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How India Almost Gave Away Parts Of J&K To Pakistan

By Colonel ANIL A ATHALE (Retd)
April 08, 2024 10:44 IST
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India agreed to give up the Poonch salient as well as Uri.
To the north India also proposed to give up land in the Gurez sector giving the entire Neelam/Kinshanganga valley to Pakistan.
In return, India sought control of the post dominating Kargil town, points out Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

IMAGE: Then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Photograph: Baron/Getty Images from the Rediff Archives

It is election season in India and the issue of Katchchatheevu island gifted to Sri Lanka by India in 1974 is making news.

Unfortunately, this is neither the first or the last such instance when our rulers, unmindful of the geo-political costs and bloodshed by soldiers, have given away our interests without quid pro quo.

Many of these concessions were given under duress or vain hopes that this will buy peace or goodwill.

India gave up its claim on the Kobe valley in East vis a vis Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) as well as the Coco island, that was part of the Andaman and Nicobar island group.

Today the Myanmar government has given a base to the Chinese on that island posing a threat to our island territories.

We nearly suffered a similar disaster in 1963, when in the wake of the Chinese aggression of 1962, the United States pressured us to give up land in Kashmir to Pakistan.

Ironically, we have to thank Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then foreign minister of Pakistan, who rejected this outright as he wanted the whole of the Kashmir Valley and territory up to the Chenab river in Jammu division.

The simmering India-China border dispute erupted into armed conflict on October 20, 1962 when China attacked India. The border has been tense for the previous two years.

While these developments were taking place, on October 13, 1962, China and Pakistan began negotiating on the border.

Led by inept military leadership in the then NEFA or the North East Frontier Agency (present day Arunachal Pradesh), the ill-equipped Indian Army suffered a major defeat.

India's inexperienced political leadership led by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru panicked and requested military aid from the US.

Initially the US was slow in coming to India's aid as the conflict coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Once free from the confrontation with the then Soviet Union, the US came up with major supplies for the Indian military.

Pakistan, then a staunch ally of the US, was restrained by American pressure from fishing in troubled waters and this enabled India to move soldiers from the Pakistan border to the China front.

No sooner that the fighting on the Chinese front ended on November 21, 1962, the US on the promptings of the UK pressured India to begin talks with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.

The Indian delegation was led by Sardar Swaran Singh, the Pakistan delegation was led by Bhutto.

IMAGE: Then prime minister Nehru speaks on his arrival at the White House, watched by then US president John F Kennedy and then vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images from the Rediff Archives

In the third round of talks held in Karachi on February 9, 1963, India offered a partition line.

Swaran Singh called it a 'Line of Peace and Collaboration' (LOPC).

In this proposal India agreed to give up the Poonch salient as well as Uri.

To the north India also proposed to give up land in the Gurez sector giving the entire Neelam/Kinshanganga valley to Pakistan.

In return, India sought control of the post dominating Kargil town (these were captured in 1965 and again in 1971 and are currently with India).

These proposals were kept secret even within the Government of India.

Not just this, Bhutto also requested that India should also not know that Pakistan has leaked these proposals to the Americans and British.

It was and is treated as TOP SECRET in India to date.

The diplomatic telegram that gives details of this Indian offer was declassified by the Americans as per their law.

I obtained this copy while working as a Kennedy Fellow in 2003.

Luckily for India, a greedy Bhutto rejected the Indian proposals outright.

He proposed his own partition line that gave the entire area north of Jammu to Pakistan and included the Chenab valley and Doda district.

Even this was termed as a concession by Bhutto since Pakistan insisted on the whole of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the plebiscite to be held.

India rejected the Pakistan proposal and in subsequent rounds withdrew the earlier offer.

The international situation was changing and the Sino-Soviet dispute came out in the open and the USSR came in open support of India vis a vis China.

IMAGE: Then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then defence minister V K Krishna Menon at the United Nations. Photograph: Kind courtesy Wikipedia Commons

In July 1993, the late George Tanham, vice president of the Rand Corporation, (a well-known American think-tank), shared a draft of his essay on Indian Strategic culture or lack of it with me.

The essay basically postulates that India lacks a culture of long term strategic thinking.

Howsoever painful for an Indian, this is indeed a truth.

I was asked, as late as 2000 by a former foreign secretary about the possibility of the partition of the Kashmir Valley that would be militarily feasible!

Many of us never thought that we will see the abrogation of Article 370 and the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union in our lifetime.

The Narendra Modi government gets full marks and credit for the change in the national mindset from appeasement as a policy to assertion of our legitimate interests.

It is indeed a welcome break from the past.

Strategic analysts agree that for a very long time the West used Kashmir as a pressure point against India.

Successful absorption of Kashmir into the Indian Union has deprived them of this diplomatic tool.

Is it any wonder that these very powers are now using other issues like the CAA (Citizenship [Amendment] Act) or income tax actions of judicial independence as new issues to dent India's image.

The sole aim behind this campaign is to reduce India's soft power and prestige. Indians will do well to ignore these critics as we did for years on Kashmir.

The diplomatic telegram obtained by Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) while he was working as a Kennedy Fellow in 2003.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) is a military historian whose earlier columns can be read here.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Colonel ANIL A ATHALE (Retd)