The Question That Never Gets Asked About Kashmir

In 1998, the CIA subjected India to strict surveillance to ensure it was complying with its commitment not to test nuclear weapons. The agency used satellites, communications intercepts and agents to watch the nuclear facility at Pokhran in Rajasthan state. India could not detonate warheads, which would inevitably lead Pakistan to follow suit, without the United States knowing in advance. Or so the United States thought.

Washington went into shock on May 11, 1998, when Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced that his country had just detonated not one, but five nuclear warheads at Pokhran. “India is now a nuclear power state,” Vajpayee declared. R. Jeffrey Smith reported two days later in The Washington Post that CIA analysts responsible for monitoring India’s nuclear program “had not expected the tests and were not on alert, several officials said. They were, according to one senior official, asleep at their homes and did not see the (satellite) pictures until they arrived at work in the morning.” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby called the negligence “the biggest failure of our intelligence-gathering agencies in the past 10 years or more.”

Pakistan responded by testing five of its nuclear bombs on May 28. Pandora’s box was wide open, threatening mass destruction to the Asian subcontinent if the Pakistani and Indian armies squared off along the Line of Control that separated their forces in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. That happened a year later when Pakistani paramilitaries masquerading as indigenous Kashmiri rebel jihadists penetrated the Line of Control in Kashmir’s Kargil region. The Indian army confronted them, and U.S. intelligence detected Pakistan moving tactical nuclear weapons onto the battlefield. American diplomat Bruce Reidel wrote in his informative book, Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back, “The last war that India and Pakistan fought, over Kargil, threated to expand to a nuclear conflict.” It didn’t go nuclear, following U.S. President Bill Clinton’s demand that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif withdraw his forces. It was a close call.

A Matter of International Concern

If the CIA is watching India and Pakistan now, it will have to do better than it did in 1998. In 2019, with passions high over India’s abrogation of Kashmir’s legal, if fictitious, autonomy, the outcome would not be waking up to discover one side or the other had tested weapons. It would be the sight of nuclear war taking millions of lives. Although the stakes in Kashmir could not be higher, the United States and much of the international community call the dispute India’s “internal affair” or a “bilateral” issue between India and Pakistan. It isn’t. A potential nuclear conflagration cannot be anything other than a matter of international peace and security. The Indian and Pakistani armed forces possess both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, which local commanders could use on the battlefield in populated areas. This would be the first use in war of atomic weapons since the U.S. destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The possibility of the conflict going nuclear may have increased on Aug. 16 when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh seemed to abandon India’s “no first use” doctrine when he tweeted that “India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” The circumstances are not hopeful. Correspondents for The New York Times in Kashmir reported meeting a herdsman beside his flock in the Kashmiri capital, Srinigar:

As a car carrying a reporter slowed down to approach him, he sprang up and jogged to the window.
“We are ready to pick up guns,” he said, unprompted.

If the decadeslong armed rebellion in Kashmir grows more intense in response to India’s revocation of the region’s autonomy and its imposition of a total security lockdown, India will blame Pakistan, which in years past supported Kashmiri insurgents. Imran Khan, who became Pakistan’s prime minister in August 2018, was not involved in his predecessors’ interference in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Seeking a Moderating Voice

Following Modi’s clampdown in Kashmir, Khan has sought mediation support from U.S. President Donald Trump (who had offered to mediate when he met Khan at the White House in July), the United Nations, fellow Muslim leaders and countries that might influence Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His pleas, he recently told me over the telephone, fell on deaf ears. His problem is how to avoid war while defending the people of Kashmir, who are overwhelmingly Muslim in India’s only Muslim-majority state. Muslims throughout India, who have been subjected to new tests to prove their right to citizenship, are living in fear of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

India and Pakistan came to blows last February, following an insurgent attack on Indian troops in Kashmir. The Pakistanis downed an Indian fighter jet and captured its pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman. When Khan returned the Indian pilot on March 1, Modi did not acknowledge his conciliatory gesture. Nor has his government been willing to discuss Kashmir, whose people were promised a plebiscite on their future by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1947. The vote never took place, but several wars have. The question is, what do the people of Kashmir — those in the Indian-held two-thirds of the region, the Pakistani-held western third and the Hindu Kashmiris who were expelled from their homes in 1947 and are still officially displaced — want? No one is asking them, but that may be the only way to save them, and the world, from nuclear war.

Read the full article on Stratfor – The World’s Leading Geopolitical Intelligence Platform

Main photo: Crowds watch the India and Pakistan guards at the Wagah Border Ceremony.

3 thoughts on “The Question That Never Gets Asked About Kashmir

  1. Mohan Dudha

    Mr. Glass is clearly very knowledgeable about Middle Eastern affairs, but in the Indian Subcontinent, I am afraid he falls a bit short. I am sure this is inadvertent, but unfortunately it is also very glaring for Indians who might happen to read this.

    First, India never made any commitment not to test nuclear weapons. Never. Not once. In fact, India withstood many decades of sanctions because it refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That treaty itself was rigged to deliberately prevent India from becoming a nuclear power as it was rushed into effect because it became known that India was on the verge of testing a device. India tested in 1974. Then it demanded universal disarmament. India was specifically interested in getting China to disarm because it fought a war with India in 1962, shortly after it occupied Tibet. It was a forgone conclusion that China would never disarm. India waited for 24 years and then went overtly nuclear. But this was nothing hidden either. The party that won the election ran advertisements in the newpapers saying “Elect us, we will do more tests and become nuclear.” This had led a US Senator to wave Indian newspapers in front of the then CIA chief who said they missed the tests asking him whether he read the newspapers or not.

    Second, Kashmir has a deep Hindu history and is foundational to Indian civilization. About a third of all Hindu scriptures were composed there. The name itself means Kashyap’s Valley. Kashyap is an ancient Hindu sage whom all Hindus and Buddhists revere. The names of almost every location are Hindu. Baramula (Varah Mula), Anantnag, and so on. It was subjected to forced conversion to Islam in the 1500 AD period (around the same time as the colonization of North America began) and the vast majority of Kashmiri Muslims still carry Hindu clan names such as Lone (Lavanya), Guru, Pandit, Sapru, Wani (Baniya) and so on. It is impossible to understand how closely linked to Kashmir almost all Indians feel. It is visceral. When sections of the white minority in South Africa tried to secede from South Africa by artificially demarcating white and coloured majority zones such as in the Western Cape, should those have been permitted? The same here. I believe what African leaders had said then was “You cannot keep Africans out of Africa.” The same here.

    Third, the territory is religiously mixed. About 35% of the permanent resident population is Hindu and Sikh and 65% is Muslim. What happened was a deliberate attempt to concentrate the Muslim population by taking one region of the state and forcing the Hindus out through a campaign of genocide. But even this statistic misses the point. There are an additional 10% Hindus who have lived here for close to a century who have artificially been kept away from residentship by the Muslim-dominated assembly. Some of these are Valmikis. I urge you to read about them. Who are Valmikis? They are low-caste and often dark-skinned Hindus who were imported into Kashmir about 75 years ago to clean drains and handle sewage. They are permitted to own houses, but only conditionally. If a Valmiki child somehow manages to get into college and tries to become an engineer, they are stripped of residentship under the rigged state law and forced to sell their property. These people now get rights due to the abolition of this racist and bigoted system of rules, which is no more democratic than the American Confederacy was democratic. When you look at the actual residents of Jammu and Kashmir, the real population mix is closer to 45% Hindu and 55% Muslim.

    Fourth, I urge you to look at what happened in Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan) after partition. Hindus and Sikhs were 28% of the population at partition. Please look at the 1941 Census of India, which was conducted by the British government prior to Independence in 1947. Do NOT look at the 1951 Census of Pakistan for the same territories, which deliberately suppressed non-Muslim figures. What happened? Today, Hindus and Sikhs are less than 2% in Pakistan. They were genocided out. What happened in India where Muslims were 9% at partition. Today, they are 14.5%. In the parts of Kashmir that fell under Pakistani rule in 1948, Hindus and Sikhs were completely driven out, killed or converted. How should Indians think about this? I also urge you to look at Balochistan and the genocide in Bangladesh to see what the Pakistani Army is capable of.

    You can choose your opinion on how this should play out. But you should not choose your own facts. Indians are not savvy, generally, to orchestrated social media campaigns. They mostly miss the point of them because India is large, freewheeling and a world unto itself. Yes, India has bigotry, racism, casteism and a million other issues. But perhaps you should look at the massive influx of Muslims into India from everywhere – Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan – to decide how India is actually perceived on the ground by Muslims. When was the last time a Hindu or Sikh or Christian fled into Pakistan?

    I’d be grateful if you published my post just so it stands juxtaposed to your article. Again. I perused your writings on the Middle East and in general can appreciate your obvious scholarship and journalistic achievements. And for Kashmiris who happen to see my name, yes, I am a Kashmiri Hindu.

    1. Nemrah Ahmed

      Honestly, everything is defendable. Dig enough and you’ll find bundles of logics and stats favouring your preposition. It has been like this on both side of Redcliff line for decades. Both governments prioritizing strategies, policies, national interets, inshort everything over human rights. Both have heckled the arguments of sanity and both bear it’s consequences. But in this race of maps, one more than other. 

      Let’s address the Nuclear bogie dragging behind the conflict first. The writer and commentator both have mentioned the launch of programmes and discussed it’s ethics. The problem is bigger than having nuclear weapons. It’s the competition. It’s a clear inference that even if both were not loaded with the nukes, the probability of skirmish escalating into an all out missile bombing of cities would’ve been the same. Passive nuclear capacity, a term that ecompasses the ability of having allies with nukes would’ve pushed the race to the same level of alarm. World wars started with two little countries fighting, ended at their allies devastated and destroyed. That shows the willingness of allies and what wars make them do. In a conventional warfare, balance of power is the pivotal abjective of both sides. The objective of destruction would’ve been the same no matter what the technology would’ve suggested. Any country raising the attack ability would’ve been met with same level of reaction. This argument grinds the need of discussion of having the Nonproliferation Treaty signed or not. India didn’t sign, Pakistan didn’t sign.Both faced same threats from the super powers, both carried on anyway. Both adopted No First Use Policy Later.

      Secondly, the Hindu affiliation isn’t only confined to Kashmir. From the Hinglaj of Sati in Lasbela to the Katas Raj range in Punjab, this land has many temples religiously exalted for Hindus. Katas Raj pilgrimage site that has been mentioned in Mahabharta a multiple times, in reference to Pandava and known to be home to Shiva for major portion of his life sits in the mountains of Kalarkahar. Traditions regard it to be the second most holiest site for hindus after Somnath and Ayodhya in the time of a united India. Now don’t Hindus feel affiliation for that? Similar to the affiliation 1.2 billion Muslims feel for the Cordova, Granada, Indulusia, Sicilia? Whatis it they have for Ajmair, Jamia Masjid Delhi, Taj Mahal and numerous Mughal monuments and mosques they left in India? If mention in sacred text entitles you to occupy a land, muslims have every right to claim a right to whole India in light of our Prophet’s saying. They’ve a right to their second most holiest site, The Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The aborigines have the right to claim back the Entire american continent and Australia. Sadly, but Modern Democratic Principles don’t entertain the occupational claims on basis of History. The rule it follows is that of self-determination that needs no defense in the name of a history lecture. And self-determination is judged by the votes of those alive, not those who rested there thousand years ago. Do dead have more liberties than a common Kashmiri today?

      Your third point is self rebutting. Oppression doesn’t justify oppression. If it does, criminal psycology would’ve liberated the killers out of jails.The same argument that you are constructing in favour of 10% Valmikis and against their oppression provides the 55% of Muslim kashmiris a channel of establishing a right to democratically promised institutions and hence self government. Even if the old ones equates to the American Confideration, devise the new on Latest Democratic lines. One in which no Valmikis are explled, one in which no Amit Shah promises a non-Muslim citizenship bills. Yesterday’s Valmiki’s are today’s Kashmiris.

      Fourthly, the figure of 28% often misrepresentated and reproduced to misguide with propaganda objectives hides the fact that it encompasses the collective non-muslim population in both East (Now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan. Out of this, the share of West Pakistan amounts no more than 6%. On top of that, a humongous population efflux was seen with approximatly more than 4 million Hindus migrating to that side of line. The thing which stands as a highlighter of population statistics is that it’s not the number that has decreased but the percentage in total population, keeping in view this demographical analysis that population explosion in Punjab happened at a greater extent than that in Sindh, where majority of Hindus reside. It goes further to state that ethnic growth rate of Muslims is 1.8% as compared to the average 1.3% of the world. So that clearly defines why the population would’ve apparently shrinked. Talking of Balochistan, all UN surveillance teams are allowed there, there is no lockdown, no parameters or amnesty reports highlighting human right abuses. And talking of legislation, it has it’s own assembly and elections and a Parliament that decides to stay with Pakistan. How much of these provisions can India ensure in Kashmir?

      Volumes can be written on this debate but the ultimate truth drafted by the entire UN security counsel’s resolution of 48 under chapter 6 of UN charter stands firm on the ground of logic and demands the commencement of plebiscite which till date is unjustly ignored by the Indian Policy leaders. It has been a diplomatic game irrespective of alarms ringing about human Rights abuses. Religious jingoism and utilitarian objectives are nothing but a granade about to go off. It hits the sanity out of national thinking. It’s stupidity and just as Churchill said, guides people to hell in such a way that they themselves ask for it’s directions.


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