Beginning in 1947, when "India and Pakistan were born to conflict," renowned India scholar Stanley Wolpert provides an authoritative, accessible primer on what is potentially the world's most dangerous crisis. He concisely distills sixty-three years of complex history, tracing the roots of the relationship between these two antagonists, explaining the many attempts to resolve their disputes, and assessing the dominant political leaders. While the tragic Partition left many urgent problems, none has been more difficult than the problem over Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan. This intensely divisive issue has triggered two conventional wars, killed some 100,000 Kashmiris, and almost ignited two nuclear wars since 1998, when both India and Pakistan openly emerged as nuclear-weapon states. In addition to providing a comprehensive perspective on the origin and nature of this urgent conflict, Wolpert examines all the proposed solutions and concludes with a road map for a brighter future for South Asia.
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About the Author
Stanley Wolpert is the author of fourteen books, including India, now in its fourth edition from UC Press, A New History of India, now in its eighth edition, and Gandhi's Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. He is Professor Emeritus in the History Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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India and Pakistan
Continued Conflict or Cooperation?
By Stanley Wolpert
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESSCopyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
The Historic Roots of the Problem
India and Pakistan were born to conflict generated by the partition of British India in August 1947. Britain's last viceroy, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten (known as "Dickie"), who had little understanding of India, foolishly halved the timetable allotted to him by British Prime Minister Clement Attlee's Labour cabinet to try to resolve the conflicts that divided India's political leaders and get them to agree to form a single federal dominion of independent India. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the leaders of the Indian National Congress party, had always wanted such a federal union. Since 1940, however, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League had demanded an independent Pakistan, whose Muslims would have their own government rather than remaining subordinate to India's Hindu majority. Mountbatten quickly grew bored listening to the repeated arguments of the two sides, and was so eager to put an end to hearing them squabble that he urged Attlee to advance Britain's withdrawal of its powers and troops to mid-August 1947 rather than waiting till the end of June 1948.
In less than ten weeks, a British lawyer, Cyril Radcliffe, who had never before set foot on Indian soil, presided over the partition of British India's two largest multicultural provinces, Punjab and Bengal. After first rushing Radcliffe to finish drawing the new maps in desperate haste, Mountbatten embargoed them as soon as Radcliffe was finished, refusing to allow even his own British governors of Punjab and Bengal to see where the new lines would be drawn, such that no troops could be stationed at key danger points along those incendiary provincial borders, no warnings could be posted for desperate people who, overnight, found themselves living in "enemy" countries rather than among relatives and friends. Fear and terror followed for millions, tsunamis of murder and looting drowning the Punjab's Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims: trains filled with corpses steamed into Pakistan's Lahore and India's Amritsar stations as British troops filled every ship leaving the ports of Calcutta and Bombay, heading home to Cornwall and London even as Sir Cyril Radcliffe did, never looking back at the new border rivers of blood left behind.
Gandhi and Jinnah tried their best to slow Mountbatten down, pleading with him not to move so fast, knowing how terrified their people would be at what Mahatma Gandhi called the "vivisection of Mother India." But for Dickie, speed was always of the essence. Even Nehru, eager though he was to welcome the night of India's "tryst with destiny" after a decade wasted in British prisons, begged Mountbatten not to rush the transfer of power, anticipating only too well the panic and dangers that would be unleashed by partition. But Mountbatten listened to no one. The Sikhs had asked him for a separate state, Sikhistan, with Amritsar as its capital, rightly fearing what Punjab's partition would do to them. And Bengalis had pleaded for a greater Bangladesh, one with mighty Calcutta rather than tiny Dhaka as its capital, where all Bengali-speaking people, both Hindus and Muslims, could live together in peaceful harmony. But there was no time for them, either, on Mountbatten's large office calendar, each day of which he swiftly ripped off first thing every morning. So the juggernaut rolled on, crushing a million innocents under its giant wheels that fateful fall.
At that time, three-quarters of British India's some 400 million people were Hindus, most of the remaining quarter being Muslims, plus six million Sikhs and a million or so Parsis, Christians, and Jews. Hinduism's ancient roots are buried in the fecund soil of India's river valleys, primarily the Indus, where archaeological artifacts over four thousand years old have been unearthed. Symbols of mother-goddess worship as well as yogic practices associated with Lord Shiva in his iconic phallic form have been found in major centers of ancient Indus civilization, especially at Mohenjo-daro in Sind and Harappa in Punjab. A complex hierarchy of social castes is also reflected in the urban divisions of those remarkable Indus cities, whose arts and technological sophistication bear many other distinctive traces of contemporary Indian civilization. Long before the birth of Christianity, Hinduism's Rig Veda preserved Sanskrit hymns addressed to the thirty-three gods of its pantheon, and Hindu philosophy developed six remarkable systems of logical reasoning and abstract thought, including transcendental Vedanta philosophy, that continue to dazzle and fascinate students both in India and throughout the Western world.
The epic poems of ancient India, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, are still revered throughout India as the Iliad and Odyssey are in the West. Vishnu, the great solar divinity of Hinduism, has many earthly emanations (avataras), the most popular among which are Rama, Krishna, and the Buddha. Near the dawn of the Christian era, Hindus began to build beautiful temples, each dedicated to one or many of their gods, loving figures of which were usually carved in stone on one or more of those temples' façades.
Islam was born in Saudi Arabia in 622 C.E. and was first brought to South Asia by Arab warriors in 711 C.E. Starting in the eleventh century, Afghan, Persian, and Central Asian Muslim armies invaded India over its rugged North-West Frontier passes, destroying Hindu temples, whose images were anathema to Islam's iconoclastic devotees. Through the sixteenth century, those Muslim invaders continued to hammer away at Hindu temple cities, looting them and taking hostages back over the passes to Afghanistan. After 1206 C.E., when the Delhi sultanate was born, Muslim Afghan kings settled down to rule in North India's more salubrious clime, even as Central Asia's Great Mughal padishahs (emperors) would, following Babur's conquest of Delhi in 1526 C.E.
Hindus were initially forced to "surrender" (Islam) or face death. Mahmud of Ghazni, first of the invading Afghans, was known as "The Sword of Islam." But it soon became clear to Muslim monarchs that they could not hope to govern so vast and complex a world as India without local allies to collect their taxes and establish administrative systems that worked. So they granted Hindus the tolerant dispensation earlier offered by the Prophet Muhammad to Christians and Jews as "Peoples of the Book," allowing them to pay a "head tax" (jizya) to remain Hindus. Brahmans and other high-caste Hindus readily accepted that option, though they resented being obliged to pay for the privilege of continuing to worship their own gods in their own country. Millions of lower-caste and outcaste (Untouchable) Hindus preferred to convert to Islam, however, since they had no money and soon were attracted by the better-paid work available to them as Muslim converts. Others were lured to convert by the saintly Sufi mystics of Kashmir and Bengal, whose poetry and gentle teachings of God's love and compassionate grace for all humans won their hearts. Islam's universal democratic ethic also appealed to outcaste Hindus sick of Brahmanic domination. Nor was it difficult for them to "become" Muslim, which required them merely to affirm Islam's credo: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God," in Arabic. Brighter converts would also soon learn to pray five times daily, facing toward Mecca, to abstain from pork and wine, and to try their best to follow the "path to the watering place" trod by the Prophet.
By 1858, when Great Britain established its imperial Raj over most of India, about one-quarter of South Asia's population was Muslim, primarily the progeny of Hindu converts. Before that century ended, India's brightest young Hindus and modernist Muslims had brilliantly mastered Western education in English. Inspired by Milton, Bentham, Macaulay, Mill, and Morley, they demanded liberalism's freedoms and utilitarian reforms for India, citing the repeated promises of reform made by Empress Victoria, Britain's Prime Minister William Gladstone, and the enlightened British viceroy Lord Ripon. Following the lead of the civil servant–ornithologist Allan Octavian Hume, who inspired the creation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi's political guru, became Liberal Secretary of State John Morley's leading Indian adviser on reforms in 1906. Gokhale could have become the first Indian viceroy had it not been for a split in the Indian National Congress, which was triggered by the orthodox Brahman Bal Gangadhar Tilak's feud with Gokhale and his liberal friends. Tilak launched a revolutionary "New Party" that broke away from the moderate anglophile Congress in 1907. The brilliant Muslim lawyer M. A. Jinnah, whose ambition at this time was to become the Muslim Gokhale, was drawn to the Congress by its enlightened leadership. Later, he joined the more conservative Muslim League as well. Jinnah drafted a joint platform, adopted by both the Congress and the League, for post–World War I constitutional reforms, which was presented to the viceroy of British India and the secretary of state for India in 1916. Had that "Lucknow Pact," as the earliest Congress-League proposal for Dominion status for India was called, been accepted by competing Indian factions, and implemented by Great Britain's government after World War I, all of the subsequent agonies of partition could have been avoided.
But Britain's pre–World War I Liberal era ended without such enlightened reforms. Waves of harsh Tory repression returned to shatter Congress's dreams of freedom's reward for their loyal wartime cooperation in support of the Raj. Muslims were also bitterly disappointed when the secret Sykes-Picot wartime agreements, made by by the victorious Anglo-French allies to despoil the Ottoman Empire, came to light. The popular pan-Islamic Khilafat Movement was most strongly supported by Mahatma Gandhi as the first plank of his postwar Satyagraha (Hold Fast to the Truth) noncooperation movement against British duplicity and tyranny in 1919. That movement collapsed, however, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of the Turkish Republic, abolished the Caliphate. Gandhi meanwhile had turned to more revolutionary action against the Raj, calling upon his followers in 1920 to launch a multiple boycott of all things British, including law courts, titles, and Western education. British imports of every variety, especially cotton clothing and silk dresses, were burned in huge open-air fires, redolent of ancient Vedic sacrifices. Jinnah opposed such mass protests, fearing that they would provoke violence, despite Gandhi's insistence that nonviolence (a-himsa) must be central to his movement, considering it no less than God, even as he valued truth (satya), the ancient Rig Veda's term for the real.
Jinnah's objections were ignored by Gandhi's Indian National Congress, however, and he was shouted down by its vast majority, who considered him a Muslim tool of the British and drove him out of its meeting, and out of politics entirely. He rented law offices in London, pleading appeals before the Privy Council, living in a splendid house in Hampstead near the Heath, until several of his closest Bombay Muslim friends invited him to lead their moribund Muslim League, which Jinnah quickly revitalized, becoming its permanent president. Mahatma Gandhi and Motilal Nehru then led the Congress party.
In 1930, Motilal's only son, Jawaharlal, presided over the first of his many annual Congress sessions, drafting its passionate demand for complete freedom (purna swaraj) from British rule. The radical, charismatic Nehru led the Congress party to victory in every electoral campaign he undertook. He was not only Gandhi's political heir, but also the darling of India's intellectuals. Men and women alike were drawn to join the Congress thanks to his idealism and personal magnetism. Ardent socialist that he was, Nehru considered Jinnah a reactionary reflection of the outmoded English liberalism of the previous century, and never took him or his League seriously as a challenge to Congress dominance. When Congress won the majority in most provinces of British India in nationwide elections of 1937 and Jinnah called for coalition Congress-League cabinets in the largest multicultural provinces of North India, Nehru replied that only "two parties" remained in India, "Congress and the British." Jinnah responded: "There is a third party—the Muslims!"
Jinnah devoted the last decade of his life, and that of British India, to proving that his League commanded the support of the majority of India's Muslim population, whom he claimed wanted their own separate nation-state of Pakistan (Land of the Pure), also an acrostic of Punjab, Afghania (the North-West Frontier), Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan. In March 1940, when the League's Pakistan resolution was unanimously carried at its annual session in Lahore, Jinnah was hailed as its Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader). He devoted the rest of his life to convincing the British, as well as every South Asian Muslim, of the validity of his demand. Few took him seriously at first. Most Congress leaders considered him mad, but, during World War II, when Gandhi and Nehru rejected the British viceroy's appeals for Congress support against the Axis, Jinnah and his League supported the Raj, as did all the Muslim troops of Punjab. Winston Churchill and the wartime viceroys Linlithgow and Wavell considered Jinnah Britain's best friend, while they viewed Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, and other Congress leaders as traitors to be locked up behind bars till the war's end.
Britain's postwar fatigue and a growing sterling balance indebtedness to India for shipments of Punjabi wheat and other vital wartime supplies, which kept British as well as Indian troops alive on the Western Front and in North Africa, left Attlee's new Labour government as sick and tired of Congress-League squabbling as Churchill's wartime cabinet had been. Even the radical Stafford Cripps, Congress's best friend in the cabinet, grew frustrated with Gandhi and Nehru as they carped and bickered over Britain's last constitutional offer, which Cripps had drafted for the 1946 cabinet mission that Labour's elderly secretary of state for India and Burma, Lord Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, led. Jinnah accepted that federal plan, which would have given him most of what he wanted, but without calling it Pakistan. Nehru then balked, however, and Gandhi raised more questions, which finally drove the weary Cripps to abandon India in anger and disgust. His three-tier plan would have loosely united virtually autonomous groups of provinces of what are now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh under a weak central umbrella controlling foreign affairs, defense, and currency, also resolving religious arguments among those three multiprovincial state groups. Had it only been given a chance, that complex but wise plan might have saved South Asia the agonies of three wars and the incalculable cost of partition.
But when Cripps came home admitting defeat, there seemed little more that Attlee could do. So, as Mountbatten's friend Noël Coward put it, "The position having become impossible, they call on Dickie!" Mountbatten took up the last viceroy's job as lightheartedly as he did most things, with royal panache, informing "Cousin Bertie," King George, that he viewed the idea of breaking India's political deadlock as challenging as a game of polo: "The last Chukka in India—12 goals down." He got so bored, however, trying to bring Nehru, Gandhi, and Jinnah to agree upon a single plan that he swiftly opted for partition as the simplest solution.
Cyril Radcliffe was invited to India to chair the Punjab and Bengal Partition Commissions, each with two constantly divided Congress and League lawyers on it, leaving Radcliffe himself to finish drawing the two new dominions' boundary lines on the sorely inadequate maps he'd been given. The commissions had been appointed merely to divide both provinces along "Muslim versus non-Muslim majority Districts," yet Radcliffe's Punjab line cut through the heart of Punjab's central canal colony land, where some six million Sikhs lived, since Mountbatten refused to consider Sikh demands for a state of their own. Nor could Radcliffe resist pressure from Mountbatten, who had accepted Nehru's flattering invitation to serve as independent India's first governor-general, and so acceded to Nehru's passionate insistence that the Gurdaspur District of Punjab be awarded to India, despite its Muslim majority, since without it, India would have been deprived of direct road access to the Vale of Kashmir. Nehru also demanded that the Muslim-majority subdistrict of Ferozepur, with its mighty hydroelectric generators, be included in India's Punjab for vital strategic reasons. Mountbatten, judging the strategic risk of losing Ferozepur too high a price for India to pay, persuaded Radcliffe to redraw his initial Punjab line accordingly, though neither he nor Mountbatten ever admitted the latter's "pressure."
Excerpted from India and Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert. Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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Table of Contents
List of MapsPreface and AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. The Historic Roots of the Problem2. The First Indo-Pakistani War3. The Second Indo-Pakistani War4. The Third Indo-Pakistani War and the Birth of Bangladesh5. From the Simla Summit to Zia’s Coup6. Afghanistan’s Impact on Indo-Pakistani Relations7. Pakistan’s Proxy War and Kashmir’s Azaadi Revolution8. Recent Attempts to Resolve the Escalating Conflict9. The Stalled Peace Process10. Potential Solutions to the Kashmir ConflictNotesSelect BibliographyIndex
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