A Black Day for South Asian Nuclear Powers

Muhammad Najm Akbar

October 28, 2018

Pakistan joined Kashmiris in commemorating a Black Day to mark the rejection of the accession of the Princely State of Kashmir to India, seventy one years ago. Lord Mountbatten was until then the Governor General of the largest part of the erstwhile British Indian Empire, one of the two de facto nuclear powers in the region today. Indian Independence Act, 1947  had envisioned no future for the 565 Princely States of India while stipulating in articles 7 b of the Act “…the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian States lapses, and with it, all treaties and agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act…”. An advice from the last Viceroy of India to the Chamber of Princes July 25, 1947 suggested that they take into account their geographic proximity and the wishes of their inhabitants while opting for either of the two Dominions. Real politic, nonetheless, immediately took over as V.P. Menon, the Indian architect of accessions proudly recounts in his book on the integration of princely states.

Pakistani leadership of the independence movement had convinced itself that the Princes would conform to the suggested guidelines of July 1947 and had assumed that on the basis of Kashmir’s geography and demographics, the Maharajah of Kashmir would acceded to Pakistan. He either did not or, according to an alternate view, India forced him to go against the wishes of his people. The violence that might have forced the Maharajah’s hand and the war that ensued between the Dominions of India and Pakistan engaged the United Nations, a budding international organization until then in the midst of declining but still potent imperial powers. The UN adopted its course of action through a series of resolutions and decisions.  UNMOGIP is a continuing reminder of that engagement.

A lot has changed since 1947, over and above the most radical transformation of these South Asian neighbors into de facto nuclear powers. While Pakistan covets the implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir, the Security Council does not seem to have the votes that would make it possible.  In the meantime, Pakistan is no longer the same country that the Dominion of Pakistan in 1947 anticipated as East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971. On its side, India contends that Simla Agreement of July 1972 between her and a truncated Pakistan trumps the UN process. Through the agreement, both countries have committed to resolve the issues between them bilaterally and amicably and also not to alternate unilaterally the situation that emerged on the line of control as a result of the ceasefire of December 17, 1971.  While UN stands apart, bilateral process between the South Asian nuclear powers has failed to gain momentum. Kashmiris on both sides of the line of control continue to be the biggest victims of this chaotic situation in addition to the prospects of enhanced regional peace and prosperity, cooperation and trade within SAARC.

Far removed from the pain and suffering of the Kashmiris, this prolonged conflict has engendered a dynamics of their own. At the expense of an entrapped population, a profiteering industry has grown that thrives on that spillover without making any meaningful contribution to the resolution of the dispute. Policy makers in nuclear South Asia have to end this exploitative industry. Some factors to look at would be the enormous flows of funds to the detriment of social sectors, officially to the armed forces and unofficially through other means to non-state armed actors as well as material and immaterial advantages occurring to extremist elements in society in both countries. South Asian nuclear neighbors must figure out ways to establish sustained channels of communications and figure out ways to remove the hurdles that encumber the forward march of over one-fifth of the world population living in the region.

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Najm Akbar

I have remained focused on the interface of history and policymaking while pursuing graduate studies in history at Fresno State, developing on three years of my education at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (MA 1995, MALD 2011). While teaching Urdu between 2005-2018, or holding diplomatic assignments between 1981-2002, the intersection between these two processes has been the mainspring of my personal, professional and intellectual pursuits. This platform would continue that endeavor.

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