• Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Kashmir's Untold Story: Declassified

Kashmir's Untold Story: Declassified
on Nov 19, 2019
Kashmir's Untold Story: Declassified
The book highlights three factors in the Kashmir imbroglio: one, the strategic significance attached by the British to Jammu and Kashmir due to its location at the heart of Central Asia, particularly the borders it shared with China and Tibet to the north and Afghanistan and Iran in the west, and its close proximity to the Russian empire, later the Soviet Union. These geopolitical factors influenced the British role in the state from its inception. Following this, the authors trace the British role in the context of the Pakistan-sponsored invasion of the state just after independence and the subsequent accession of the state to India. Finally, the writers discuss the present-day strategic importance of the state for Chinese interests, which, in their view, explains China’s role in the state and its close ties with Pakistan. In the 1930s, concerns in Delhi that the Soviet Union could take advantage of unrest in Sinkiang to absorb this region and meddle in Indian affairs across the border, led the ruler Hari Singh in March 1935 to lease the Gilgit wazaret and its vassal states, together constituting the Gilgit Agency, to the British for 60 years (mentioned as 75 years on p 31). The authors point out that, of the eight known passes between Central Asia and the Indian sub-continent, six are within a week’s march from Gilgit. This strategically important territory became part of British India and was headed by a Political Agent. The authors then discuss at length the efforts made by British officers on the ground to ensure that after Partition, the agency acceded to Pakistan. Despite the agency having been formally returned to the ruler four months earlier, once the ruler acceded to India in October 1947, the Gilgit Agency was successfully transferred to Pakistan in November. This was achieved through an active role being played by British officers who, in a military action coordinated with senior British and Pakistani officers, evicted the ruler’s representative and handed over this territory to a Pakistani Political Agent. The book then provides a detailed account not just of the Pakistani but also of the British role in facilitating the invasion of Jammu and Kashmir from mid-October 1947, known as “Operation Gulmarg”. This is based on a wide variety of sources, offering both hard information as also the piecing together of different events to present a convincing portrait of British perfidy.

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