Recently Mr.S.Gurumurthy wrote an article in the New Indian Express comparing India’s Kashmir problem with that of Islamic insurgency in China. The article titled ” A tale of two Kashmirs made me think about the different aspects of the problems faced by two of the World’s most populous Nations. Here are some excerpts from the article [in orange]and my thoughts [in black]about it.
That China too has its Kashmir and problems with Islamist separatists identical to India’s Kashmir is not widely known. ‘Xinjiang’, actually pronounced as ‘Sinkiang’ for postal purposes, is China’s Kashmir. Xinjiang actually shares borders with Ladakh in India’s Kashmir. But unlike Kashmir it is not a small area. Its size is 1.8 million sq km; almost one-sixth of China; half as much as India. India’s Kashmir measures some 2,65,000 sq km. Of which some 86,000 sq km is under Pakistan; some 37,500 sq km under China; the balance, 1,41,000 sq km, is with India. The disputed part of India’s Kashmir, some 1,45,000 sq km, is less than one hundredth of Xinjiang. So China’s Kashmir is physically 100 times bigger than India’s and therefore its problem too is bigger. Yet many do not know about it.
Here Mr Gurumurthy is claiming that as the area of Xinjiang is physically 100 times bigger than the area of Kashmir the problem of insurgency is/was also bigger. Is this true? Gurumuthy has not given any such indication in his article.
Let us look back at the history of the origin of Kashmir conflict.
The Kashmir Conflict arises from the Partition of India in 1947 into modern India and Pakistan. Both the countries have made claims to Kashmir, based on historical reasons and religious affiliations of the Kashmiri people. The state of Jammu and Kashmir, which lies strategically in the Northwest of the subcontinent, , was a princely state with a majority Muslim population,ruled by Hindu King,Maharaja Hari Singh, under the paramountcy of British India. In geographical and legal terms, the Maharaja could have joined either of the two new Dominions. The Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten urged the Maharaja, to determine the future of his state before the transfer of power took place, but Hari Singh delayed his decision.. In October 1947, Pakistani tribals with help of the Army entered Kashmir intending to liberate it from Hari Singh’s rule. Unable to withstand the invasion, the Maharaja signed The Instrument of Accession with India.
The resulting war over Kashmir, between India and Pakistan, lasted until 1948, when India moved the issue to the UN Security Council. UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on April 21, 1948. The resolution imposed that an immediate cease-fire take place and said that Pakistan should withdraw all presence and had no say in Jammu and Kashmir politics. It stated that India should retain a minimum military presence and stated “that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations”. At that time, the Indian and Pakistani governments agreed to hold the plebiscite but Pakistan did not withdraw its troops from Kashmir thus violating the condition for holding the plebiscite. India also did not want a Plebiscite. Plebiscite never happened and the dispute is continuing.
Xinjiang never had similar history. There was never a partition of China as it became independent like the way that happened in Indian sub continent. Several Chinese dynasties had ruled over the area.Many a time local leaders had declared independence but their attempts were short lived.After Chinese revolution and making of Xinjiang an autonomous province of People’s Republic no other Country made any claim for the territory. Sporadic separatist protests were there but were put down by the autocratic Government with an iron hand.
So to say that China’s Xinjiang ‘problem’ is similar to and is much bigger than India’s Kashmir conflict is according to me not true.
Yes, China does have problems with Islamist separatists, extremists and terrorists. But it has, by diplomacy and action, ensured that it remains an internal problem, unlike India, which has on its own made Kashmir an international issue. China has also changed the religious and political demography of Xinjiang by ensuring that 41 per cent of the province’s population is non-Muslim.
Instead of working to change the demography in favour of India as China has done, the Indian government could not even prevent the expulsion of Hindus from the Valley. While Xinjiang is half filled by Han Chinese, Kashmir has been cleansed of Hindus. The result is that India has to defend Kashmir with the army instead of the people.
An issue becomes International when there is a dispute between two Nations that could not be solved bilaterally. So the Kashmir conflict was always an International issue. India did take it to the UN with the belief that UN will readily uphold India’s rights to the territory of Kashmir.That did not happen and in retrospect the decision to take it to UN may have been wrong. But to say that India’s action was the sole reason for the issue becoming International is far from the truth.In case of Xinjiang there was only an internal separatist movement.So chances of it becoming International was/is less.
China did change the ethnic and religious demography of Xinjiang so that the Han Chinese became a dominant force. They could do it deliberately because of the autocratic functioning of the Chinese Government. They do not have democracy nor the Judiciary is independent of the Government.In contrast India had a functioning democracy almost all the time after Independence expect during the Emergency.
When the Kashmir Constituent Assembly ratified the Indian Constitution and the union to India,Article 370 was a pre-condition for such ratification.Any violation of fundamental rights assured by our Constitution could be questioned in our Courts.So deliberate changing of demographics is not possible anywhere in a country like India,more so in Kashmir.But the whole article never mentions this important difference between India’s Kashmir and China.
Actually India is trying to defend Kashmir with the help of secular and moderate Kashmiris with Army protecting them,unlike in China were Han Chinese from other provinces are displacing the Uighurs with the help of brute force of Chinese Army. Which is better?
Should article 370 be repealed? As per the current constitutional provisions it can be done only with the concurrence of the Kashmir Government. If there is such a concurrence it will good to repeal it for proper integration Kashmir to India.
Had India followed the policy the Chinese adopted in Xinjiang, conquering Kashmir back instead of contracting under Article 370, which prevents Indians in other places from migrating to the Valley, today Kashmir would have demographically integrated with India. We would be dealing with internal riots occasionally like China does; but we would not face or fight wars with Pakistan and with terrorists every day.
May be Gurumurthy,who is a well known opponent of Emergency Rule of 1975-1977 must have lost his belief in Democracy. He wants India to conquer Kashmir back without the consent of its inhabitants. Will conquering really integrate it to India,or increase the support for separatist movement? Will it prevent wars with Pakistan or increase the chance of war? Will it reduce jihadi terrorism or increase it? Gurumurthy seems to be deliberately closing his eyes to the reality.