Tag Archives: Ladakh

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


Article 370 and Indian Jammu and Kashmir; 10 December 2013



Article 370 and Indian Jammu and Kashmir; 10 December 2013

Indian prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has raised the issue of the Indian Constitution’s Article 370 and its benefit for the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Although Article 370 supposedly guarantees autonomy to Indian Jammu and Kashmir (IJ&K), any such autonomy disappeared long ago.

Article 370 was included in the Indian Constitution in 1952 as a ‘temporary provision’, presumably until J&K’s international status was resolved and the state was finally integrated into India, as New Delhi expected would happen. Under this article, the Indian government was supposedly only responsible for defence, foreign affairs and communications. The IJ&K government of the day retained all other powers. This allowed the IJ&K state—comprising Jammu, the Kashmir Valley (or Kashmir) and Ladakh—significant autonomy. India’s input in IJ&K was limited to inter-state disputes, people’s fundamental rights and the three matters mentioned above.

Historically, Article 370 was created as a result of the controversial circumstances surrounding Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession to India on 26 October 1947. It was designed to appease Kashmiris uncertain about whether J&K should join India or Pakistan. It also unofficially recognised that India needed the Muslim Kashmiri leader, Sheikh Abdullah, and that New Delhi was agreeable to his terms for J&K joining the Indian Union (rather than Pakistan). In 1950, Abdullah was popular, politically powerful, and had considerable influence, including with his friend, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister. Nehru, who had Kashmiri ancestors, had an emotional attachment to the Kashmir Valley that, on occasions, clouded his otherwise rational approach to resolving difficult matters. He needed Abdullah to shore up India’s position in J&K, particularly amongst the Muslim-majority population living in the prized Kashmir region, possession of which Nehru was reluctant to forego. This related to India’s hope of winning the plebiscite that India’s leaders had promised, rather hastily, in 1947 to the people of J&K. J&K-ites were to determine whether J&K, in its entirety, would join India or Pakistan. But India’s desire to hold this poll faded quickly, chiefly because it felt that it would ‘lose’. Concurrently, a disenchanted Abdullah reverted to an earlier position favouring J&K being independent from both (secular) India and (Islamic) Pakistan. His stance was unacceptable to Nehru. As a result, Abdullah was sacked as IJ&K prime minister on 8 August 1953.

With the popular Abdullah sidelined, New Delhi steadily and consistently eroded IJ&K’s supposed autonomy. Local IJ&K politicians ably assisted India, starting with the administration led by Abdullah’s immediate successor, the necessarily (and possibly genuinely) pro-Indian, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. Thereafter, to all intents and purposes, IJ&K became just another Indian state. It is now fully integrated into the Indian political system. IJ&K voters send four representatives to India’s Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and six to its Lok Sabha (Lower House). The IJ&K prime minister, like is his counterparts elsewhere in India, is now called chief minister. The Indian tricolor flies throughout the state. The New Delhi-appointed Governor or Indian President is able to impose Governor’s Rule or President’s Rule on IJ&K. The Indian Administrative Service’s J&K cadre populates the IJ&K bureaucracy. People in IJ&K can obtain legal remedies through the Indian Supreme Court. Most persuasively, since 1947, IJ&K has become part of India economically. With no other transport options available, IJ&K is totally reliant on India for all of its goods and services. Consequently, IJ&K has become fully integrated with India commercially, financially and communications-wise.

So what’s the big deal? Article 370 has become a symbolic device that people use in different ways. For many Indians, especially non-Muslims, Article 370 is unfair, even abhorrent. It grants IJ&K, whose majority population comprises Muslims—although, as far as I can determine, the 2011 Indian Census does not confirm this situation—a special status not given to other Indians or Indian states. These anti-Article 370 Indians include members of Modi’s right-wing BJP. They want IJ&K to become a normal, or non-special, state fully incorporated into the Indian Union. Conveniently, this would allow them to purchase land and property in IJ&K, an option currently only available to ‘state subjects’ of IJ&K. This status arises from a law passed in princely J&K in 1927 and retained thereafter throughout J&K after 1947, with the exception of Pakistan-administered Gilgit-Baltistan. Naturally, some people in IJ&K fear being swamped should they lose state subject status.

Anti-Article 370 Indians also include many Jammuites and Ladakhis. They claim that they have long endured Kashmiri domination of IJ&K. Politically, ethnic Kashmiris have 47 seats in the IJ&K Legislative Assembly, giving them an absolute majority over Jammuites’ 37 seats—even though Jammu may have more electors than Kashmir—and Ladakhis’ three seats. Economically, Kashmiris get a larger share of state resources, jobs and services. Emotionally, New Delhi’s attention mainly goes to Kashmir and Kashmiris. Jammuites, particularly, and Ladakhis therefore would be happy to see IJ&K become a ‘normal’ Indian state without any special privileges. Many also may want the state bifurcated into two regions comprising Jammu-Ladakh and Kashmir, or even trifurcated into its three component regions. BJP politicians may be prepared to consider such proposals.

For Kashmiris, most of whom are Muslims, Article 370’s existence confirms that New Delhi acknowledges that this Muslim community is important, needs to be treated specially—and wooed. Additionally, IJ&K is India’s only Muslim-majority state. But, while Muslims comprise IJ&K’s majority population, they are part of a minority in secular, but Hindu-dominant, India. Kashmiris have cleverly extracted benefits from India for their special status. The removal of Article 370 would eliminate this specialness. Some Kashmiris say this would cause them to rethink whether they want to part of India. Such talk has concerned Congress-led governments that consider the Kashmiris’ presence in India—not in Islamic Pakistan—helps to confirm India’s secular credentials. Conversely, a BJP-led government possibly intent on Indian-ising, or even Hindu-ising, all Indians, regardless of their religion, causes Muslim Kashmiris angst. For them, Narendra Modi has possibly unleashed a monster.

Christopher Snedden
10 December 2013

Divisions in ‘India’ 19 August 2013


Hindu Pandit Kashmiris seek a separate state in 2012: ‘Panun Kashmir’
Photo: http://indiawires.com/9092/news/state-news/panun-kashmir-seeks-reclamation-of-land-from-pakistan/

Divisions in ‘India’                                                                           19 August 2013

It is interesting to contemplate the borders of the nation that we call ‘India’. This modern entity owes its creation to the British who, in 1947, divided their imperial political possession that they also called ‘India’ into two dominions: the (secular) Union of India and Pakistan, a home ostensibly for Muslims. Interestingly, although Mauryans and Mughals had gone close to politically unifying the entire subcontinent, only the British actually did so. Equally, these interlopers divided it. However, it is worth remembering that, before the British left the subcontinent on 15 August 1947, all of what they controlled had been called ‘India’ and its residents ‘Indians’. Now, these people and their descendants comprise Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, who were East Pakistanis until they obtained their freedom from (West) Pakistan in 1971.

In 1947, the subcontinent’s division was not a fully determined matter. The ‘new’ India that came into being on 17 August when the India-Pakistan borders were finally announced—people were notified beforehand in case this upset their independence celebrations—quickly changed. India successfully digested the princely states whose rulers had acceded to it, including two contentious ones in 1948: Junagadh (although Pakistan still nominally claims Junagadh as its nawab (ruler) acceded to it in 1947) and Hyderabad. The only exception was the highly contentious—and contested—princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India still claims three regions of J&K: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, which, according to India, Pakistan has been ‘occupying’ since 1947, and the Aksai Chin region, which China also has been ‘occupying’. Supposedly, these regions are ‘integral parts of India’, even though Indians have never set foot in them. Any settlement of India’s claims almost certainly would see India’s borders change again, with India’s preferred option being to convert the Line of Control (LOC) that currently divides J&K into Indian J&K (comprising Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh) and Pakistan-administered J&K (Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan) into the international boundary. New Delhi, it seems, is not too perturbed about ‘losing’ these two areas. The China-India border question is more complex. Again, India may be prepared to ‘lose’ some territory should China offer the right deal. So too might Bhutan, which also has an unresolved border with China.

Post-partition, India’s borders changed in other ways. India incorporated four former French territories, including Pondicherry, in 1956; some former Portuguese territories, including Goa, by 1961; and, the former protectorate of Sikkim as its twenty-second state, in 1975. In 1968, India’s borders contracted slightly when a deeply disappointed New Delhi ceded ten per cent of the Rann of Kutch to Pakistan following United Nations’ arbitration. The resolution of other international issues means that India could win, or lose, further territory: with Pakistan (J&K; Sir Creek, in the Rann of Kutch); with China (Aksai Chin; Arunachal Pradesh/South Tibet (for China); India-China border); with Bangladesh, which issue is a real doozy. I quote from a recent informative article by Rukmini Das and Deepak Raju (www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-settlement-long-overdue/article5017339.ece): “…there are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. These include a few counter-enclaves, which are enclaves within enclaves, as well as a counter-counter enclave—a parcel of Bangladeshi territory surrounded by Indian territory, itself surrounded by Bangladeshi territory! In India, these slivers of Bangladesh are in the States of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.” This is a confounding situation, particularly for people living in these enclaves.

Since 1972, when India and a defeated Pakistan made some minor adjustments to the LOC, India’s borders have not changed. What has changed has been India’s internal structure. A major reorganisation was made in 1956, with various districts and former princely states amalgamated, often along linguistic lines, into fourteen states. This number has now doubled to 28 (plus seven territories), with some former territories upgraded to state status to appease disgruntled citizens. In 2000, a further three states were created: Jharkhand, from southern Bihar; Chhattisgarh, from south-eastern Madhya Pradesh; and, Uttarakhand, from north-western Uttar Pradesh. Most recently, New Delhi has announced that a new state called Telengana will be carved out of north-western Andhra Pradesh, much to the chagrin of some Andhrans.

Nor will India’s state-creation stop there. Some Indians consider that, because the United States has 50 states for its population of 300 million, India needs more states for its population of 1.2 billion. (On this ratio, India should have a staggering, probably unmanageable, 200 states.) There are many demands, with these often reflecting a linguistic or ethnic group’s desire for statehood: Bodoland (from Assam); Bundelkhand (between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh); Gorkhaland (from West Bengal); Harit (or Braj) Pradesh (western Uttar Pradesh); Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh, and possibly parts of western Bihar); Saurashtra (from Gujarat); and, Vidarbha (eastern Maharashtra). Other possibilities include Jammu, Ladakh or Panun Kashmir (for Hindu Pandits in the Kashmir Valley), all of which are in Indian J&K, being given state or territory status. Some indigenous ‘tribals’ in Tripura want a separate state. A former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, once proposed that this heavily-populated state of 200 million people be divided into four states: Avadh Pradesh; Bundelkhand; Pashchimanchal; Purvanchal.

Boundary changes have also afflicted other South Asian nations. In 2009, Sri Lanka defeated Tamil separatists seeking Tamil Eelam in northern and eastern areas. Apart from ‘obtaining’ Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in 1947, Pakistan expanded in 1948 after finally incorporating its princely states, including a reluctant Kalat. But this nation was severely dismembered when East Pakistan successfully broke away from West Pakistan in 1971. Some Baluchis and Pukhtoons also want to create separate states, while Saraiki speakers want a new province to be created in southern (Pakistani) Punjab. Confoundingly for Islamabad, Kabul does not accept the British-imposed Durand Line of 1893 that currently serves as the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. I say ‘currently’ as, if history shows us anything about ‘India’, it is this: nothing stays the same forever. Inevitably, there will be more changes to national and international borders in South Asia.

Christopher Snedden
19 August 2013