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‘India, Pak agreed to Kashmir settlement on status quo’

Washington: Both India and Pakistan have been willing at various times to settle the Kashmir issue on the basis of the status quo, with Pakistan keeping what it now has and not asking for more from the Indian side of the line of control, says a former US diplomat.

In his book on US-Pakistan relations Disenchanted Allies, retired U.S. Ambassador Dennis Kux draws the above inference on the basis of British and American documents and other sources.

Kux, currently a senior fellow at the Wilson Centre, while narrating the different stands taken by Indian and Pakistani leaders over the Kashmir issue at different points of time, attempts to highlight the role played by British and American interventions in achieving a reconciliation.

He points out that president Franklin Roosevelt while supporting India’s freedom from British rule, firmly opposed the creation of Pakistan, and favoured unified India.

Kux goes on to recall that when the UN commission suggested arbitration to solve Indo-Pak differences on Kashmir, it was endorsed by both US president Truman and Pakistan’s prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan.

Though Nehru rejected the idea, during his meeting with secretary of state John Foster during the latter’s visit to New Delhi in 1953, he agreed with Dulles that partition might be a better way to solve the problem than plebiscite.

The Indian leader suggested that the cease-fire line, with minor modifications, would provide a reasonable basis for dividing the state. This has remained the unofficial Indian position ever since, says Kux.

During his presidentship, Kennedy sent a high level team headed by Averell Harriman to the subcontinent. The British dispatched a parallel mission led by Commonwealth relations secretary Duncan Sandys.

Field Marshal Ayub Khan took a hard line on November 21, 1963 telling parliamentarians that the threat from Hindu imperialism was greater than the threat posed by international communism.

But when Harriman and Sandys met Ayub Khan on November 28, 1962, Ayub readily agreed to negotiate Kashmir with India. In the discussion, he also appeared to agree that a plebiscite was not the best way to settle the dispute and that Pakistan could not expect to receive all of the Kashmir valley, the book says.

Nehru told the Indian parliament that any change in the status of Kashmir would be very bad for the people there.

Harriman wrote to the National Security Council that the chances of successful Kashmir negotiations were quite remote. The trouble, he said, was that the terms for a settlement acceptable to Pakistan were unacceptable to India.

Nehru wrote to Kennedy: To give up the Valley to Pakistan or to countenance its internationalization poses political and strategic problems for India which render such solutions impossible.

On April 1, 1963, President Kennedy approved the release of a U.S.-UK paper outlining elements of a settlement, giving both India and Pakistan a substantial position in the Valley. These included ensuring access through the Vale for defence to the north and east (India’s defence of Ladakh), Pakistan’s interest in the headwaters of the Chenab River and some local self-rule in the Vale and free movement of people to India and Pakistan and enhancing economic development efforts.

Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith presented these to Nehru on April 15, 1963 and reported on the most unadorned conversation I have had with Nehru: when Galbraith raised Kashmir again with Nehru on April 20, 1963, the prime minister took a hard line against partitioning the valley and stressed the desire to keep the talks going, but did not suggest any improvements in the Indian brief.

On the Pakistani side, when, during the third round of negotiations in Karachi during February 8-10 the Indians put on the table some modest territorial concessions to adjust the cease fire line, Pakistan’s disappointing counterproposal was to allot India only a sliver of territory in Jammu, which had a largely Hindu population, and not claim all of the valley and also all of Ladakh. Later, as foreign minister, Zulfqar Ali Bhutto said that this was only an opening gambit.

After Bangladesh war, at the Simla Conference, according to what Indira Gandhi told the Indian delegation, Bhutto expressed willingness to settle the Kashmir dispute on the basis of the status quo, with the line of control becoming the border, but added that he needed time to gain political acceptance for this. Bhutto said nothing about this to the Pakistani delegation.

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