After they had Liberated Kashmir

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This essay is about a perceived war scenario in the disputed Jammu & Kashmir State. The story unfolds a grim likelihood of low intensity nuclear war between India and Pakistan

Submitted: April 21, 2009

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Submitted: April 21, 2009




In this material world

Before something takes place

It happens first

In the pictures of your mind

In the spring of 1999 Pakistan Army had launched a massive infiltration operation across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. The operation was aimed at occupying the heights dominating Srinagar-Leh Road. Before the 1971 War these heights were controlled by Pakistan. Due to extremely difficult terrain and harsh weather conditions it is not possible to man the defenses in this area during the winters. Hence, on the onset of 1971 War, this sector was thinly held by the Pakistani scouts and Azad Kashmir irregulars. Indians had therefore no difficulty in capturing the scattered and isolated Pakistani posts overlooking Srinagar –Leh Road, Indian Army’s lifeline to Ladakh. Capture of this strategically important area was a great relief for the Indians. Earlier, the Indian Army convoys traversing this road would frequently come under heavy machine - gun fire from the Pakistani posts.
In the aftermath of the general elections held in 1970, Pakistan was gripped by a madness in which the nation had started to eat its heart out. During the 1971 War Pakistan Army, thoroughly fatigued by fighting an Indian sponsored insurgency in East Pakistan, had, in the minds of its leadership, already lost the war even before the Indians had extended the war to West Pakistan. As elsewhere, half hearted attempts were made to counter the Indians across the International border and the Cease Fire Line (CFL) in Jammu &Kashmir. But the hopeless situation on the eastern front was replicated in the west. Indians occupied large chunks of Pakistani territory across the International border in the Punjab and Sindh sectors of the western front. In Jammu & Kashmir sector, Pakistan lost valuable territory in Poonch, Muzaffarabad and Kargil sub-sectors.
As a result of the Simla Agreement that was concluded after the 71 War, India returned Pakistani territory captured along the International border. But the ingress made by the Indians across the CFL was a separate cup of tea. India refused point blank to restore the old CFL and part with the prized Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas territories it had captured during the war. Thus emerged the Line of Control (LOC) that manifested the new ground realities. Even as the Simla Agreement was being inked, Indians had started violating it by occupying Pakistani posts across the LOC. Indians continued to nibble at the Azad Kashmir territory and, by 1980, had transgressed at many places. Emboldened by the meek reaction from the enemy, Indians embarked upon another calculated venture. They took advantage of Pakistan’s complacency and, in 1984, captured the Siachen Glacier.
In the beginning there was no plan for the Kargil War. It evolved as a result of the frustrations of some local commanders. Seething with anger at the impotence and indifference of their political leadership, they persuaded the Army high command to teach the Indians a lesson or two. As mentioned earlier, the area is inhospitable. Harsh weather conditions preclude continuous manning of the posts overlooking the Srinagar –Leh Road (Highway 1-A, as the Indians call it). After capturing these heights during the 71 War, Indians had continued with the practice and the routine followed by their Pakistani predecessors: The posts would be manned during the summer. In the autumn, Indians would vacate these posts and go to the less inhospitable areas in the rear, leaving behind their heavy weapons and equipment.
In the autumn of 1998 when Indians vacated these posts, Pakistani troops moved forward and occupied them. This incursion was initially meant to straighten out the defenses (as they call it in the army parlance).It soon turned into a competition between the various local commanders. As though participating in an obstacle race, they inched forward from one height to another till they came in contact with the Highway.
India first learned of the incursion from local informants between 2nd and 5th May, a full four months after the initial breach of the LOC. By this time the original incursion had been expanded into a proper military operation. Another week passed before the Indian military comprehended the full scale of the Pakistani operation. By that time, Pakistan's Army controlled an area of Indian territory eleven kilometers deep and two-hundred kilometers wide. From this strategic vantage, Pakistani forces stood poised to disrupt traffic on Highway 1A, the only supply route to India's forces in the contested Siachen Glacier region.
Indians reacted massively and tried to recapture the lost ground. They even inducted their air force to dislodge Pakistani infiltrators. Indian Air Force ruthlessly pulverized the enemy positions with laser guided bombs. The aerial onslaughts by the IAF were augmented by determined infantry attacks to evict the Pakistanis from the peaks overlooking Highway 1A. One by one, the heights started slipping out of Pakistan’s hands. Not to be deterred, Pakistan Army, while ensuring that it did not cross the LOC elsewhere, engineered a series of hit and run operations in the enemy’s rear in concert with the militant outfits spread out in the length and breadth of Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). These operations were focused mainly in Muzaffarabad and Poonch sectors. The combined Army- Mujahideen teams, employing non- conventional techniques, operated astride the Indian Army’s line of communications, causing attrition and nuisance.
Over a period of time, the Mujahideen had created a thin but effective command infrastructure and logistics support network in the Valley. An estimated 500 to 600 members of their roughly 5,000-strong fighting strength in IHK were divided into small groups of 5 or 6, each armed with small arms, rocket launchers and heavy mortars,with further supplies hidden in the forests, tunnels and mountain crevices. These were stored deep down to evade the Indian army and air force attacks. This infrastructure proved invaluable during the conflict and the Pakistan Army utilized it to the hilt.
Due to mountainous terrain, engagements were encountered at ranges below 3000 meters. Army – Mujahideen teams would lay in wait at selected ambush points, having planted large Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on known approach routes. Once an Indian convoy, patrol or search party would detonate one of these, the killer team would start lobbing mortar shells onto the scene to prevent the Indian troops in the vicinity rushing forward. Simultaneously, they sprayed the enemy troops with automatic fire and targeted the vehicles with Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). An element of great advantage to the killer teams was the encrypted- satellite based telephone system that was provided to the Afghan Mujahideen by the US during the Afghan Jihad. The system had, naturally, found its way to the Kashmiri militants(Perhaps the CIA was looking the other way). It was a force multiplier as it provided the killer teams unrestrained freedom of action, facilitating quick (relative to mountainous terrain) regrouping and response rate. They were like phantoms, melting away and merging with their surroundings whenever the Indians tried to engage them.
Indian Army had been fighting a slogging match with the Kashmiri militants for the last seven years. This low intensity war, originally conceived during the waning years of the Afghan War by the fertile mind of late General Zia ul Haque , had been sapping the energies and morale of the Indian troops.
During the Kargil conflict, the hawks in the Indian establishment clamored for an all out war that would decimate Pakistan and remove this thorn for all times to come. But the Indian leadership, faced with the dilemma of the threat posed by a nuclear Pakistan, and with the Kashmiri militants breathing down its neck, wavered.
On the other hand, a fragile and weak civilian government in Pakistan, goaded by its powerful military establishment, had yielded the strategic decision - making prerogative to the latter. Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine, half baked as it was, caused jitters not only to the Indians but also led to widespread panic in the world capitals (those that mattered). The corner stone of this doctrine was the thesis of Low Tolerance Threshold. This thesis is based on the philosophy that the best way to avoid losing a war with India is not to fight it in the first place. Hence, Pakistan’s military strategy leans heavily on the maintenance of acredible deterrent capability, conventional and nuclear. Should conventional deterrence fail, Pakistan would seek to prevent escalation, and determine the outcome of war quickly and decisively through an all out nuclear attack on India .This quick response would be applied simultaneously at various levels. The Thesis of Low Tolerance Threshold seems to have been borrowed from Israel’s “Samson Option”.
As the war raged, it became increasingly evident just how dangerous Kargil had become. U.S. intelligence possessed "disturbing” evidence that the Pakistanis were preparing their nuclear arsenals for possible deployment. Strategically, during the War Pakistan was frantically completing the peace time deployment of its short and medium range ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable B-57 and F-16 aircraft. At that time, Pakistan did not possess cruise missiles. These were developed later, interestingly, through unsolicited US assistance.
In 1999 the US had launched a cruise missile attack on Afghanistan to snuff out Osama Bin Laden from his lair. The missiles, fired from US warships stationed in the Indian Ocean, blazed through Pakistan’s Balochistan province before finally hitting their targets in Afghanistan. Some of these missiles misfired and landed instead in Balochistan from where they were retrieved by the Pakistan Army. Based on the design parameters culled from these misfired cruise missiles Pakistanis, through reverse engineering, created, in 2005, their own cruise missile Babar.
The likelihood of a suicidal response by a militarily weak Pakistan restrained the Indians from expanding the conflict into a full scale war. They, therefore, kept it localized to the areas across the LOC. During the second week of the Kargil War a new element was introduced.
Pirpanjal Range that separates the Valley from the Jammu region can be crossed only at Banihal Pass. This famous pass lies at almost 3000 meters in the Pirpanjal mountains. It remains covered with snow during the winters, making it impassable. In 1956 Indians had bored a tunnel through these mountains to have an all weather link with the Valley. The tunnel is 2825 meters long .The significance ofJawahar Tunnel, as the Indians call it, is akin to that of 2700 meters long Salang Tunnel linking Afghanistan with the erstwhile Soviet Union: It is the Indian Army’s jugular vein in the Kashmir Valley even as Salang Tunnel was the Soviet Army’s critical access route, through the formidable Hindu Kush Range, to the Kabul Valley.
On that particular evening about which we are talking now, while an Indian Army convoy was in the process of moving through the Tunnel at a snail’s pace, suddenly all hell broke loose. The entire area reverberated with thunderous explosions as the Tunnel caved in, transforming itself into a mass grave for the large number of vehicles and their incumbents that were inside. The smaller part of the convoy that was still outside the tunnel braced itself for the simultaneous infliction that characterizes a classical ambush. They were in for a surprise. There were no killing parties, as if they had melted away into thin air. Perhaps the enemy had chickened out. Or, could there be a possibility that the attackers had themselves been decimated by the monstrous explosion? True, the explosion had caused many vehicles outside the Tunnel to collide, and this had resulted in some casualties. But the amount of damage was no match to the catastrophe that had befallen the troops inside the Tunnel.
And then the reality (or perception), bit by bit, began unfolding itself, gradually sinking into the collective consciousness of the ill fated survivors. It was an explosion all right. Was it a nuclear explosion? Suddenly there was panic all around. Those still inside the vehicles bolted out and joined the rest in clearing away the site as if it was the biblical Valley of Lepers. They were running in all directions.
Whether it was a nuclear explosion or not, the news spread like the proverbial wild fire. There were speculations that it was a radiation bomb triggered by some obscure militant group operating in the Valley. Now, a radiation bomb, also known as ‘dirty bomb’, is not a nuclear bomb. It is a radiological dispersion device (RDD): an easy to build conventional explosive packed with radioactive material. When such a bomb is exploded, it disperses radioactive material. A high dose of high energy radiation, such as X-rays emitted by radioactive dust, can induce cancer. Contamination will depend upon the size of the explosive, amount and type of radioactive material, and weather conditions. Radioactive dust will settle on people, buildings, and roads. Winds and air circulation systems in buildings will spread the radioactive dust even more. Rain will wash the radioactivity into soil, sewer systems and rivers.
There had been several incidents over the past many years which indicated that thedirty bomb threat is real. For example, Chechen rebels directed a TV reporter to a park in central Moscow in 1995. When she reached there she found a package containing about 15 lbs of conventional explosives and cesium-137, a radio–active element. This was the first known appearance of a dirty bomb. According to frequently cited intelligence reports,Iraq had tested a crude radiological device in 1987.Then there was the redoubtable Osama bin Laden, West’s alter ego. Reportedly, Osama’s operatives in Sudan had tried and failed to buy enriched uranium produced in South Africa on the black market. A large number of radioactive items that can be used to make dirty bombs are unaccounted for in the USA and Russia.
The fact of the matter was that Banihal Tunnel was effectively blocked by the enemy, creatingan uncalled for psychological fear among the Indian troops that they were bottled up inside the Valley. A Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare (NBCW) monitoring unit of the Indian Army, hastily dispatched to the vicinity of the explosion site by helicopters, confirmed,through their Geiger Counters( devices used to measure nuclear radiation),that a nuclear contraption of sorts had indeed been exploded.
There arose another doubt .Had the Pakistanis used a low yield (or tactical) weapon to nuke the Tunnel? During the nuclear explosions at Pokhran in 1998, Indians had claimed detonating miniature thermonuclear devices(neutron bombs).There were rumors that , under the smoke screen of Indian nuclear explosions, Israelis had tested their own low yield tactical nuclear weapons, including nuclear artillery shells. Israel is an undeclared nuclear power and has maintained a policy of ambiguity all these years. Reacting to the Indian claim, the Americans maintained that their seismic stations and CIA sensors planted inside India had not recorded any low yield explosion. Now the Indians were in a quandary. If the Americans, with all their technological expertise, could not detect a low yield nuclear detonation, how could they? Due to the confusion created by the ambiguous nature of the explosion, the primordial human instinct for survival and self preservation overwhelmed their sense of duty, causing the ranks and file in many Indian units, including those deployed along the LOC to turn tail en-masse and run for safer areas.
The Pakistani out post at Chakothi, held by a company of the Frontier Force Regiment, was being relentlessly punished by the Indian artillery and heavy weapons fire for the last 36 hours. It seemed that the Indians were gradually recovering from the psychological shock induced by the Banihal explosion. They were fighting back now and regrouping their units in the Jhelum Valley. The artillery duel at Chakothi appeared as a prelude to an Indian attack to clear Chakothi. Perhaps the enemy was aiming at launching a counter- offensive astride Uri-Muzaffarabad Road. Else where, the Line of Control had again become red hot after the temporary lull induced by the explosion at Banihal Tunnel.
For Major Afridi, the company commander, the last few weeks at Chakothi were a frustrating experience. He had managed to cling on to his position through a mix of bravado and Akhpal Bandobast, a term widely used in the Pakistan Army, signifying an exaggerated use of self reliance. For example, when faced with a shortage of engine oil for the vehicles, Akhpal Bandobast implies using mustard oil as a substitute. And this is exactly what Major Afridi had been doing. In spite oft he heavy damages inflicted by Pakistani commandos on the Indian ammunition dumps, Indians were very lavish in responding to the occasional, watered down artillery fire from the Pakistani side. And the Indian artillery pounding of Chakothi had rendered the entire ridge overlooking the Indian position across the nullah a ghastly black. Tired of endless bickering with his artillery observer over calling own artillery fire, tired of fruitless attempts on the field telephone to seduce the adjutant to part with some of the precious reserve ammunition stored at the Battalion Headquarters, tired of endless pleading with the Commanding Officer, Major Afridi decided to do it entirely by himself.
Lieutenant Javed, the depth platoon commander, had been rehearsing his platoon for the inevitable since he was posted to Alpha Company six months back. The Company Reserve, a quixotic connotation used for the depth platoon, was reinforced by the Battalion Commando Platoon. Now, in an infantry battalion of the Pakistan Army, a rag tag force of sorts is created by cobbling together the wrestlers, athletes, and other hyper persons in the unit. This force is the battalion commander’s Commando Platoon. The commando platoon is supposed to go where no man has gone before, and is more prided than the US marines. The company reserve was reinforced with Chinese shoulder fired recoilless rifles and a few 81 millimeter mortars. This was the force with which Lieutenant Javed was rehearsing a number of contingencies; launching a local counter attack, occupation of a counter penetration position, sending fighting patrols into enemy territory to gather information, laying ambushes, carrying out raids, etc, etc.
While Alpha Company would keep the enemy forward platoons pinned down, a fighting patrol drawn out of the Company Reserve would infiltrate through the carefully selected gaps in the enemy defenses and launch a raid on the enemy Company Command Post (CCP),with the aim of capturing the company commander along with other members of the Company Headquarters.
They were approaching the southern edge of the clump encircling a knoll marked on their maps as enemy CCP. It had taken them close to two hours to infiltrate through a treacherous gap in the enemy forward platoons and hit his depth area. As stealthily as they could, they seeped into the clump, drop after drop, wary of enemy standing patrols. To their good luck, there was no enemy inside the clump. Lieutenant Javed now deployed his force at the periphery of the knoll for launching a raid on the CCP. The climb was not very steep. They had now reached a semi flat patch where the CCP was supposed to be. And then converged on to the enemy from all the sides. And there was no enemy.
Standing on top of the knoll, with his binoculors scouring the eastern horizon, Javed shifted his gaze towards the south till it was aligned with the metalled road connecting the enemy position with his rear areas. And there, parked almost 800 meters from the knoll, were three Indian Army trucks. He could, in the starlit night, discern the silhouettes of soldiers lined up behind the trucks. It was the enemy embussing point and the local unit commander, with a considerable number of his troops having bolted away in panic, was executing a ‘clean break’ with the remnants. A clean break is a planned withdrawal carried out in a laid down sequence.Thus began the filtering out, one by one, of many Indian army units from the LOC. They took different routes to escape from the real and perceived catastrophes.
Amid confusion, no longer heeding to the exhortations of their Army high command, a large number of Indian Army units thinned out all along the LOC, achieving clean break at the vital communication junctions. Wherever the Indians withdrew, the vacuum was filled by the Pakistani units. Army patrols pushed forward along the Rawalpindi- Srinagar road did not meet any resistance except at few places where segments of Indian Army sub-units were fighting rear guard actions to cover the withdrawal of larger units. Pockets of enemy resistance having been cleared, the Army engineers got busy assembling a bridge at Chakothi to replace the old bridge that had been destroyed during the Kashmir operations in 1948.Hitherto,Chakothi was the last Pakistani post on the Rawalpindi-Srinagar road. However,all efforts to clear the Rawalakot-Poonch highway met with stiff resistance by the Indians. Likewise, Kargil remained withinfirm Indian grip.
Two weeks after the bombing of the Banihal Tunnel, the first convoy of Pak Army vehicles crossed the now defunct Line of Control at Chakothi. Earlier, Pakistani commandos dispatched to take control of Srinagar and Avantipur airfields, had found, to their dismay, that IAF had rendered the runways inoperable through Durandel bombs- the airfield busters. Thus Pakistani plans for a swift airlift to build up its ground forces at Srinagar could not materialize.
The Pakistani prime minister was ensconced ina rest house on the outskirts of Murree, a mountain retreat nestled in the thickly wooded Lower Himalayas. He was informed about the “imminent” collapse of the Indian army in the Valley. His predicament was that he had unwittingly allowed himself to be manipulated by his establishment (a loose term used for the civil and army bureaucracy), but was not mentally capable of comprehending the consequences of his tight rope walking, even though it had resulted favorably for his country .Within an hour the Prime Minister’s motorcade was gliding through the meandering Murree- Rawalpindi road, on its way to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.
After reaching the prime minister’s house, a conference, to be attended by the Army Chief and members ofthe Prime Minister’s kitchen cabinet, was hurriedly called. Information Minister was the first to arrive. He was followed by the economist turned foreign minister. Army chief was the last to arrive. The minister’s were accompanied by the secretaries from the ministries concerned.
Sitting at the head of the conference table the prime minister ,with his eyes transfixed at some imaginary object in the far distance, cleared his throat and said, ‘where do we stand now ?’ Then, as if suddenly becoming aware of the presence of the others, looked at them one by one, expecting an answer. The long period of silence that followed the prime minister’s opening remarks was at last broken by the Army chief. ‘Militarily, the situation in Jammu & Kashmir is fluid. The enemy is in a state of disarray, but still unbeaten. We must avoid drawing premature conclusions. It may well be a trap by the Indians to draw our army deep into the Valley before inflicting their retaliatory blow. Let us abstain from drawing parallels between the situation obtaining in the Valley with the fall of Dhaka.’ The Prime minister looked at the foreign secretary. ‘What if the Indians agree to a political solution through implementation of the United Nations resolutions’? The foreign secretary, with the meticulousness of a bureaucrat, adjusted his eye glasses while leafing through his brief. ‘Sir,the United Nations resolutions suited us when we tried to solve the dispute from a position of weakness vis-a- vis India. Now that the Indians are on the run, these same resolutions may well become a stumbling block towards Pakistan’s quest to gain control over the disputed territory.
“The United Nations Security Council first took cognizance of the Jammu and Kashmir issue in 1948 after the fake accession of the State to India, and at India’s behest. India’s request to the Security Council ,cleverly conceived, said, "Such a situation now exists between India and Pakistan owing to the aid which invaders, consisting of nationals of Pakistan and of tribesmen from the territory immediately adjoining Pakistan on the North West, are drawing from Pakistan for operations against Jammu & Kashmir, a State which has acceded to the Dominion of India and is part of India...The Government of India request the Security Council to call upon Pakistan to put an end immediately to the giving of such assistance which is an act of aggression against India." India thus became the ‘complainant’ before the Security Council against ‘aggression’ by Pakistan.”
“The United Nations Security Council appointed a United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). The UNCIP, taking note of the developments, adopted a resolution on August 13, 1948, divided into three parts. The first part called for a cease-fire. The second part called for Pakistan to withdraw its nationals and tribesmen and to vacate the territory occupied by it. Then after the above stipulation had been implemented, India was to withdraw the bulk of its forces from the State, leaving an adequate number behind to ensure that the Government of Jammu and Kashmir maintained law and order, providing India a legal lacuna to claim that the UNCIP believed that Jammu and Kashmir was a part of India. The third part of the resolution, to be implemented after the implementation of the first and second parts, stated that both India and Pakistan had reaffirmed their wish that the future status of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people.”
Showing signs of restlessness, the prime minister shifted in his chair. “I had not asked you to update me on the United Nations resolutions’, he said in a mildly admonishing tone. ‘I talked about these resolutions in context of their utility for the Indians to extricate themselves from the disputed territories. And I think we should assist the Indian leadership in finding an honorable way out. Once they vacate, tell me how we can integrate the liberated areas into Pakistan without prejudicing our declared position about ascertaining the will of the Kashmiri people.” “I am coming to that sir.’ replied the bureaucrat.
He was cut short by the information minister. “Ascertaining the will of the Kashmiri people is a stunt that we had been successfully playing during the last almost half a century. These resolutions we used by us to pacify our own people. While according to these resolutions the Azad Kashmir forces were to be disbanded to pave the way for a plebiscite, we expanded and consolidated these forces. Had the Indians called our bluff by agreeing to a plebiscite, we would have been in a very awkward situation.”
“I think the ground realities over ride ethical considerations”, observed the Army chief. “I do not blame the past governments behaving the way they did. We could not take the risk of putting the fate of Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas in jeopardy by withdrawing our forces from these areas. Had we done that, today Indians would be comfortably sitting at Kohala Bridge separating Pakistan from Azad Kashmir. The very thought sends chills down my spine”. The foreign minister, sitting quiet till now, jibed in. “‘I agree with the general’s viewpoint. This is precisely the reason why the portion of the State now called the Northern Areas has been declared a part of Pakistan, separate to the Azad Kashmir. Kashmir or no Kashmir these areas are strategically important to Pakistan, providing us access to China and the Central Asian Republics.”
There arose another question: Was Pakistan under-estimating the Indian resolve to defend IHK and keep it within the Indian Union at all costs. After all, in 1965 India had launched a full scale attack on Pakistan after the Pakistan Army had reached Jaurian (a town on Chamb- Jammu road) and was poised to capture the strategic bridge leading to Jammu. The information minister, an intellectual of sorts, spoke. “Sir, one theory that is gaining credence in India propounds that Indian leadership has written off the Valley as they consider it a drag on the Indian economy and a stumbling block towards India’s ambitions to become a world power. This theory has the full backing of the Indian establishment and the corporate czars. Much before the Hindustan Peninsula was divided, Indian think tanks like Pannikar and Nehru had nurtured the dream of India rubbing shoulders with world powers. Kashmir is sapping India’s energies even as Afghanistan had become a festering wound for the Soviet Union. Kargil War has, thus, provided India a life time opportunity to get rid of this dead wood”. The prime minister was amused.
His impatience rising, the prime minister continued with his probing. “Being a politician let me ask you a simple question. Whom should we entrust with the responsibility of heading the civil administration in Srinagar?” “Logically, the government of the Azad Kashmir should extend its jurisdiction over the liberated territories, with the prime minister of the Azad government becoming the overall head of the government”, suggested the information minister. The Army chief, with an expression of disbelief mingled with anger, snapped, “People in the Valley will never accept anyone even remotely related to the Azad Kashmir leaders. They do not even accept them as Kashmiris, derisively calling them ‘Punjabi speaking Kashmiris’”. The conference thereafter continued till early morning.
The events unfolding in the Valley reminded one of a similar situation in October 1947 when the tribal Lahars had reached the outskirts of Srinagar. Jinnah believed that, being a predominantly Muslim state contiguous to Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir would accede to Pakistan. His hypothesis relied heavily on the assumption that the maharaja would base his decision for accession to either of the dominions on ground realities. Jinnah, therefore, absolutely ignored Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the firebrand Kashmiri leader who had styled himself as the “Lion of Kashmir”, and who, as a populist leader, had started capturing the imagination of ordinary Kashmiris. A realist that he was, Sheikh Abdullah had been trying feverishly to cultivate good relationships with both the Congress and the League. On 15th August, 1947, he and other National Conference leaders and workers were behind the bars. They had been imprisoned for launching an agitation against the autocratic rule of the maharaja of Kashmir - "Quit Kashmir" movement, styled after Congess party’s “Quit India” movement. On intervention of Gandhi, who visited the State from 1stAugust to 4thAugust in 1947, the Sheikh and his supporters were released on 4th September.
Earlier, Sheikh Abdullah had tried to make friends with Jinnah in 1944 when the latter was on a visit to Kashmir. During this visit of his, Jinnah was given a public reception by various political parties of the State. The Sheikh personally welcomed him to the Valley and had long private talks with him. Knowing full well that the Sheikh was also in cohortswith the Congress, Jinnah asked Abdullah at a huge public gathering at Jamia Masjid, Srinagar to wind up his National Conference and merge it with the Muslim Conference, Muslim League’s main ally in the state. Since then relations between the two had remained strained.
The maharaja had alienated himself from the people of his state. The Sheikh had anticipated that the political vacuum that was being created in Jammu & Kashmir would ultimately be filled by his National Conference. Trying to keep all the contenders engaged and deceived, he had dispatched his two lieutenants Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed to Lahore. They were to act as emissaries and contact Muslim League leaders and Communist supporters of Pakistan, with whom they had a good rapport, to bring about reconciliation between Sheikh Abdullah and Jinnah. However, they failed in their mission as Jinnah did not agree to meet Sheikh Abdullah.
Almost the entire leadership of the National Conference, with the exception of Sheikh Abdullah and a few of the party's working committee members, were for a settlement with Pakistan. Destiny makes strange bed fellows. Even the Communists of Kashmir, under the directive of Communist Party of India, were prepared for Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. It was the Sheikh who, having been turned down by the Pakistani leadership was desperately in favor of the State's accession to India. After the tribal forays into the Valley, he pleaded with Jawahar Lal Nehru to accept the Maharaja’s request for accession and to send the Indian Army to Srinagar.
Using the tribal invasion as a pretext, India attacked Kashmir on 26th October. Mustering all the military and civilian passenger planes it could lay its hands on, India undertook a massive airlift of troops and equipment to Srinagar to counter the invasion by Pakistani irregulars and tribal.
On the evening of 27th October Jinnah, having now become the governor general of Pakistan, orderedm the newly independent dominion’s acting commander–in–chief, general Douglas Gracey, of British origin,to dispatch Pakistani troops to counter the Indian invasion of Kashmir. The orders were to move one brigade from Sialkot towards Jammu. Another brigade was to advance from Rawalpindi towards Srinagar and capture the airfield and the city. General Gracey was deputizing for general Messervy, another Brit, who was on leave. Interestingly the British, as part of the partition plan, had created an interim supreme command in Delhi under field marshal Claude Auchinleck. To this supreme command the commanders –in chief of the Indian and Pakistani armies reported. Jinnah’s plan could not materialize due to the ambiguous nature of the supreme command. Gracey, ignoring Jinnah’s orders, conveyed this information to Auchinleck. The field marshal flew into Lahore in the morning on 28 October, and had the orders withdrawn on the understanding that the governor general’s and prime ministers of the two dominions would meet in Lahore on 29 October 1947, to discuss the matter. It was a tactical victory for India? It gave India time to consolidate the Indian defenses of the Srinagar airfield. India flew in more troops, and thus made sure of their occupation of Kashmir”. Things were different in 1999.
The areas liberated in 1947-48 comprise Azad Jammu &Kashmir (AJK), a small wedge of the Valley, and the Northern Areas of Gilgit, Baltistan and Hunza, etc.The Northern Areas, being contiguous to China and the strategically important Wakhan Corridor, have been administratively separated from Azad Kashmir. Established on 24th October 1947, it has been called “base camp for the liberation of Kashmir”, with a president, a prime minister and a legislature of its own. With the new developments unfolding, prime minister of Azad Kashmir announced in his capital Muzaffarabad that his government would soon extend its jurisdiction to the newly liberated territories. Few days later as the AJK prime minister’s motorcade was moving towards Uri, a town on the edge of the Valley, it was ambushed. Later, the evening broadcast from Muzaffarabad Radio announced that the prime minister and four members of his entourage, having been severely seriously, succumbed to their injuries.
The Pakistani prime minister was reading the file. “After becoming the prime minister of the Indian administered Kashmir, the Sheikh nurtured ambitions of ruling an independent Kashmir. In pursuit of his objectives, he even held secret meetings with foreign diplomats and dignitaries like the American ambassador in India Henderson, and Adlai Stevenson.His roller coasterrelationship with India landed him in jail twice. In the end, he died as the chief minister of the IHK.”
“Abdullah was succeeded by his son Farooq, who, while continuing his tight rope walk with the Indians, created a Pakistani connection as well. Indian intelligence agencies knew that Farooq had clandestinely visited Azad Kashmir many times and maintained close contacts with the Jehadi outfits there. Farooq Abdullah's political education started in England where he came into contact with a Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) group that had close links with the British and Pakistani secret agencies. In 1971, while in London, Farooq met with the JKLF leader Amanullah Khan who had fled Pakistan with his friends to evade arrest. Farooq visited Pakistan in 1973, went to Azad Kashmir and took an oath to liberate Kashmir in a ceremony organized by the JKLF. He also administered such an oath to a number of other young men present there. Was Farooq a double agent? Such were the harsh realities of the Sub- continent’s Byzantine wrangling”. While the Pakistani prime minister was leafing through Farooq Abdullah’s ISI file, an aide entered the prime minister’s office with an urgent message.
Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) was located at Paradise Point on the arid Arabian Sea coast, about 15 miles to the west of Karachi, in the Sindh province. It was based on a single unit pressurized heavy water reactor supplied by Canada. The power house, commissioned in 1972, had a total gross capacity of 137 MW. The building was a reinforced concrete frame and block structure. The reactor building contained the entire reactor system and auxiliaries, and consisted of a pre-stressed concrete cylindrical wall, a hemispherical segmental dome of pre-stressed concrete, and a concrete base slab. The Turbine building housed the turbine-generator and auxiliaries, some process water equipment, electrical distribution equipment, and the control room.
While the situation along the LOC still remained fluid, one evening, as the sun was setting on the Arabian Sea, the KANNUP reactor suddenly exploded. Further explosions and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Reportedly, around fifty people died as the plume drifted over extensive parts of the Sindh, Balochistan and the Indian Ocean. However, the Pakistan print and electronic media reported that the causalities were in “thousands”. This triggered a mass exodus of the population towards the Punjab province. As expected, the Pakistani government accused India ofengineering the sabotage, a charge that was vehemently denied by the latter
The secretary of state’s mid night telephone calls to the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers were curt. Without bothering for diplomatic courtesy, she informed each one of them that the US, deeply concerned with the disastrous developments that had taken place in the Sub Continent during the last twenty four hours, and to prevent the situation from high balling into a nuclear holocaust, had decided to assume control and initiate, in concert with NATO and IAEA , a peace keeping and disaster relief operation that would involve the US 82nd Airborne Division, elements of NATO ,and disaster relief volunteers under the IAEA umbrella.
The 82nd Airborne Division, headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is a modular airborne infantry division. While the secretary of state was busy talking to the two South Asian prime ministers, leading elements of the Division, comprising the 2nd Brigade deployed in Saudi Arabia, were already airborne, their destination – Rawalpindi's Chaklala air force base.
On the heels of the 2nd Brigade, the 3rd Brigade, redeployed at Fort Bragg after Operation Desert Storm, was preparing to lift off for Pathankot airfield. The 3rd Brigade would be followed by the 82nd's 49th Public Affairs Detachment heading towards Karachi’s Sharia Faisal airbase where it would be joined by IAEA volunteers from Belgium, China, Egypt and Turkey. Soon to be followed , the NATO elements comprised the United Kingdom’s 16th Air Assault Brigade? These would be airlifted to Leh and Skardu once 82nd Airborne Division secured its marshalling areas at Rawalpindi and Pathankot.
All the routes leading to the Aiwan-e-Sadr at Srinagar (earlier called Raj Bhavan by the Indians) had been sealed by the troops from Northern Light Infantry. They were reinforced by Zhob Militia and Tochi Scouts hastily dispatched to Srinagar a week ago. Aiwan-e-Sadr was humming with activity. Two days earlier lieutenant general Ahmed Qandahari was sworn in as sadr-e- riasat (president) of the Islamic Federated State of Jammu & Kashmir .There was almost pin drop silence as the VVIPs were ushered into the Darbar Hall. Slowly, they settled down. They had come to witness the swearing in of the new prime minister. And then entered general Qandahari and Omar Farooq Abdullah, Abdullah’s grandson and prime minister designate.
“This would have happened had we liberated Kashmir”, whispered the Pakistani prime minister to himself.

© Copyright 2017 Saleem Akhtar Malik. All rights reserved.

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