May 2006 News

Kashmir dispute could have been settled in 1963, but for Nehru

30 May 2006
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington DC: Had India accepted a proposal jointly worked out by President Kennedy and Prime Minister McMillan in 1963 for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute, the history of the Subcontinent would have been quite different today. In his recent book, ‘The India-Pakistan Negotiating Experience,’ former US diplomat and author Dennis Kux writes that by the time the proposal was submitted to the Indian and Pakistani governments, “President Kennedy had grown increasingly pessimistic about the negotiations”. Unfortunately, through a bureaucratic mix-up, Pakistan received the proposal, which was called ‘Elements of a Kashmir Settlement,’ before India did, which Nehru “used” as “an excuse to finish” what he called “these ill- conceived initiatives however well-intentioned they may be”. The American ambassador in New Delhi, JK Galbraith, cabled Washington that Nehru would have found some escape route other than the proposal as he was “unquestionably angry, in part at my pressure, much more at the fact that I have translated his vague talk of wanting a settlement into firm concessions that he doesn’t want to make”. When the US-UK proposal was submitted, four rounds of the Bhutto-Swaran Singh talks had already taken place, which had failed to bring the two countries anywhere close to a settlement. Two more rounds were held. The joint US-UK proposal said “neither India nor Pakistan can entirely give up its claim to the Kashmir Valley,” therefore, “each must have a substantial position in the Valley”. India and Pakistan, it continued, “must have assured access through the Vale for the defence of their positions in the north and the east. These defence arrangements must be such as not to impede a disengagement of Indian and Pakistani forces.” It added that “outside the Valley, the economic and strategic interests of the two countries should be recognised, e.g., India’s position in Ladakh and Pakistan’s interest in the development of water storage facilities on the Chenab”. The document said “The position of the two countries in the Valley must be such as to permit (a) clearly defined arrangements for sovereignty and for the maintenance of law and order; (b) political freedom and some measure of local self-rule for the inhabitants; (c) free movement of the people of the Valley throughout the Vale and their relatively free movement to other parts of Kashmir and to India and Pakistan; (d) the rapid development by India and Pakistan of tourism in the Kashmir area – with its important foreign exchange potential for both countries; and (e) the effective use in Kashmir of development funds, available for external sources, for such purposes as improving water and forestry resources, the development of communications and small industries, and improving the health and welfare of the people.”

 

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