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HOW PAKISTAN RESORTED TO GENOCIDE IN KASHMIR IN 1947

Unlike the communal violence witnessed during Partition, killings of Hindus and Sikhs in the wake of Pakistani attack on Jammu & Kashmir in 1947 were state-sponsored ethnic cleansing.

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The creation of Pakistan was the outcome of a movement which claimed that Hindus and Muslims were ‘separate nations’ and can’t co-exist in a single state. After its establishment, Pakistan defined itself as an Islamic state and pursued politics which was blatantly communal and reactionary. In October 1947, it launched naked aggression to annex J&K, trampling all international conventions and inflicting unspeakable brutalities on non-Muslims in the areas which came under Pakistani occupation.

Unlike the communal violence witnessed during Partition, killings of Hindus and Sikhs in the wake of Pakistani attack on J&K in 1947 were state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. The objectives of Pakistan’s invasion went beyond conquest of the land. It aimed at destroying non-Muslim populations too.

There is a continuity between Pakistan’s attack on J&K in 1947 and cross border terrorism unleashed by it in 1989-90.The pattern of ideological campaign informed by jihad and use of terror as an instrument for ethnic cleansing of minority groups remains the same.

The tribal lashkars were brainwashed to believe that Muslims in Kashmir were living in subjugation, where neither were they allowed to practice their religion nor the honour of their womenfolk was safe. There was an understanding between Chief Minister of NWFP, Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan, and tribal lashkars that they could plunder the state at will. The tribesmen were given license to rape and take away women as well.

JAMMU REGION

In Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bhimber-Deva-Vatala and Rajouri towns, which had substantial non-Muslim population, Pakistani invaders had been directed to destroy non-Muslim habitats wholesale through killings, arson, rape and abduction of women.

In Muzaffarabad, even patients in hospitals were killed in cold blood. Women were raped on the streets at different places in full public view. Hundreds of women were kidnapped and taken to the tribal belt of NWFP. Many girls jumped from Kishenganga bridge into the river flowing below to escape humiliation. The deserters of the State army from Jammu and Mirpur were quite brutal and carried away many women.

This was repeated at Bhimber where over 5000 non-Muslims had taken shelter in the tehsil building. Majority of them were killed. Only a small section was able to escape. Hundreds of women took poison to save their honour. Others were abducted. In the Deva-Vatala region, over a thousand people were killed by Pakistanis in 30 villages.

On the day of Diwali in Rajouri, more than 7000 Hindus and Sikhs were killed by Pakistani invaders, their collaborators in the local population and state army deserters. Most of the women here saved their honour by swallowing poison. The Hindus of Rajouri do not celebrate Diwali to keep alive the memory of their loved ones killed in 1947.

Mirpur witnessed one of the horrendous religious cleansing campaigns in human history. Alibeg camp became Auschwitz from where every day the people were taken out and killed. Hundreds of women were kidnapped, dishonoured repeatedly and then sold in towns of Western Punjab and NWFP. As per one estimate only two thousand out of 25000 people in Mirpur managed to reach Jammu safely and some were repatriated later by the International Red Cross.

BALTISTAN

In Askardu, an ex- INA officer Col. Mataul Mulk was deputed as commander by the Pakistan army. The surrender of Indian garrison in August 1948 was followed by mass murder and rape. He shamelessly bragged in his report to the Headquarters, “All Sikhs shot, all women raped.’’ The Sikhs were tied with ropes and then asked to jump into the river. While they moved towards the river, they were shot dead. Only the Sikh women and children below ten were left alive.

The three members of a Kashmiri Hindu family were axed to death with swords. The Pakistani soldiers made an attempt to strangulate Niranjan Nath Nadir and push him into the nearby well. His two pet dogs fought with the Pak soldiers and saved him from being drowned.

In Shigar, the Sikh shopkeepers were tied to the trees and then shot at. Their family members were collected in the evening and stabbed to death. Among the attackers were Pakistani soldiers who forcibly married the two women survivors. One of the jawans had killed the mother, sister and brother of the woman he married.

In Khaplu, two Kashmiri Pandits, the doctor and his pharmacist, were killed. The doctor’s wife was abducted and tortured before she was released. At Astore the non-Muslims who refused forced conversions were shot dead.

KASHMIR

In the Kashmir valley the invaders ransacked village after village and town after town that came in their way. The same process of loot, arson, rape, abductions and killings was repeated against Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs. In Baramulla town, Kashmiri Hindus were dragged to concentration camps and women raped for three days. 36 Kashmiri Hindus were killed in the town.

In almost all villages, where Kashmiri Hindus escaped killing, they were forced to become Muslims and at some places coerced to take beef. At many places, the Pandit couples were asked to perform marriage anew as per the Shariat.

Over 135 Kashmiri Hindus were killed. There were nine major massacres. Seven baraatis were killed at Biner. In Aijar village, 13 members of the Pandit community were massacred, while in Chandrahama village, 17 Pandits were killed. The victims included women as well.

SIKHS

There was targeted violence against the Sikhs. While in the case of Kashmiri Hindus, the priorities for Pakistanis were loot, conversion and then killings. In case of the Sikhs it was killings, rape & abductions and then loot. The massacre of the Sikhs took place at ten places in Kashmir. In village Yaarbug, the Sikhs were taken to Gurudwara and burnt alive. The Sikh women were abducted and taken across to Pakistan. The Sikhs resorted to honour killings at many places to save their women from falling into the hands of Pakistanis.

Ramesh Tamiri is a researcher on History, politics and culture of Kashmir. He has been regularly writing on these subjects in different periodicals. He worked on oral history of Pakistan invasion on J&K 1947-48 for twenty years. His two books on the theme will be published early next year.

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Defence

Indian Coast Guard apprehends Sri Lankan boat with heroin and weapon

Ashish Singh

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In the past two years anti-national elements involved in narcotics smuggling are trying to infiltrate narcotic drug (Heroin) through Indian coast. The Indian Coast Guard(ICG) received credible information from intelligence agencies regarding an illegal consignment of narcotic drugs (Heroin) going to be smuggled in India through sea route, a couple of weeks ago. The information further revealed that the consignment is being transhipped through a Sri Lankan boat. Indian Coast Guard deployed five ships for the operation to apprehend the smugglers and seized the contraband.

ICG ships carried out extensive search for the suspected boat in the most probable area as per the intelligence input. Two ICG aircraft were also continuously deployed to augmentsea-air coordinated search. Post extensive well planned search in the area, extending since 17 November, suspicious Sri Lankan boat was identified south of Thoothukudi on 24 November 2020. ICGS Vaibhav stealthily followed the boat, and carried out boarding at the opportune moment at about 10 Nautical Miles off the coast of Kanyakumari in the evening of 24 Nov. Search of the suspicious boat revealed 99 packets of heroin, 20 boxes of synthetic drugs, five 9 mm pistols and a Thuraya satellite phone set.

The drugs and weapons were unearthed since hidden in an unapproachable location in the boat. During initial questioning, the crew members revealed that the drugs were transferred onto Sri Lankan vessel ‘Shenaya Duwa’ on the high seas by a Pakistani dhow from Karachi. The drugs meant to be sent to western countries and Australia. The joint interrogation of the apprehended six crew members will be undertaken on vessel reaching Tuticorin. The Indian Coast Guard again proves its commitment to thwart any attempt to smuggle contraband, drug and weapon into our country.

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Defence

Sino-Indian logjam: The Chinese three-card trick

We still need to secure further advantage in eastern Ladakh to break the logjam. The winter is our opportunity. This is the time for some engagement—direct or indirect—to destabilise PLA. The time for disengagement is far away.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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As Ladakh has got colder, Chinese have indulged in a three-card trick. Give up Finger 4. Gain Kailash Range. Retain Depsang. Natural and expected from the ever untrustworthy Chinese. However, we need to see why they are doing it and what our reaction should be. There has been no action on the battlefield except it has got colder. Let us review the situation on ground and then step back to analyse certain factors.

By now eastern Ladakh must be awfully cold. Leh reports minus 13 at night and feels like minus 2 at 1030 in the morning. Eastern Ladakh must be another 10-20 degrees less than that, depending on where you are. Heights would have snow and Pangong Tso would be more than half frozen. The wind-swept plains would be chilling the bones. There were reports that our soldiers are running short of warm clothing and equipment. There were also reports that the US had to bail us out with about 11,000 sets. Well, the reality is that our troops are well kitted and stocked with sufficient ammunition. Not only in Ladakh, but also along the LoC and in the east. That should be a total of about 2.5 lakh sets of warm clothing. So the 11,000 odd sets from the US are only small-time fillers. To put in perspective, we have been up in Siachen since the 1980s. We know what it takes there and are set for it. No sweat.

On the other hand, the perspective I get is that the Chinese are feeling the heat of the cold! Suddenly reports surfaced of enhanced Chinese causality evacuations. Catching cold? Then, one finds that Global ’Idiotic’ Times comes out with reports of buildings with oxygen and warming facilities. That is a giveaway. In high altitude, I would inhale oxygen only if I am in a HAPO (high altitude pulmonaryodema) situation. If every building they build has enhanced oxygen facility, then their troops are constantly less than acclimatized. That is survival with less than optimal battle fitness. In four tenures and innumerable high altitude visits, I have used Oxygen only thrice as a precaution – when getting in/ out of a chopper on the Glacier. It was also funny to see the Global ’Idiotic’ Times coming out with videos showcasing food delivery by drones. I suppose fresh Pangolin meat straight out of the wet market from Wuhan with the virus as a side dish was being air delivered to hardy young Han lads. After some time, I saw videos of Chinese troops hanging on to tails of mules while doing their logistics routine. What a come down to reality! In mountains, mules remain the best fail safe drones. Chinese are learning fast. In the land of Lama don’t behave like a Gama!! All Corps in in Northern Command, have a battle school. Every unit is mandatorily put through pre-induction training – hardened and weeded. The Chinese do not have any such system. Inputs indicate that the Chinese have brought in Russian speaking experts to train their troops. All the best to them. Why am I telling you all this? Our troops are very well stabilized and in a far better position than Chinese to exploit the situation. So why should reports of a three Phase dis-engagement leave me amused?

The 8th round of Sino-Indian Corps Commander-level talks were held on 05 Nov and an anodyne statement was released. In a couple of days a three stage disengagement plan surfaces in the media. Our acclaimed and regular media ‘experts’ claimed that the standoff would be over even before Deepawali! First Step. Tanks and armoured personnel carriers were to move back from their frontline deployment to a significant distance from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by both sides within one day. Second Step. Near Pangong Tso, both sides were supposed to withdraw around 30% troops every day for three days. The Indian side forming in at Finger 3 and the Chinese to go back to the East of Finger 8. Third Step. Withdraw from their respective positions from the frontline along the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso which includes the heights and territories around Chushul and Rezang La area. No mention of Depsang!

Analyse the three card trick. Dangle withdrawal from Finger 4 as a carrot. Whether the Chinese remain at Finger 4 or 8 is immaterial. It has no further tactical or strategic difference. Even virus laden bats do not live there! Get Indians off the Kailash Range in a pro quid quo. The Chusul gateway opens. Grab Kailash Range heights at the first opportunity after the Indians vacate. Maintain stance and consolidate Depsang. Go to the world and announce about the great Chinese victory—winning without fighting. Game set and match—China!

Examine the deception further. When our media is agog with the disengagement plans with our emotional analysts crying hoarse about the great sell off on Kailash Range, the Chinese media refutes that there is any plan. However after a couple of days, they come out with this great analysis that maybe the Indians are weakening and want to reach a conclusion to the conflict. That is why Indian media is discussing this. Indians are now prepared to discuss peace at Chinese terms! Typical Chinese deceptive strategy. Mind games at work. Deepawali has come and gone. Nothing further heard.

Let us for a moment think that this plan was credible and real. Who was to monitor the execution of the plan? Are we contemplating joint monitoring with untrustworthy Chinese? If we get beyond that, how do we manage the buffer zones which are to be created? By trusting the Chinese? On what basis is this plan drawn which leaves Depsang out? Who initiated it? Our media falls hook line and sinker for it.

Consider this also. Every step and turn, over the past seven decades, that we have taken with the Chinese is still being scrutinised minutely with a lens. Every conversation we have had with Pakistan is granulated. We ourselves say that what India has gained tactically on the battlefield, it has lost strategically on the summit tables. In such a situation how do we fall for such three card tricks? History will never forgive modern-day Jaichands, who take ill-informed decisions to fall for the trap.

An accommodation with China on the border and disengagement has many dimensions. Soldiers and veterans will see it emotionally through the prism of sacrifice for the territory/ advantage gained/ lost. The government will evaluate the overall situation—militarily, economically and diplomatically regarding the overall effort including maintaining a relationship with China in future—Good , Bad or ugly. The average citizen will see if India has succeeded. An international observer will see if China succeeds or not and its impact on world affairs. To arrive at a balanced decision which has far reaching proportions, with such diverse perspectives, needs informed political debate and plan at national level. An agreement other than to enforce a peaceful status quo to avoid flareups or to respond to an emergent situation is beyond the scope of military talks. There has to be political talks and understanding based on transparency. It needs trust. People need to be convinced that we have not been sold out or dealt a dummy. There must be political consensus. If a unilateral decision is taken, history will not forgive the current Prime Minister, like it has not forgotten our Prime Minister of 1962 for his folly of trusting the Chinese. So far the Government or the Army has not clarified the actual status at Depsang. Have we been pushed back or are we being blocked access? In such a situation even to contemplate to make a deal with China, without transparency or trust is being foolish. History will not forgive fools.

On the other hand our PM talks of ‘Prachand Jawab’ and ‘days of expansionism are over’ at Longewala. It was an obvious message to China. All ministries have repeatedly flagged their concerns regarding Chinese influence in day to day life and how to reduce it. We have banned Tik Tok and its siblings. We have taken a clear position against BRI and RCEP. We are leaning towards the Quad. We are preparing for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. In any case Chinese will insist on a comprehensive dialogue to include trade and economics. Do we want to go back to China-nirbhar Bharat? Are we prepared for that? Under the conditions, does one still think that a disengagement plan is on?

There is yet another factor. As long as China is kept on the hook and is forced to commit troops and resources in a situation it can never master, the more it looks foolish. Already one sees that the Chinese balloon is a bit deflated. I have been maintaining that as long as the Virus lasts and as long as this current situation on the LAC lasts, China will continue to be in a face losing situation. So why the hurry? Moreover, if the issue is settled, China will be free to start some adventure elsewhere. Keep it there in the frozen wastes of eastern Ladakh and China will come to its senses.

China will try its mind games and try to seed disinformation as it is a habit to do so. All the hot air about teaching India a lesson has frozen in Ladakh. There was lot of talk that China will attack and capture Taiwan when the US presidential elections are on. That was supposed to be the ideal window of opportunity to capture Taiwan. The election has come and gone. There is still uncertainty in the US. Militarily, the US eyes are off the ball. The window remains open. China has not taken a single step to mount an amphibious attack on Taiwan. Hot air again.

As far as I see it, we are in a groove and prepared for the winter in High Altitude. We still need to secure further advantage in eastern Ladakh to break the logjam. The winter is our opportunity. This is the time for some engagement (direct or indirect) to destabilise PLA. The time for disengagement is far away. I hope we have a plan.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and Indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www.gunnersshot.com.

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DEEPENING RELATIONS: AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER CALLS ON WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND CHIEF

Ashish Singh

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Barry O’ Farrell AO, High Commissioner of Australia, accompanied by Sarah Roberts, acting Consul General, Consulate of Australia, Mumbai, and a three-member delegation called on Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, on Monday. The High Commissioner interacted with the Admiral and exchanged views on various issues of common interest such as Bilateral Cooperation in Defence and Security, Strategic Partnership and shared maritime interests as Indian Ocean littoral States. The High Commissioner also visited the Aircraft Carrier Dock at the Western Naval Command.

The High Commissioner’s visit was significant as it coincided with the recently concluded Quad exercise MALABAR 2020 in which India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. participated. HMAS Ballarat, a frigate of Royal Australian Navy represented Australia in both the phases of Malabar 20 and had spent some time at Goa port for its operational turnaround from 10 – 13 Nov 20. The current visit by the High Commissioner is in accordance with the good relations enjoyed by both the Commonwealth nations and is expected to further strengthen the existing bonds between both the navies.

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Defence

INDIA TEST-FIRES LAND-ATTACK VERSION OF BRAHMOS

Ashish Singh

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At approximately 10 am on Monday, Indian Army successfully test-fired a BrahMos Land Attack Cruise Missile using a Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) from Car Nicobar Islands against a designated target located at a range of approximately 200 km in Bay of Bengal. During this successful test launch, the missile demonstrated the weapon’s unmatched lethal ability and formidable precision strike capability.

BrahMos missile system, an Indo- Russian joint venture is the most lethal and potent weapon system available with the Indian Army for precision strike. The land attack version of BrahMos with capability of cruising at 2.8 Mach speed, is cutting edge of the Indian Army since 2007. The present Block III version of the missile has successfully executed four operational launches in the past. With the upgraded capability the missile can hit targets at a range of upto 400 Km with precision. The launch marks the achievement of a critical milestone in enhancing India’s capability of engaging enemy’s vitally important targets in depth areas. The launch was witnessed by various dignitaries who lauded the commendable effort demonstrated during the successful execution of the launch.

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Defence

WORLD NEEDS A NEW ORDER AND EVERLASTING PEACE

Making a rule or law with agreement of all is the first step to have acknowledged the problem and need for correction. However, more important are constantly making amendments in the law as per changing times, effective monitoring by unbiased body, strict implementation to ensure timely justice and punitive punishments to violators.

Ashish Singh

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World has been facing the most challenging medical emergency in last one century since December 2019 causing deaths in millions. This time it is due to a well concealed pandemic by inimical forces of humanity and treacherous intentions beyond comprehension. Historically on occurrence of crime, motive is the first and foremost thing to be investigated and most important clue is revealed by singling out the beneficiary. Evident motive in the present case of worldwide pandemic unleashed is to damage world economy, stemming the increasing influence of western culture by discrediting it and above all breaking the morale of developed nations by manipulating world organizations. It is quite obvious that a new world order is desired to be set. Wrongdoer was well aware that the collateral damages would be deaths in millions, discrediting of world leaders and dislocated governing bodies. In fact, the perpetrator must be overjoyed to have achieved more than what it had planned for however, it has also revealed itself in this act of treachery towards humanity. Nations of the world surely are not going to watch it go helplessly.

There are many pertinent questions to be asked such as; was the virus developed in a lab, was it allowed to escape, was it allowed to be sent worldwide? The leading world body being compromised what is the authenticity of the findings given by the investigating teams? It is difficult to believe that any punitive actions would be taken against the offender in a comprehensive manner to punish him as those actions would again be a violation of basic human rights and against the democratic values which the majority of the world players presently support. All this can happen only after the world is sufficiently assured of the correctness of judgment and identification of the guilty. Given all these there would still be a need for justice to the world humanity and human cause. Answer for destruction cannot be even more destruction however, suitable steps must be taken to make the culprit realize the futility of such covert and inhuman acts.

World at this juncture must address the much larger issue of the way forward for the humanity and world peace. They had come together earlier after WW I with formation of League of Nations and after WW II created United Nations just to ensure peaceful world and a better future for humankind. Anybody reading the preamble of United Nations would even today wonder how to improve upon it as it already has all the ingredients that are desired for world peace and harmony. Happenings after WW II has been well documented and we must contemplate a repeat.

Forty-six nations, including the four sponsors, were originally invited to the San Francisco Conference: nations which had declared war on Germany and Japan and had subscribed to the United Nations Declaration. There were 850 delegates, and their advisers and staff together with the conference secretariat brought the total to 3,500. There were only ten plenary meetings of all the delegates but nearly 400 meetings of the committees at which every line and comma was hammered out.

There was also considerable debate on the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the conference decided that member nations would not be compelled to accept the Court’s jurisdiction but might voluntarily declare their acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction. Likewise, the question of future amendments to the Charter received much attention and finally resulted in an agreed solution. Above all, the right of each of the “Big Five” to exercise a “veto” on action by the powerful Security Council provoked long and heated debate. The smaller powers feared that when one of the “Big Five” menaced the peace, the Security Council would be powerless to act, while in the event of a clash between two powers not permanent members of the Security Council, the “Big Five” could act arbitrarily. But the great powers unanimously insisted on this provision as vital, and emphasized that the main responsibility for maintaining world peace would fall most heavily on them. Eventually the smaller powers conceded the point in the interest of setting up the world organization.

“The Charter of the United Nations which you have just signed,” said President Truman in addressing the final session “is a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. With this Charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people. If we fail to use it” he concluded, “we shall betray all those who have died so that we might meet here in freedom and safety to create it. If we seek to use it selfishly – for the advantage of any one nation or any small group of nations — we shall be equally guilty of that betrayal.”

On October 24, 1945 Charter came into force when the Governments of China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States and a majority of the other signatory states ratified it and deposited notification to this effect with the State Department of the United States then the United Nations came into existence.” (Excerpt from un.org)

So, what led us as nations to violate the basic intent of collective resolve undertaken in 1945? Is it blatant disregard for rules or desire for growth or seeking better future for own people or jealousy or simply dominance? What did we overlook while finalizing the Charter? Causes of our collective failure lies in basic nature of human’s struggle to achieve equality. Equality of knowledge, wealth, status and every aspect of human life is a must to create a harmonious and peaceful co-existence. Non agreement on universal applicability of ICJ judgments and allowing veto powers to big five are the two major reasons which caused failure of the world body to prevent wars and manmade calamities. World thereafter witnessed numerous skirmishes, wars, long drawn out cold war, nations breaking up, meddling in others affairs with impunity and many more actions by signatory nations that were in violation to the spirit of UN Charter. One good thing that occurred during the meetings was agreement to carry out future amendments to UN Charter as and when felt necessary.

Making a rule or law with agreement of all is the first step to have acknowledged the problem and need for correction. However, more important are constantly making amendments in the law as per changing times, effective monitoring by unbiased body, strict implementation to ensure timely justice and punitive punishments to violators. Struggle would always be there between pure and the evil; the way forward should be to restrict, reduce and finally eradicate evil to diminish and eventually eliminate sufferings. Same struggle can be identified among the human race with religion to search for something pure which would eradicate all distress. World effort should be to establish such Charter that wipes out agony and replaces it with peace for the human race in this world. World after recovering from this artificial calamity must resort to rebuilding and restructuring the architecture of the world body. World certainly needs a new order today to ensure peace and alleviation of affliction of the human race.

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Defence

Resetting India -Nepal relations needed to offset Chinese threats

Mukesh Ambani has added a feather to India’s cap by figuring among the richest in the world.

Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt (Retd) & Brig Narender Kumar (Retd)

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No bilateral relations between nations can be built on sentiment—whether it is based on faith, ideology or inheritance. Only those rooted in shared interests will endure. Relations will not remain everlasting if the interests of the people and nations are not renegotiated. The relations with Nepal were driven for long on shared culture, religion and geographical realities. The problem thus far has been a sense of “everlasting friendship” between India and Nepal without incorporating suitable changes to the historical treaties to accommodate new political, social and economic realities. The border dispute is a manifestation of multiple factors including new found competitive nationalism among the political parties of Nepal, structural changes unfolding in the external and internal context of the bilateral relationship and Nepal asserting strategic autonomy to renegotiate the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship. New political elites of Nepal feel that relations with India cannot be frozen in time due to a treaty that has lived its utility.

When the founder of the modern Nepali state, Prithvi Narayan Shah, described Nepal as a “yam between two rocks”, he in fact hinted at the geo-strategic significance of Nepal and need for maintaining strategic autonomy and neutrality with India and China. In order to look ahead and repair, revise and revive the bilateral relationship, India must first understand why and how the territorial dispute has flared up. It may be tempting to start on a clean slate, but future visions will remain void if both sides don’t learn from past mistakes.

A POLITICAL CONFLICT TRAP

Nepal’s claim of approximately 372 sq km of Indian Territory in Kalapani area has caused considerable fissures in bilateral relations between the two countries. Kalapani issue has become a huge rallying point amongst the opposition parties in Nepal and it is now very difficult for the Nepalese Government or even the opposition parties to back off from their claim. It came at a time when India was engaged with China in a standoff along the Line of Actual Control. It gave new lease of life to the current Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and he rode the competitive nationalism to tide over the current political crisis. The claim and subsequent issue of map has given birth to a permanent and long-term territorial dispute that is difficult to resolve and thus creating a conflict trap that will keep rising whenever the relations between two states take a turn to the South. Till now the political leadership of both countries were keeping this conflict under wraps, but now it has been unleashed and will remain on the prowl till a mechanism is worked out to set this conflict to rest. 

The question comes up, could India prevent the constitutional amendment of the map if Indian government had kept their ears to the ground? It is difficult to answer in “yes or no” but the fact of the matter is that India needs to have a new road map to engage with Nepal post changed political realities in Nepal. To control the damage, Nepalese leadership should ensure that Nationalism is not distorted to an anti-Indian feeling. Because that will narrow down the options to resolve this dispute in future. Let this dispute not become a pivot for China to exploit Nepalese sentiment.

THE CHINA ANGLE

If the relations are not reset and Nepal continues to drift away, it will become a major peril of corridor especially due to China- Pak nexus and manifestation of Three Warfares (3Ws) and Irregular Warfare against India. The open and porous border facilitates an active non-contact warfare by China and Pakistan to destabilise the heartland India. It gives an opportunity to inimical forces to exploit this porous border for smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency to give impetus to instability and also support Left Wing Extremists who have ideological and organisational linkages with Maoists of Nepal. Dr PV Ramana posits that the Maoist insurgents and PWG have formed the Indo-Nepal Border Regional Committee (INBRC) “to coordinate their activities” in Bihar. The bottom-line is that ideological and organisational linkages do exist and it can be exploited by China by extending material and weapon support to the LWE through Nepalese Maoists. Bigger threat is political and information warfare that can penetrate deep inside India’s heartland. China Study Centers especially along the India- Nepal borders are a greater threat that can cause instability in Gangetic Plains and disrupt East- West strategic lines of communication. Only way this threat can be managed is by restoring ties with Nepal and building resolute military to military relation between two armies.

INDIA, A NATURAL ALLY

Nepal has been embracing a policy of strategic diversification to reduce its dependence on India and enhance its non-aligned autonomy. In response India’s perceived economic blockade of 2015 was seen by Nepal as a right to deny and insulate Nepal from the outside world. That had caused major upheaval against India among the Nepalese youth and common citizens. India should consider Nepal as co-equal and develop relations not as a “protectorate but as a partner”. Because strategic space if abdicated by India will be encroached upon by China and that will become difficult for India to reclaim. India cannot blame China’s political interference in Nepal as a major factor for deteriorating relations between the two states. India not paying adequate attention to reset the road map for building relations is also a factor. It is very natural that two neighbours sharing a border of more than 1,800 km are bound to have some differences but these differences should not become disputes or else a third party will take advantage of it.

Both nations today have to realise that apart from the strong historical relations guided by a common culture, religion and similar language is also supported by Geography. The Indian ports and transit access, protected by special trade and transit treaties is a commitment which needs to be honoured by India. Even though China has provided…special trade and transit facilities by way of dry ports and roads, the long distance from the eastern coast of China to Nepal via Tibet, approximately 4000 kms is just not a cost-effective option. Initially China may subsidize services and goods passing through this long corridor as it meets the objectives of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative. However, if Nepal has to take a cue from Sri Lanka’s experience let it be clear that a decade later it is the people of Nepal who will pay the price for their political miscalculation. Many countries in the African continent today are suffering because of the free largess initially offered by China in the form of soft loans for development of infrastructure. Is this the future which Nepal is looking at? According to a report by the Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry of Nepal, China has illegally occupied Nepal’s land in several places spreading over seven bordering districts. Unfortunately the Oli Government has kept silent over this land grab. China believes in debt slavery and Nepal could be forced to surrender its strategic autonomy if it allows China to continue to make economic, political and cultural inroads in Nepal. Though there is a vocal anti-India lobby in Nepal, but the people with this new development along the Northern borders are equally resentful of China.

Nepal shares a long and open border with India the special privileges which are given to all citizens of Nepal are unique. In fact, a citizen of Nepal can work anywhere in India including the Armed forces as well as reside in any part of India. These privileges are not reciprocal for Indian citizens which is quite understandable because of the size of Nepal. Apart from the Army there is a large population of unskilled workers from Nepal working in the industrial and agriculture sector. Nepal will never have an ally that offers its citizens free access for work, education, health services, tourism, travel, religious pilgrimage and business. Such a facility has been extended by India to the Nepalese citizens without reciprocation from Nepal. Closing down the border and treating Nepalese citizens as per diplomatic protocol followed globally will harm the interests of the people of Nepal. Therefore, Nepal must exercise caution and restrain not to burn the bridges that may become difficult to rebuild in future.

MILITARY DIPLOMACY A BRIDGE TO INITIATE THE DIALOGUE

India has been shy of using military diplomacy with its neighbours, whereas there are special relations and close ties between Indian Army and Nepal Army that has been rarely exploited to reset the ties between two nations. After long hiatus of nearly more than four months, relations between India and Nepal could be set in motion, the visit of Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane to Nepal, where he will be conferred with the title of the honorary Chief of the Nepalese Army is a much-needed initiative for stabilisation of relations between the two close neighbours. This special tradition of bestowing the title of honorary Chief on each other’s Army Chief dates back to the period of Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw who was proud enough to change his name to Sam Bahadur as a homage to his brave Gorkha brethren. This military tradition has helped in strengthening military to military relations between the two Armies. Fortunately, this tradition has continued despite some occasional ups and downs in the relation between the two nations. It is a good initiative that the leaders of both the nations have taken a pause and allowed military to military engagement to take place to kick-start the dialogue between two neighbours. It is a positive step that the Indian Government has sent their Army Chief and the Nepalese Government by willingly receiving him and honouring him. The President of Nepal bestowing the honorary General’s rank and the PM of Nepal meeting him in the capacity of Defence minister needs to be understood in a positive manner. It is pertinent to mention that Nepal Army has always acted as a permanent ambassador of India in Nepal due to their long association with the Indian Army. However, off late India has neglected this aspect and it must be given impetus by building bridges with the Nepalese Army and police.

Both the Governments need to take this visit as a trigger for a new beginning, an opportunity to reset our relationship to the current strategic realities, the recommendations of the Eminent People’s Committees report which is available with the Government could be a guideline. A very important part is that the relations between the two strategic neighbours should not be taken hostage by irresponsible media or local domestic political considerations in either of the nations.

WAY FORWARD

Most crucial aspect is building bridges with the people. The strong connect India maintains with the ex-servicemen of Gorkha regiments in Nepal needs to be consolidated. India still remains an economic destination for the people of Nepal. In fact, citizens of Nepal should be granted access to utilise the health care, education institutions along the borders for the common good of the citizens of the border areas of both countries. Villagers living along the Kali River should be allowed to use the road Dharchula-Kalapani for movement ‘to and from’ Dharchula. India needs to send a message that this road is built for collective good of India and border citizens of Nepal.

One visit by the Chief of the Army Staff may not be sufficient and thus there is a need to have a permanent presence of Indian military leader in Kathmandu either by way of posting a Gorkha Regiment General as an Ambassador or Special Envoy to Nepal. This engagement must remain unbroken and resilient. Nepalese Army and even the civil bureaucracy are more comfortable in dealing with a Nepalese speaking Army envoy who understands their language and ethos better than a diplomat who has lesser linkages with the people on the ground. The tenure of late Lt Gen S.K. Sinha as an ambassador is a proof of it.

India should guarantee unobstructed access to the port and dry docks. However, Nepalese government should be made accountable to ensure that the access will be unconditional if Nepal does not work against the strategic interest and national security of India.

India should be open to renegotiate the Treaty of Peace and Friendship 1950. The Eminent Peoples Committee Report could also be examined to give a new direction to the India-Nepal relations.

India must invest in upgrading its cross-border infrastructure and economic assistance to Nepal: There are now new rail and road links, an electronic cargo system for Nepali goods to transit via Indian ports, inland waterway navigation plans, and a new cross-border pipeline for petroleum products. These projects must be pursued at fast pace because it will bring economic benefits to both nations.

Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt (Retd) is an Infantry Officer from 9th Gorkha Rifles. He is a former DGMO, GOC 15 Corps, and Military Secretary of the Indian Army. Brig Narender Kumar (Retd) is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) and former Distinguished Fellow, USI (New Delhi). The views expressed and suggestions made in the article are solely of the authors in their personal capacity and do not have any official endorsement.

Most crucial aspect is building bridges with the people. The strong connect India maintains with the ex-servicemen of Gorkha regiments in Nepal needs to be consolidated. India still remains an economic destination for the people of Nepal. In fact, citizens of Nepal should be granted access to utilise the healthcare and educational institutions along the borders.

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