SHEIKH ABDULLAH AND THE KASHMIR ISSUE

Created: 4/22/1964

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SHEIKH ABDULLAH AND TIIK KASHMIH ISS UK

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SHEIKH ABDULLAH AND THE KASHMIR ISSUE

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, nowears old, has forears been the most important figure ln Kashmiri politics. He has spent nearlyf those years in prison and was recently released from his longest stretch, some tenalf years. In his first moments of freedom, tbe Sheikh was quick to exhibit the outspokenness and the sense of Kashmiri patriotism which have been his trademarks. These qualities are the bases of his popular support and the main ingredients of his now legendary role as the "Lion ofhey also account in large measure for his long Incarcerations. The majorbetween India and Pakistan over possession of Kashmir and the magnitude of this Issue In Indian politics will be greatly influenced by the role Abdullah plays now.

In Accession

Abdullah first came into the limelight internationally78 when theover Kashmir between the newly independent dominions of India and Pakistan broke Into fighting and then was taken to the UN Security Council. The withdrawal of the British and subsequent splitting of the subcontinent along Hindu-Muslim communal lines faces the Hindu raaharaja of predominantlyKashmir with the decision whether to accede to India or Pakistan or to take another course. In keeping withKashmiri separateness, the maharaja chose to remain aloof from both India and Pakif fit ay. Within two months, Kashmir was invaded from Pakistan and the ruler sent Abdullah to New Delhi to Indian help. The maha-

raja 's accession to Indiaquickly thereafter, and Abdullah was made prime ministerargely autonomous Indian Kashmir. Outside observers agree that a fair vote, then as now, would have reversed this accession in favor of Pakistan.

India, in keeping with its claims to secularism, made ouch of Abdullah's role. The factuslim had led hismajority state into theunion was for the extbook denial of the very basis on which Pakistan had beentheory that South Asia's Hindus and Muslims formed "separate nations."

Closeness to Nehru

There can be no doubt that Nehru's secularism appealed to Abdullah. They had long been friends and had cooperated

closely during Nehru's long struggle against the British and Abdullah's against theconversely, Abdullah had never hit it off well with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the prime mover behind the creation of Pakistan. As earlybdullah bad secularized bis political organization inby admitting Hindus and Sikhs to membership and bythe word "Muslim" from tbe title.

Abdullah was also moved strongly by Kashmir's feeling of separateness. Conversations with him inmorewith his wife and some closeout that he then favored somein which the state would go its own way. He seems to have agreed to accession toout of the strength of his regard for Nehru and his fear that otherwise the state would be overrun by Pakistan.

During his early years as prime minister, the Sheikhthe accession and2 formally agreed with Nehru that Kashmir's foreign affairs, its defense, and itsshould be in Indian hands. His friends say he did not give up the idea of an independent or quasi-independent role for Kashmir but that rather, he felt these had to be submerged out of gratitude to India for its military and economic support.

The Falling Out

In time, as Nehru continued totrong and central-

ized federal structure in New Delhi, Abdullah found himself questioning New Delhi's policiesprivately, then3 publicly. He began speaking out on the need forarger measure of autonomy ln the state, and his enemiesaccusing him of advocating Independence. All of thistn3 when, amid considerable public disorder in the state, Abdullah wasfrom the prime ministry and subsequently Jailed on charges of "disruptionlsm, nepotism, and establishing foreign contactsind dangerous to the prosperity of thee was replaced by his formerBakshl Ghulam Muhammad who, although weak at the time, gave every evidenco of being willing to cooperate with New Delhi.

The suspicion of foreign contacts was directed mainly at Pakistan, but also at the United States which, In the heyday of anti-American feeling in India, was portrayed as encouraging Abdullah in his schemes for an autonomous or independent Kashmir which would thenS base. That overtones of tbis persist in the left wing ofpolitics today can be notedecent speech by the still vocal former defense minister, Krishna Menon, who said anKashmir would be "an American Kashmir."

Abdullah was released from prison but hisagain ran him afoul of the authorities. He was jailed within four months and formally charged

ar-reaching conspiracy aimed at bringing Kashmir into Pakistan. He was still on trial on this charge until the dayhis latest releasepril of this year.

Unrest In Kashmir

Why then, with this fairly consistent record of espousing policies not acceptable to New Delhi, did the Indiansanction Abdullah's release two weeks ago? The answer Is not simple nor ls the evidence firm.

Kashmir has In effect been rudderless since last August when Nehru forced Abdullah's successor, Bakahl, to step down as part of the sweeping proposal then current to rejuvenate tbe Congress Party by bringing high-powered ministers into full-time party work. in actuality, the inclusion of Bakahl wasto an admission by Nehru that Bakshi's value InKashmir's integration into India and in keeping the lid on continuing Kashmiri discontent with Indian rule had depreciated relative to the mounting burden of his corruption, his venality, and his police state methods. There appeared to be some however vague, to moveimproving India's image both ln Kashmir ml abroad by introducing a measure of Into the Indo-Kashmiri relationship.

This appears to haveajor miscalculation based on a faulty reading of the extent

to which Kashmiris had accepted their lot in the Indian union. Bakshl contributed to theconfusion byNehru into accepting aBakshl puppet who proved unequal to the job. The theft of the much-revered Muslim relic ln late December, the popular association of the Bakshl family with the crime, and theanti-Bakshl, antlgovernaent, and, lnferentlally, anti-Indian disturbances served thoroughly to discredit both Bakshl and his puppet. Meanwhile,elsewhere were having their effect as well.

The clamor over the relic, with Its communal overtones,ave of Hindu-Muslim violence ln East Pakistan and northeastern India which, while now abating, has still not yet run its course. On the scene, Pakistan returned the dispute over Kashmir to the UN Security Council and stepped up military pressure along the UN-supervised cease-fire line in Kashmir itself. And, in New Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of India's rigid policy on Kashmir, fell ill; Lai Bahadur Shastrl returned to the cabinet in the role of heirand began grappling with the Kashmir problem.

With Nehru's approval, Shastri effected the retirement of Bakshi's puppet and put Ghu-lam Muhammad Sadlq, Nehru's original choicerominent politician with long-standing leftist connections, ln the driver's seat In Kashmir.

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liberalization measures followed, but not fast enough for the Kashmiris, whosehad been whetted by the ousting of the Bakshl regime and were not satisfied with Sadiq.

Sentiment began to move toward some gesture in theof the still-imprisoned Abdullah, whose followers had covered themselves with glory during the relic crisis and whose popularity, even after and perhaps because of his long imprisonment, was undented. Sadlq appears to have seen in the release of Abdullah ain which he might be able to play off the remnants of the Bakshl regime against theAbdullah to his own Bakshl, however, moved to support Abdullah's release, apparently ln an effort to capitalize on popularand torisis serious enough to force New Delhi to turn again to his own strong arm.

IndiaGamble

In New Delhi, Shastriconcluded that Sadlq could not last long ln the present circumstances and that events In Kashmir were moving toward an explosion which would expose the use of Indian bayonets to dominate the state. Despite strong pressure from both the right and the left for maintenanceard line on Kashmir, Shastri theseems to have decided that

Abdullah might hold the key to easing the problem.

The hope of Shastri and other moderates in New Delhi was that even if the Sheikh's views had not mellowed inhis remarks suo-sequent to his release suggest they havemight at least sense the changing situation ln India and act reasonably to calm tbe situation in Kashmir just as his followers had donethe relic crisis.

Keifinr,im. G. M. Sodia.

In persuading Nehru to agree to Abdullah's release, Shastri appears to havethat an explosion could Just as easily take place with Abdullah In prison as without, but that his release, however risky,ossible way out. If successful, the gamble could pay off in aof the Kashmir situation.ailure. New Delhi would in most respects be no worse

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off than it would have been If the chance had not been taken.

Hand

Abdullah's actions since his release suggest thathe knows he has the strongest hand he has ever had in dealing with New Delhi, he is not yet ready to play it out. His initial remarksthat his basic views have not changed. He does not believe the Kashmir question isdoes New Delhi, but its public position is that the accession is final and irrevocable. Abdullaha Kashmir settlement must be reached by means ofwhich take account of all parties' Interests, those of the Kashmiris.

Although much will thus depend on Abdullah's to keep his pressure on New Delhi within bounds. New Delhiteady hand and the courage to play the game out. Even then, the buildup of pressures on both sides may badly restrict their room for maneuver. Kashmir ls the "sacred cow" of Indian politics. Nothingreater furor than thethat tbe Indianis weakening Its line on Kashmir. Abdullah's release has promoted such a furor, and the leading characters, Shastrl, are underattack. To protect Shastrl ls publiclyNehru with each step of the game.

hasot unsaid, however, and he seems intent on saying only enough to secure his political base ln Kashmir and to test Indian intentions without actually pushing New Delhi far enough at this time to warrant his rearrest. He has deferred public discussion of specific matters until he meets with Nehru in New Delhi next week and has sharply those who are attempting to promote a new rift between him and Nehru, his "dearest comrade and colleague."

A press report has already suggested that Nehru might be having second thoughts and that he has privately criticized Shastri for the "mess." At the same time, Nehru's public remarks have been quite mild, perhapsumored letter of reassurance from Abdullah. Nehru has publicly described the Sheikh's initial remarks as "unfortunate" but has also alluded to theof press exaggeration.

Nonetheless, Nehru has shown himself capable of

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unpleasant decisions regarding the Sheikh, and he is also notedin the best offor his lack of follow-through

on risky projects once the clamor reaches a certainlevel. If the gamble is to pay off he will probably have to go beyond merelythe Sheikh's remarks and avoiding his reimprisonment. He and his government will have to come forward with enough flexibility in their policies toward and ln Kashmir to meet Abdullah's as yet unspecified minimum requirements and to persuade the Sheikh that he has good reason to stay out of the comfortable confinement he has Just left.

The possibilityew approach to theof the Kashmir problem will rest on the success these leaders have in working out a new relationship between New Delhi and the Kashmir State government.

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