforms have taken place, the land recently given to them might be returned to the landlords or, in any event, that further implementation of the ‘New Kashmir’ programme will be impossible.” (cited in the 2002 paperback edition of MJ Akbar’s book Kashmir – Beyond the Vale on page 139)
Abdullah had clearly stated in the context of Pakistan-
“The most powerful argument which can be advanced in her favour is that Pakistan is a Muslim State, and, a big majority of our people being Muslims the State must accede to Pakistan. This claim of being a Muslim State is of course only a camouflage. It is a screen to dupe the common man, so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal state in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power…” (cited in the 2002 paperback edition of MJ Akbar’s book Kashmir – Beyond the Vale on page 139)
Even today, there are Kashmiri Muslims, including those who want their region to be an independent country, who acknowledge that back then, Abdullah had made the right decision by opting for India. As one such person has articulated-
“The first question that comes to mind is would the Pakistani establishment quash the Feudal or Zamindari systems in Kashmir handing the land over to the tillers?, Do keep in mind that even today Pakistan is a feudal society with most of the land in the hands of the Punjabi Chaudhrys. I mean all that the Kashmiri Hindus and Dogra land owners had to do was convert to Islam and just like the Punjabi Chaudhrys of Pakistan continue with the feudal system.”
He further says-
“Now picture yourself as a common Kashmiri filling the chillum of a Punjabi Pakistani Chaudhry or that of a Kashmiri Hindu/Dogra Feudal lord with tobacco and ask yourself this question………….how smart was Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah?”
And by the way, Islam as a religion emphasizes socioeconomic egalitarianism!
So, even if the Muslims of Poonch were united in the demand for the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan, the people (even Muslims) of the entire princely state were not, and indeed, it has been no one’s case that there wasn’t a pro-Pakistan section among the people of the erstwhile princely state, but Snedden himself concedes that it cannot be said with certainty as to what the aspirations of the majority of the populace were. Hence, Pakistan’s case for claiming Jammu and Kashmir solely on the basis of its Muslim majority falls flat [even Snedden says in his book – “despite the fact that J&K had a Muslim-majority population, the political inclinations of the people of J&K were far more complex and uncertain” (page 10) and “neither India nor Pakistan was guaranteed majority popular support” (page 12), and indeed, nor was it clear that those desiring an independent country constituted the majority], as opposed to India’s case for a majority of people in the princely states of Hyderabad and Junagadh desiring to join India, which was proved by subsequent plebiscites. The hurdle in the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir came not from India, which had already promised the Kashmiris a plebiscite, but Pakistan, which, in violation of the 1948 UN resolution, refused to withdraw its troops from the part of the erstwhile princely state it had occupied in the 1947-48 war following the Pashtun tribal raid, which, as per the resolution, was a precursor to the plebiscite. Nehru had, in fact, gone on record even later to say that he was willing to follow the UN resolution (i.e. conduct the plebiscite) in the whole of the erstwhile princely state if Pakistan complied with the precondition of withdrawing its troops, as can be seen from this video (watch 1:58 onwards).
Also, when Shaikh Abdullah had later started vacillating and Nehru had him imprisoned, Nehru did, on the other hand, again offer Pakistan a plebiscite! To be quote the eminent writer MJ Akbar on this point, from his highly acclaimed book Kashmir – Behind the Vale (2002 paperback edition)-
“Within a fortnight of arresting Abdullah for asking too much of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru completely reversed India’s position and offered Pakistan a plebiscite!
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, now Mohammad Ali, came to Delhi on an official visit. In the talks Nehru suggested that after the two Prime Ministers had finalized the preliminary issues, a plebiscite administrator could be named by April 1954. He even told Mohammad Ali that voting could be done in the whole state rather than separate Hindu & Muslim regions, and if this meant the loss of the whole Valley, he was prepared for it! The offer was confirmed in a letter to Mohammad Ali on 3 September.” (page 154)
“The only condition Nehru placed was that the American UN nominee Admiral Nimitz be replaced ad Plebiscite Administrator by someone form a smaller country. Deeply suspicious of the US, he did not want this superpower’s hand in the plebiscite.” (page 154)
“If there were any doubts about Nehru’s sincerity in those years about the plebiscite commitment, then surely they should have ended with this proposal.” (page 154)
Akbar further mentions how Pakistan’s insistence on the US admiral led Nehru to withdraw the offer.
In fact, Pakistan’s stand was always to go purely by the will of the ruler, by virtue of which it had sought to engage Hindu-majority princely states like Hyderabad, Junagadh, and even Jodhpur and Jaisalmer to join it. It had never basically adopted the principle of a plebiscite, to begin with.
Speaking of the second point of how the Pakistani state machinery supported or at least allowed non-state actors to support an armed rebellion in Poonch, does acknowledging this help Pakistan’s case? Certainly not, as it would amount to blatant disregard for international law! It is already embarassing for the Pakistani state to admit that its non-state actors (Pashtuns) had infiltrated into another territory! And on this point, we may delve a little more into the legal status of the erstwhile princely state following India’s independence. The princely states were, after the British government taking control over India from the British East India Company, following the Revolt of 1857, no longer the subsidiary but sovereign powers they were prior to that but subordinated officially to the British Crown, as Queen Victoria proclaiming herself to be the Empress of India, demonstrated as also the Chamber of Princes in New Delhi. However, once the British left India, the princely states re-emerged as sovereign entities, with the lapse of British paramountcy as becomes clear from Section 2 of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, meeting all the four criteria established under Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, which are stated hereunder verbatim-
(a) a permanent population;
(b) a defined territory;
(d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
As regards the first three clauses, little explanation is required. But if there’s any ambiguity about the last one, mention may be made of the standstill agreements many of the princely states entered into with India and Pakistan, which they were authorized to do by the British. In this connection, those who understand Hindi can watch this video (from 11:12 to 13:06).
And Jammu and Kashmir had entered into a standstill agreement with Pakistan (something that Snedden mentions in his book on page 9), which was violated by the latter during the 1947 aggression. The very fact that the princely states could voluntarily accede to any country again reflects their sovereign character. However, the British had made it clear unofficially that the princely states must opt for India or Pakistan. To quote Snedden on this point-
“Powerbrokers in 1947 also were influenced by the method used to decolonize Princely India (as against British-controlled India), whereby each ruler was deemed to have the power – and, indeed, was expected – to accede to either India or Pakistan. Princely states therefore were considered to be indivisible and without any independent future. Neither the departing British nor the future leaders of India and Pakistan sought partition of any princely state along religious lines, nor would they countenance independence for any of them. Instead, the British encouraged each princely ruler to consider geographical factors and the will of his subjects in deciding his accession. Even though the accession would clearly impact on all of the prince’s subjects, nevertheless there were no legal requirements or popular pressures for the ruler to consider either factor. He alone would decide the accession. And, once it was decided, the expectation was that all of his princely state would, along with the ruler, join the new dominion of his choice.” (page 7)
While the British did convey to the princes that they must opt for India or Pakistan [this is testified by great Indian nationalist leader Maulana Azad’s account in his autobiography India Wins Freedom that as early as in 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps, a British politician representing his government, on a visit to India, “told the Maharaja of Kashmir that the future of the States was with India”, that “(n)o prince should for a moment think that the British Crown would come to his help if he decided to opt out” and that “(t)he princes must therefore look up to the Indian Government and not the British Crown for their future” (page 61 of the 2009 reprint) – the demand for Pakistan wasn’t being seriously considered then; if Lord Mountbatten’s account as narrated to Larry Collins and Domique Lapierre in their book Freedom at Midnight is true, then Mountbatten had also tried hard to convice Raja Hari Singh to not entertain fancies of independence], there was no legal obligation upon them to do so. Thus, legally, it was for the ruler to decide and in this case, he opted for India, and Alistair Lamb’s contention that the instrument of accession did not exist on paper has now been disproved with the document being brought out in the public domain. If the counterargument is made to run that popular support ought to have been the basis, as was the case in Hyderabad and Junagadh, then the rebuttal to that has already been stated above (i.e. that Pakistan did not withdraw its troops, and having to do so was a precursor to the plebiscite), and it may be added that Pakistan did not conduct any plebiscite while getting the ruler of Balochistan to coercively sign the instrument of accession in its favour.
Thus, with all the emphasis given by Snedden to the Poonch rebellion, his contention that it would suit Pakistan to highlight the same or that it, in any way, tilts the narrative in its favour, is a flawed conclusion, even in the light of much of what he has said in that very book! So sorry, Mr. ZG Muhammad! In fact, on the other hand, the Pakistani narrative so far had only stressed the atrocities of the king’s army in Poonch (to justify the Pashtun tribal raid), trying to overlook that they were armed rebels backed by the Pakistani state, and this fact exposed by Snedden only makes Pakistan guilty of violating sovereignty, which is the cornerstone of international law!
Other than the Poonch rebellion, Snedden has also highlighted that in Jammu, there were communal riots in 1947-1948 as a result of the partition in which both Hindus and Muslims lost their lives, but again, that only goes to show that there was a section of pro-Pakistan Muslims in the erstwhile princely state, and as we have discussed above, that is something no one denies and doesn’t take us very far.
Furthermore, Snedden has done extensive research in his book on the plight of the people in the so-called Azad Kashmir (which Indians call Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, abbreviated as POK), and how a large section of the populace there also desires to secede from Pakistan. This is a topic on which not much research has been done in the past, and Snedden’s work in this connection is laudable. In this connection, I am glad that a very reputed think-tank based in New Delhi, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (a popular acronym for which is IDSA and I am a member of the same), invited Snedden for a lecture on this subject.
A major take-away from Snedden in the discourse on Kashmir is as follows (from an interview he gave to Elizabeth Roche, which can be accessed here.
“In the valley, I first visited there in 1996 and they were distinctly disenchanted with India, but they have since then come back partly because of the power of the Indian economy and partly because Pakistan only supported pro-Pakistan militant groups, and Kashmiris who aren’t stupid said, ‘They only want our land and are not interested in our welfare’.”
This is something I’ve dealt with at length in my articles (Article 1 and Article 2) – written before the hanging of Afzal Guru and the conflagration it created in the valley, and subsequently, the cross-border infiltrations from Pakistan to disrupt the provincial elections in Jammu and Kashmir (to read more about the same, please see).
But the biggest takeaway from Snedden for Kashmiris is the following statement he made in his interview to Baba Umar-
“Both countries (India and Pakistan) will never allow Kashmir to become independent. It’s a waste of time. So we need to find another mechanism that might be acceptable to both countries.”
As this piece nears its end, I must clarify that it may have given some the erroneous impression that I happen to be a chauvinistic Indian nationalist, but that is far from true, as becomes crystal clear from the following pieces of mine(article 1, article 2, article 3 and article 4).