Tag Archives: Azad Kashmir

Name changes: POK or POJ&K? 12 June 2014

Name changes: POK or POJ&K?   12 June 2014

India’s new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government is apparently contemplating changing the term ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)’ to ‘Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJ&K)’. This move has upset some people, including Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, who considers it an attempt to polarise the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call this divided and disputed population. Terminology is an important issue, including in relation to disputed J&K, the nomenclature for which I have sometimes found to be confusing, unclear and problematic.

In my experience, when Indians and Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they often mean different things. For an Indian, ‘Kashmir’ generally refers to the region known as the Kashmir Valley—or Kashmir, for short—which, along with Jammu and Ladakh, comprises what I call ‘Indian J&K’: the area of J&K actually under India’s control. For a Pakistani, ‘Kashmir’ often refers to most of the former princely state of J&K. I say ‘most’ as Pakistan has been able—very cleverly since General Zia’s time—to suggest via maps and diplomacy that the Gilgit-Baltistan region in J&K’s north (known as the Northern Areas until 2009) is neither part of J&K, nor of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan’s tactic, in which India seemingly sometimes acquiesces, arises because the British directly controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s and the Gilgit Leased Area from the 1930s. Islamabad’s suggestion is that the two areas were not part of princely J&K. This is incorrect. Both areas actually belonged the Dogra maharaja as part of J&K’s Frontiers District Province. Furthermore, as was publicly recorded, the British returned the Gilgit Agency and the Gilgit Leased Area to Maharaja Hari Singh’s direct control and administration on 1 August 1947. Gilgit-Baltistan therefore is part of the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K.

Confusingly, ‘Kashmir’ also is used by historians and international relations scholars in the term ‘the Kashmir dispute’ that has existed since 1947 between India and Pakistan over which should possess the former princely state of J&K. J&K comprises five regions: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Jammu; Kashmir; Ladakh. However, the former princely entity was popularly called ‘Kashmir’ after its highest profile, best known and most celebrated part: Kashmir. This famous region essentially was/is the Kashmir Valley. Because the princely state was popularly called Kashmir, so we have ‘the Kashmir dispute’. More correctly, this issue should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, or ‘the India-Pakistan dispute over Jammu and Kashmir’, or ‘the dispute over the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir’. However, because these terms are a mouthful and given the former princely state’s popular name, the Kashmir dispute has come to be commonly used.

Ethnically-speaking, differences also exist. For an Indian or someone from Indian J&K, a ‘Kashmiri’ is a resident of the Kashmir Valley. Most, but not all, ethnic Kashmiris in J&K live there, although Azad Kashmir also has some small populations. For a Pakistani, a Kashmiri could be anyone from the former princely state of J&K. In Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir—or Azad Kashmir, for short—as this region has formally called itself since 1947, a Kashmiri is a person from Azad Kashmir who, most probably, is not an ethnic Kashmiri. Azad Kashmiris call themselves ‘Kashmiris’ because their forebears were subjects in the former princely state of J&K commonly called ‘Kashmir’. Similarly, some ‘Pakistanis’ in the United Kingdom, a large percentage of whom actually are from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, increasingly are calling themselves ‘Kashmiris’ in order to distinguish themselves from other British Pakistanis. These Mirpuris are not ethnic Kashmiris. Their links arise from the former princely state.

Then we get to the loaded terms, such as India’s ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)’ and Pakistan’s ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)’ or ‘Indian Held Kashmir (IHK)’. (Another term for New Delhi to consider is ‘Chinese-Occupied Kashmir’, which refers to Aksai Chin and Shaksgam.) Confusingly, when an Indian uses the term ‘POK’, he/she can be talking about three things: ‘POK’, which I call ‘Pakistan Administered J&K’ (comprising Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan); Azad Kashmir; or Gilgit-Baltistan. Such unclarity is made worse because some Indians cannot bring themselves to use the term ‘Azad Kashmir’. It sticks in their craws that these pro-Pakistanis are ‘free’, particularly as both Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan supposedly are an ‘integral part of India’ due to Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession to India in 1947. Interestingly, Azad Kashmiris do not consider themselves free in the sense of being independent. Rather, they became free from the maharaja’s control in 1947, then, post-accession, they were free from Indian control.

The terms ‘IOK’ and ‘IHK’ also confuse, chiefly as many Pakistanis don’t appear to be interested in obtaining possession of Indian J&K’s Jammu or Ladakh regions. Remembering that the ‘k’ in the acrostic ‘Pakistan’ stands for ‘Kashmir’, Pakistanis want the Kashmir Valley. Here there is an important aside: despite what many Indians and others believe, Pakistan does not officially claim all of J&K. Rather, it wants the United Nations plebiscite held so that the people of J&K can decide whether J&K, in its entirety, will join either India or Pakistan. Meanwhile, Islamabad is administering ‘its’ portion of J&K until this poll is held. Pakistanis’ hopes for a plebiscite are forlorn, however. Since the 1950s, India has been unwilling to have this poll held.

And, finally, to India’s proposed use of the term ‘Pakistan Occupied J&K’. It is easy to change a term, although the change may not have much relevance. However, for two reasons, the term ‘POJ&K’ is more correct than ‘POK’. First, as noted, the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K should actually be called ‘the Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, not just ‘the Kashmir dispute’. Second, most of Azad Kashmir comprises western areas of the former Jammu Province, chiefly Mirpur, Kotli and Poonch. The problem remains that, whatever term New Delhi decides to use, it does not reflect the confusing fact that ‘occupied’ Gilgit-Baltistan also is part of the Kashmir dispute. We need a new, more inclusive, term for this dispute!

The opinions in this blog are mine. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organisations, professional or otherwise, with which I am involved or associated.

Christopher Snedden
12 June 2014


J&K’s Chequered Democratic History 23 April 2014

J&K’s Chequered Democratic History   23 April 2014

Since 1947, disputed Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has had a chequered democratic history. The table below provides details about elections conducted since 1947. Many of these have been heavily controlled, or at least overseen, by militaries—Indian or Pakistani. Incumbent politicians have sought to maximise their (superior) position over rivals, including by intimidation or kidnapping of candidates, voters and the press, by using government machinery to their advantage, or by preventing or manipulating nominations, voting, campaigning and the counting or scrutineering of votes. Politicians in New Delhi or Islamabad also have influenced election outcomes, including by imposing their leader in a region. Some elections in J&K therefore have ended up being ‘selections’, not free and fair elections.

In Indian J&K, all elections until 1977 almost certainly were rigged to support the ruling, pro-India National Conference Party, or derivatives thereof, in which rigging New Delhi usually participated or acquiesced. Only the 1977 and 1983 elections were considered free and fair. In 1977, rigging was unnecessary due to the popularity of Sheikh Abdullah, who had reconciled with India. In 1983, Abdullah’s son, Farooq, received a sympathy vote following his father’s 1982 death. In 1987, many Kashmiris were appalled by a badly rigged election after Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi, and their forces, colluded. The result provoked young, alienated Kashmiris to fight to free Kashmir from Indian control. From 1990-1996, Governor’s and President’s Rule abrogated democracy as Indians countered this bitter uprising. Slowly, India’s position improved. An election was held in J&K in 1996. Despite military intimidation to ‘encourage’ voters, the turnout was low in Kashmir—about 10 per cent. In 2002, voter turnout improved to 40 per cent throughout Indian J&K. In 2008, it was a respectable 61 per cent, despite freezing weather. Indian J&K is the only Indian state with six-yearly elections. The next is due in 2015.

In Pakistan-administered J&K, democracy has generally fared poorly. In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, only the Muslim Conference political party was allowed to exist until 1970, although Pakistan’s powerful Ministry of Kashmir Affairs dominated it, and the region. After a partyless, military-sanctioned Basic Democracy election in 1961, Azad Kashmiris had their first multi-party election in 1970. Reflecting a newly-instituted, relatively liberal constitution, this poll was arguably the freest and fairest ever conducted in South Asia. Thereafter, Azad Kashmir elections confronted challenges. The Pakistan Army ‘oversaw’ the 1985, 2001 and 2006 polls; the 1991 election was contentious, coming soon after the close 1990 election and Islamabad sacking the government; in the 1990s, anxious Azad Kashmiris voted while trying to balance supporting Kashmiris revolting in India and oppressive Pakistan authorities uncertain about how to handle this crisis; throughout, Islamabad invariably interfered to ensure ‘its’ politician ruled Azad Kashmir, confirming the saying: ‘The road to power in Muzaffarabad runs through Islamabad’. The next election is due in 2016.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, autocracy reigned unchallenged until 2009. Then, the Empowerment and Self-Governance Order gave Gilgit-Baltistanis a rudimentary constitution, a political arrangement reflecting Azad Kashmir’s, limited administrative autonomy—and, finally, the vote. The resultant election to the 24-member Legislative Assembly while flawed was acceptable to sufficient voters. Members then elected nine seats reserved for women and others. (Previously, voters had elected two advisory bodies: Northern Areas Executive Council (1994), Northern Areas Legislative Council (2000; 2004). These elections were not multi-party.) The Order does not state the administration’s term of office. The next election possibly is later this year.

Multi-party Elections Conducted in Jammu and Kashmir

Year Region Type Resulting Administration
1951 IJ&K Constitutional National Conference
1957 IJ&K LA National Conference
1962 IJ&K LA National Conference
1967 IJ&K LA Local branch of Indian National Congress
1970 AJ&K Presidential Sardar Qayyum Khan, Muslim Conference
1970 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
1972 IJ&K LA Local branch of Congress (I)
1975 AJ&K LA Pakistan People’s Party–Azad Kashmir
1977 IJ&K LA National Conference
1983 IJ&K LA National Conference
1985 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
1987 IJ&K LA National Conference-Congress (I) Alliance
1990 AJ&K LA People’s Democratic Party and
Indian National Congress
1991 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
1996 IJ&K LA National Conference
1996 AJ&K LA Pakistan People’s Party–Azad Kashmir
2001 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
2002 IJ&K LA People’s Democratic Party and
Indian National Congress
2006 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
2008 IJ&K LA National Conference
2009 G-B LA Pakistan People’s Party
2011 AJ&K LA Pakistan People’s Party–Azad Kashmir

AJ&K   Azad Jammu and Kashmir
G-B      Gilgit-Baltistan
IJ&K     Indian Jammu and Kashmir
LA        Legislative Assembly

Some differences exist in J&K’s political arrangements. In Indian J&K, voters directly elect the 87-member Legislative Assembly; two women are nominated to seats. These members then indirectly elect the bulk of the 36-member upper house, the largely toothless Legislative Council. Voters in Indian J&K also elect six representatives to India’s Lok Sabha (lower house); the Legislative Assembly elects four members to India’s Rajya Sabha (upper house). Conversely, Azad Kashmiris and Gilgit-Baltistanis do not elect representatives to Pakistan’s National Assembly or Senate. Instead, each region has a unique Council arrangement comprising members of their Legislative Assembly and senior Pakistani politicians who jointly decide major matters as per each region’s constitution. The Pakistan Prime Minister chairs each Council. A further significant difference is that ‘refugees’ from J&K living in Pakistan elect twelve representatives to the 41-seat Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly, after which members elect eight seats reserved for women and others. Given their smaller electorate sizes, particularly for ethnic Kashmiris, these ‘refugees’, many of whom are entrenched Pakistanis, have disproportionate influence. This arrangement also helps Islamabad to manipulate elections.

J&K’s patchy democracy, while better than nothing, is partly explicable. First, India and Pakistan have wanted to ensure their positions in J&K by supporting political surrogates and ignoring, or even encouraging, malpractices. Second, the state’s former ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, had autocratic practices that informed local politicians: ignoring constituents; stifling free speech; jailing opponents; ‘selecting’ members to the Praja Sahba (People’s House), not having them elected. Despite such political repression, senior J&K politicians quickly injected some of Singh’s practices into local politics.

Christopher Snedden
23 April 2014

Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K 22 January 2014



Map above from The Economist, 8 February 2012, www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/indian_pakistani_and_chinese_border_disputes


Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K     22 January 2014

The dispute over the international status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is old, complicated and convoluted. India and Pakistan have been engaged in this matter emotionally, diplomatically and militarily from before the British left the Indian subcontinent in August 1947. J&K was then important to them because the princely state—commonly called ‘Kashmir’ after its most famous region—was prestigious. In 1947, J&K was India’s largest princely state. It had international borders with Afghanistan, China and (then independent) Tibet; the USSR’s Tajikistan Republic was nearby to the north. Some major rivers flowed through J&K: the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Finally, J&K would share post-partition borders with Pakistan and India, albeit short with India, with both nations wanting to include the princely state in their territory.

In the finish, neither nation secured all of J&K. Since 1947, the former princely state has been militarily-divided between India, which controls Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, and Pakistan, which administers Azad (Free) Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. China controls two areas nominally under J&K’s control in 1947: Aksai Chin and Shaksgam. Officially, India claims all of the territory ‘occupied’ by Pakistan and China because the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, acceded to India on 26 October 1947. For New Delhi, all of J&K is an ‘integral part of India’. Pakistan is administering ‘its’ areas until a United Nations-supervised plebiscite can be held to determine whether the people of J&K want ‘their’ state, in its entirety, to join India or Pakistan. India and China, as part of their ongoing territorial and border negotiations, are discussing Aksai Chin. Beijing has said that it will renegotiate its control of Shaksgam should India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K.

Interestingly, but problematically, India and Pakistan each has a different perception as to what comprises the former princely state. Official Indian maps show all of J&K as being Indian territory, even though civilian Indians have never set foot in areas outside India’s control: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Aksai Chin; Shaksgam. Official Pakistani maps show the Gilgit Agency as not being part of the ‘disputed territory’ of J&K. (Such maps also often show Junagadh and Manavadar, whose rulers acceded to Pakistan in 1947, as being Pakistan’s.) Although the British controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s, they publicly returned (or retroceded) control of this territory to the Maharaja of J&K on 1 August 1947. Therefore, Gilgit is part of J&K, and of the Kashmir dispute.

India is fussy about maps of J&K, with New Delhi sometimes insisting that publications must use its official map of the former princely state. In 2012, New Delhi censored editions of The Economist that included a map showing the actual situation on the ground in disputed J&K  (like the map above), rather than showing all of J&K as being Indian territory. For this reason, I chose not include any maps in my book about Azad Kashmir that was published internationally in 2012, and in Pakistan and India in 2013.

Another issue is terminology. The India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is known as ‘the Kashmir dispute’ because, when the princely state was created in 1846, the most prestigious and reasonably autonomous part of the entity was Kashmir. Fairly quickly thereafter, both J&K and its rulers came to be called ‘Kashmir’. For this reason, although the dispute over J&K should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, it is known instead as the ‘Kashmir dispute’. Otherwise, when Indians use the term ‘Kashmir’, they are referring to the Kashmir Valley that India controls and which Pakistan desires. For Indians, residents of Kashmir are ethnic Kashmiris. When Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they may be referring to the Kashmir Valley. More often, they are referring to the entire former princely state. Similarly, when Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmiri’, they may be referring to an ethnic Kashmiri. More often, they are referring to a resident of the former princely state. Pakistanis also talk of an ‘Azad Kashmiri’. This is a resident of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ region who, more often than not, is not an ethnic Kashmiri.

Neither India nor Pakistan knows how—nor seemingly is prepared—to resolve their dispute over J&K. Pakistan officially wants the UN plebiscite held, which is untenable for India. Conversely, India wants it and Pakistan to resolve this bilateral matter, although unofficially Pakistan might like mediation by a third party, possibly the United States, which also is untenable for India. However, the Kashmir dispute already has trilateral aspects. J&K-ites (my term for the people of J&K) are the third party to this dispute. Furthermore, in 1963, Pakistan ceded territory that India considers to be its to China; since 1948, the UN Security Council has been involved with India and Pakistan re J&K and could, if desired, re-open this matter sidelined since 1965; and, the UN has its Military Observer Group that monitors the Line of Control that divides J&K into Indian and Pakistan-administered areas.

Having been involved analysing the Kashmir dispute since 1984, I know that this issue generates considerable argument among Indians, Pakistanis and J&K-ites. Surprisingly, I have found only one matter about which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over J&K: that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can have independence. This ‘agreement’ is counter to the azadi (independence) that some, perhaps many, J&K-ites living in places such as Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Mirpur, may desire. That said, we don’t know what status, or statuses, J&K-ites actually want as they have never been asked this question in any inclusive or conclusive way. Indeed, J&K-ites are the forgotten element of the Kashmir dispute—even though they actually instigated the fight over J&K’s international status before India or Pakistan was officially involved in the state and even though this fight is over their lands. This makes J&K-ites the first party to the Kashmir dispute—a fact not recognised, or forgotten, by India and Pakistan. When it comes to J&K, there is little agreement between anyone, it seems.

Christopher Snedden
22 January 2014

Climate and ‘climate change’ in J&K; 6 January 2014

Dras 2

Climate and ‘climate change’ in J&K; 6 January 2014

Newspapers are reporting that the divided state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is experiencing its annual cold spell. Quoting a ‘weather official’, the Kashmir Times (http://kashmirtimes.com/newsdet.aspx?q=27308) states that ‘The minimum temperature [in Indian J&K] was 12.4 degrees Celsius below the freezing point in Pahalgam last night [4 January] – [the] coldest [place] in the Kashmir Valley. It was 4.2 degrees Celsius below zero in Srinagar and minus 9.8 degrees Celsius in Gulmarg … Leh town recorded a minimum of minus 8.6 degrees Celsius and Kargil recorded minus 16.1 degrees … The minimum temperature in Jammu city was 5.6 degrees – two degrees below what is normal for this time of the season’. Pakistani newspapers have reported ‘cold spells’ throughout Pakistan and Pakistan-Administered J&K, including many temperatures below zero and road closures in northern Azad Kashmir. The Pamir Times, Gilgit, has reported that protesters in a local dispute in the Chilas area have blocked the Karakoram Highway, stranding ‘commuters … in sub-zero temperature[s]’ (http://pamirtimes.net/2012/01/11/kkh-blockade-enters-third-day-thousands-of-commuters-suffer-in-cold-weather/).

J&K has a diverse range of climates, ranging from extremely elevated and cold regions in its north and north-east, including glacial areas, to more monsoonal and temperate regions around Jammu and Mirpur at the northern end of the Punjab plains. While Jammu city in J&K’s south is far warmer than other parts of Indian J&K, this state includes the town of Drass (or Dras), which is supposedly the second coldest inhabited place in the world. Drass experiences extreme cold from mid-October to mid-May, with average lows around −22°C, although temperatures have gone as low as −45°C. Such temperatures, plus invariable associated road closures, impair India’s ability to move military materiel to troops stationed in Ladakh where they patrol the Siachen Glacier area or defend against Chinese forces across the Line of Actual Control. Similarly, the effects of cold weather often block the important Srinagar-Jammu road, making the transport of goods and people to or from Kashmir impossible for periods of time. In the depths of winter, air transport to J&K also is often hampered by bad weather, with flights to places such as Srinagar or Gilgit delayed or cancelled. On such occasions—which I, at times, have experienced—one realises how isolated and remote many of the people of J&K are, particularly those living beyond the Pir Panjal range in the Kashmir Valley, or in even more remote locations such as Gilgit or Ladakh.

Winter in the popular tourist destination of the Kashmir Valley is interesting—and cold (for an Australian, at least). Interestingly, Kashmir has ski fields at Gulmarg, although visitor numbers are down this year. Apart from this resort, few visitors come to Kashmir in winter. Traditionally, Kashmir’s cold weather starts on 21 December. It lasts for 72 days and can be divided into three periods: chillai kalan, extreme cold of forty days; chillai khurd, the ‘small cold’ of twenty days; and chillai baccha, the ‘baby cold’ of ten days. And it is cold! I remember once sleeping under a swathe of blankets and quilts in a Srinagar bed in the depths of winter and being extremely reluctant the next morning to get up and go out into the freezing air. Outside the warm house, the city was awash with a mixture of foot-chilling snow, ice and motor-induced slush. I needed warm and water-proof boots, coat and headwear to walk around for any period of time. Thermal underwear or a Kashmiri kangri (a small portable pot filled with warming charcoal embers) was helpful at such times. I experienced similar conditions in Muzaffarabad in winter, but not as cold.

Every year, northern India, northern Pakistan and all of J&K experience varying degrees of cold weather for differing lengths of time, with it generally being colder the more northerly one goes. And, although northern parts of the subcontinent, including J&K, are currently experiencing chilly spells, I have not seen reports that these are un-seasonally cold or that they are due to the impacts of climate change. Nevertheless, some people consider that climate change is causing Himalayan glaciers, many of which are located in J&K, to melt. In the short term, this will make more water available for people downstream. Ultimately, it could result in a major change to J&K’s climate and environment. Other issues in J&K possibly associated with climate change are hotter summers, variable or erratic snowfalls, and reduced rainfall during agriculturally productive warmer months, with paddy and saffron yields down in recent years. Consequently, the Indian J&K Government is taking the issue of climate change seriously. Last December, it presented a draft Action Plan on Climate Change to India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The issue of climate change in J&K, and certainly in relation to the Kashmir region, is not a new one. I recently came across an article in the Science journal from 1907 (Vol. XXV, No. 629, January 18, 1907) that discussed ‘The climate [in the Vale of Kashmir]’. It was described in 1905 ‘as [being] warm and damp from June to August, though but little rain falls; mild and delightful in April, May, September and October; and cold and snowy in winter, when “bracing” is not infrequently less true to the actual conditions than “rigorous.” … A study of the physiographic features of the region, especially of the river terraces, as well as of the human history, leads to the conclusion that there has been a transition from colder or damper climatic conditions two thousand years or more ago to warmer or drier conditions to-day. This transition appears … to be part of a wide-spread climatic change extending at least from Persia and the Caspian Sea on the west to the borders of China proper three thousand miles away on the east.’

One problem with climate change is that it is hard to actually determine whether current occurrences are climatic aberrations or major climatic, and possibly cataclysmic, change. Based on the 1907 article, however, climate change in J&K possibly is nothing new.

Christopher Snedden
6 January 2014

China-Pakistan Collusion? 3 September 2013

China-Pakistan Collusion?                                               3 September 2013

China, India and Pakistan have an interesting triangular relationship. China and Pakistan strategically are very close, with significant trade, considerable Chinese investment in Pakistan, and, most importantly for Pakistan, with China providing advanced military materiel, often at concessionary prices. Allegedly, China also has helped Pakistan develop nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. For Islamabad, China is Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’. For China, a strong Pakistan offers the chance to ‘outflank’ India, particularly in the event of another China-India war. The first such war occurred in 1962, which vicariously encouraged China-Pakistan relations to become closer. The People’s Republic of China was then internationally ‘on the nose’ because of its aggressive communism, with Taiwan the favoured representative for all of ‘China’. Conversely, Pakistan was seen favourably as it was involved with some United States-led military alliances. Arguably, the situation now has reversed, with relations with China highly desired and Pakistan disliked because of its support for terrorists in Afghanistan or against India.

A potential benefit for China of close relations with Pakistan is that the latter could function as a ‘safe’ conduit for moving energy supplies overland to China rather than via the sea. China may be looking to develop an energy corridor from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, in south-western Baluchistan, via Pakistan and the rugged Pakistan-controlled region of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), to Chinese Xinjiang. This route would be considerably shorter than going via the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and mainland China. It also would be more secure: India can control access to the western entrance to the strategic Malacca Strait, through which much Chinese shipping now must pass, because it possesses the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Currently, China and India relations are good, with two-way trade flourishing. Worth some $67 billion, it is heavily in China’s favour, much to India’s chagrin. Otherwise, the China-India relationship is difficult. There are major unresolved issues over their joint border and over possession of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state—Southern Tibet for China—and Aksai Chin, which is under China’s control but claimed by India because it was once part of the (disputed) former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Shaksgam area just north of Aksai Chin, which Pakistan ceded to China in 1963, also is theoretically part of both the Kashmir dispute and the China-India dispute, as India also claims this former area of J&K. Beijing has stated that it is prepared to renegotiate ownership of Shaksgam if India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K. This is unlikely soon. Indeed, China-India relations surpass India-Pakistan relations, with Beijing and New Delhi having completed 15 rounds of discussions since 1981 about their border and territory disputes.

One complication for India in the triangular relationship is the possibility that China and Pakistan might be colluding to India’s detriment. While there is no open-source information to confirm such collusion, it makes strategic sense. Recently, China has been more militarily assertive, even aggressive, along the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) that separates Chinese- and Indian-held territory. Along the Line of Control (LOC) in disputed J&K, Indian and Pakistani exchanges have returned to their pre-2003 ceasefire levels. While the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or the Pakistan Army could undertake these actions autonomously, collusion between them is possible. There have been a number of high-level official China-Pakistan visits in recent years, while Chinese engineers, probably PLA, are helping Pakistani military engineers rebuild the Karakoram Highway (KKH) that crosses Gilgit-Baltistan. This strategic road was rendered impassable by a landslide in 2010, after which a large lake 20-kilometres long appeared. Travellers must now traverse this lake to travel between Kashgar, Xinjiang, and G-B’s largest town, Gilgit.

Interestingly, New Delhi appears prepared to renounce India’s supposed ownership of Gilgit-Baltistan, even though officially this region is an ‘integral part of India’. For India, its long-held way to resolve the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is to convert the LOC into the international border. By doing so, India nominally would ‘lose’ the two (of J&K’s five) regions that Pakistan has controlled since 1947: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Losing the former region, which is small, would not be significant; losing the latter region, which is large, would be. First, India would forego any chance of directly accessing Afghanistan, with which G-B shares a border in its north. Although such access would be difficult, China is considering constructing a road or rail link from Xinjiang to Afghanistan via the Wakhan Corridor, which runs immediately north of, and would be accessible from, G-B. Currently, India’s only way of accessing Afghanistan is via Iran or Pakistan. Second, it would allow Pakistan and China unchallenged control of G-B and the important Karakoram Highway that physically links both nations. Third, G-B (like Azad Kashmir) has significant hydro-electricity potential, with Pakistan intending to build a dam in this region. The Diamir-Bhasha Dam wall and electrical works will strategically be located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which indisputably is part of Pakistan; the bulk of the dam’s water would be stored in disputed G-B. For energy-hungry India, controlling G-B would offer further energy possibilities.

A final interesting aspect of the China-India-Pakistan triangle concerns India’s control of the Arunachal Pradesh/Southern Tibet area. The Tawang Tract in Arunachal Pradesh’s west has long been sacred to Tibetan Buddhists, some of whom speculate that the Dalai Lama will reincarnate there—conveniently outside China’s control. This may partially explain China’s increased hostility in this area. Conversely, India has decided to raise new Mountain Strike Corps comprising 30,000-40,000 soldiers to counter aggressive PLA activities, including by striking Xizang (Tibet). This meshes with one of India’s major ongoing concerns: having to fight a two-front war against China and Pakistan, including in remote mountain areas of J&K and along the LOAC. While currently a remote possibility, strategic circumstances can change quickly.

Christopher Snedden
3 September 2013

Interesting Times in Azad Kashmir 29 July 2013

Interesting Times in Azad Kashmir                                           29 July 2013

There is a saying among some people in Azad Kashmir that ‘The road to ruling in Muzaffarabad passes through Islamabad’. This means that, to be Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir (the capital of which is Muzaffarabad), the aspiring Azad Kashmiri politician must have the approval or imprimatur of the person ruling in Islamabad. This may be a military general or a leading Pakistani politician. It doesn’t matter. He or she—Benazir Bhutto also played this ‘game’—must approve the appointment of the ‘top man’ in Azad Kashmir.

Last week, this maxim again proved to be correct. A no confidence motion against the incumbent Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, was defeated in the 49-seat Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly. Well sort of. From far off Australia, the picture is murky. However, it seems that, on Friday 26 July, those advancing the no confidence motion withdrew it. Nevertheless, on Saturday 27 July, some 17 members—the minimum quorum allowable—attended a special sitting of the Legislative Assembly, voted on, and fortuitously defeated, the no confidence motion. Apparently, 14 of the 17 were members of the ruling Azad Jammu and Kashmir People’s Party (AJKPP). Those absent included disgruntled AJKPP members in the so-called ‘Forward Bloc’, Muslim Conference members and members of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML (N)) faction. The politician in question, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, also apparently was absent from this vote.

Getting rid of prime ministers is not a new thing in Azad Kashmir. Until the first successful no-confidence motion in 2009, this usually happened at the behest of the person in charge in Pakistan and/or, from the early 1950s, a top official in the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs (or derivations thereof). More recently, in a sign that Azad Kashmir’s political system possibly was maturing, prime ministers have been removed via no confidence motions mounted in the local Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly. Indeed, between 2009-2010, three prime minister were removed this way: in January 2009, Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan lost power to Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob Khan who, in turn, lost power in October 2009 to Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan. To complete the circle, in July 2010, Haider lost power to Attique. All three men are still involved in Azad Kashmiri politics: Attique is a Muslim Conference member of the Legislative Assembly; Yaqoob is the President (titular head) of Azad Kashmir; Haider is leader of both the PML (N) and the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly.

Historically, opponents’ claims for loss of confidence in the serving prime minister often have involved allegations of corruption, nepotism and inefficiency. More recently, some of the claims have appeared to involve a move by a leading politician, and his supporters, in a naked grab for power, privilege and the chance to obtain some of the largesse and acclamation available in the top position and/or as part of the government. In the current case, the intended replacement prime minister was to be Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry, a former prime minister from Mirpur. For reasons of prestige and perceived rightness (only he can appropriately administer the region), Mahmood, it seems, has long aspired to recapturing the local gaddi (throne). The Mirpuri may have believed that he had the support of Islamabad for his push.

So, what’s the big deal or big difference this time? The big deal this time is that the no confidence motion that looked likely to succeed earlier in the week failed, miserably, and, as a result, Chaudhry Majeed, who is from a different political party to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, has been allowed to continue in office. He will do so at least for the next six months. Constitutionally, the successful Legislative Assembly vote on 27 July means that another no confidence motion cannot be presented until this period has elapsed.

The big difference this time was that Nawaz Sharif did not support the no confidence motion, even though it was against someone from another party. Indeed, Sharif ordered members of his party not to support the motion, a factor that may have made them—and all others not wanting to antagonise the Pakistan leader—desist. Sharif apparently believed that Majeed had a mandate and should be allowed to continue in office. However, given that the local PML (N) faction was anti-Majeed and his allegedly corrupt government, it has lost face and considerable popularity. Sharif’s stance suggests that he has matured as a politician. This is a good thing for Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. Nevertheless, it also confirms that the most influential politician in Azad Kashmir is still the top person in Islamabad. Indeed, it reinforces the perception that ‘The road to ruling in Muzaffarabad passes through Islamabad’.

Christopher Snedden
29 July 2013

Some things never change—but they need to 15 July 2013


It’s been an interesting fortnight—and apologies for no blog piece last week. I had a few things going on in my life.

About a week ago, I received a wonderful and positive message on Facebook about my book Kashmir: The Unwritten History from a person whose professional expertise I admire. Anuradha Bhasin of the Kashmir Times seemingly accepts my analysis that people in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call them—instigated the dispute over J&K’s international status. Certainly, in her concluding statement on Facebook, Anuradha states “that this is one book that is a must read”. This, of course, is gratifying for me.

Conversely, a few days before this Facebook posting, I read a report titled Gilgit-Baltistan: Between Hope and Despair by an Indian analyst who has done considerable work on ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, as Indians call those parts of J&K under Pakistan’s administration, and who has read and reviewed my book. Interestingly, in seeking briefly to explain the term ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, Priyanka Singh states that Azad Kashmir “was usurped after [the] deceitful tribal invasion launched by the Pakistani army whereas Gilgit Baltistan was forced to accede to Pakistan after a mutiny by the Maharaja’s forces led by British Major William Brown”. Her statement totally denies that Azad Kashmir came into being as a result of people’s actions in Jammu Province: the anti-maharaja Poonch uprising that began soon after partition and some serious inter-religious violence that occurred in Jammu Province in September-October 1947. As for Gilgit-Baltistan, while Brown was certainly involved in this incident, so too were some enthusiastically pro-Pakistan Gilgitis.

A third event recently was a discussion about my book on 10 July at the India International Centre, New Delhi, which I unfortunately was unable to attend. The Chair was B.G. Verghese, an “eminent journalist and writer” who also reviewed my book in The Tribune on 28 April 2013. I am hopeful that an audio will be released about this session. It will be interesting to hear the discussion, especially as Verghese considered my book “useful … [but] sourced and seen entirely from Pakistan and Islamabad [with] virtually no Indian or international citations or analysis that questions or controverts this one-sided version”. The book and its Bibliography suggested otherwise.

I should not be precious. Since the release of my book about Azad Kashmir in June last year, I have learnt two things and I am reminded of a third. First, regardless of what one says, writes or does, people will generally always believe or disbelieve what they want to believe or disbelieve—even in the face of contrary facts and information. Second, one has little or no control whatsoever over what other people write or say about another person or their work. Third, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I accept these three ‘rules’, noting that politicians, who also adhere to them, must have incredibly thick skins at times.

These rules also suggest that the Kashmir dispute will be difficult to resolve. Indians and Pakistanis have totally different positions and understandings, certainly at the official level, on almost all aspects of the dispute, even though, in my opinion, some of these positions and understandings are inaccurate, or just plain wrong. As I state on p. 219 of my book, “the only point that I have found on which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over possession of the former princely state is that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can become independent”. This does not provide a strong basis for resolving the Kashmir dispute. Nor does it offer much scope to involve the people in my “ridiculously utopian” suggestion—as Omair Ahmed disparingly (as I see it, although he is entitled to his opinion, of course) calls it in The Sunday Guardian of 1 June 2013—to enable J&K-ites to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

The question for me is: despite writing what I consider to be a truthful, non-partisan account of what happened in J&K in 1947, can these official and unofficial perceptions of the Kashmir dispute be changed? If so, how? Finding common ground, politically and metaphorically, is one of the greatest issues in relation to resolving the Kashmir dispute.

Christopher Snedden
15 July 2013