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l June 2003 l

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 2, No 2 l


The Chenab Plan: BJP's sell-out? 

Praveen Swami

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kashmir TELEGRAPH has reasons to believe -- beyond any shadow of doubt -- that United States is 'arm-twisting' Pakistan -- more specifically, India, in accepting the 'Chenab Plan'. A 'sinister plot', which if America has its way, brings about the division of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir on religious lines -- with Muslim-majority areas accorded a quasi-sovereign status. BJP -- the ruling party -- it seems, has all along been clandestinely involved in this sinister plot, which undermines the basis principle -- rejection of the two-nation theory -- on the basis of which India was founded. It is in this context that one must examine the remarks of General Jay Garner, setting December, 2004 as the American deadline for resolving the Kashmir issue. What are the specifics of the Chenab Plan? Who are (have been) the chief actors behind the scenes? Excerpts from an essay, entitled, J & K after 9 /11, published by Kashmir TELEGRAPH in its June, 2002 edition (in arrangement with Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi).

.....What might the United States want? What could Pakistan accept? And what might India be willing to concede?......


... Interestingly, the first ideas for partitioning J&K along ethnic-communal lines emerged from the United States. On March 8, 2000, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and a group of his top Cabinet colleagues held a secret meeting with Farooq Kathwari, a US-based secessionist leader. The closed-door meeting, held at the Secretariat at Jammu, appears to be just part of a larger US-sponsored covert dialogue on J&K. Indeed, there is growing evidence that the BJP-led coalition government in New Delhi was complicit in this dialogue, which could lead to a violent communal sundering of the State.


Kathwari heads the Kashmir Study Group (KSG), an influential New York-based Think Tank, which has been advocating the creation of an independent State carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of J&K. The owner of Ethan Allen, an upmarket furniture concern which includes the White House among its clients, Kathwari’s associates in the KSG have included influential Indian establishment figures, notably former Foreign Secretary S K Singh and retired Vice Admiral K K Nayyar. The furniture tycoon was earlier blacklisted by successive Indian governments, on one occasion even being denied permission to visit a seriously ill relative. Shortly after the second BJP-led coalition assumed power in 1998, however, he was quietly granted a visa. 


Kathwari arrived in New Delhi in March 1999, carrying a series of proposals for the creation of an independent Kashmiri State. On this first visit, Kathwari met what one senior intelligence official describes as a “who’s who of the BJP establishment”. Kathwari also appears to have visited Jammu  and Srinagar, staying at the home of a top National Conference politician. Public disclosure of Kathwari's proposals provoked a minor storm. 


Nonetheless, Kathwari seemed encouraged enough to push ahead with a new version of his blueprint, Kashmir: A Way Forward. In September 1999, the fresh version of the document was finalised after, its preface records, receiving reactions from “government officials in India and Pakistan.” The new document outlined five proposals for the creation of either one or two new States, which would together constitute what is described in somewhat opaque fashion as a “sovereign entity but one without an international personality”: 


The new entity would have its own secular, democratic constitution, as well as its own citizenship, flag and a legislature which would legislate on all matters other than defence and foreign affairs. India and Pakistan would be responsible for the defence of the Kashmiri entity, which would itself maintain police and gendarme forces for internal law and order purposes. India and Pakistan would be expected to work out financial arrangements for the Kashmiri entity, which could include a currency of its own.


The National Conference’s own proposals for J&K’s future have some similarities with those of the KSG. The report of the Regional Autonomy Committee [RAC], tabled in the J&K Assembly in 1999, and now in the process of being reworked, advocates cutting away the Muslim-majority districts of Rajouri and Poonch from the Jammu region as a whole, and recasting them as a new Pir Panjal Province. The single districts of Buddhist-majority Leh and Muslim-majority Kargil, too, were to be sundered from each other and to become new provinces.

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In some cases, the RAC Report and the KSG proposals mirrored each other down to the smallest detail. For example, Kashmir: A Way Forward refers to the inclusion of a Gool-Gulabgarh tehsil in the new State. There is, in fact, no such tehsil. Gool and Gulabgarh were parts of the tehsil of Mahore, the sole Muslim-majority tehsil of Udhampur district, until 1999. Gool subsequently became a separate tehsil. But the proposal for Mahore’s sundering from Udhampur and inclusion in the Chenab province was first made in the RAC Report. According to the RAC plan, as in the KSG proposals, Mahore would form part of the Chenab province, while Udhampur would be incorporated in the Hindu-majority Jammu province.


Significantly, Farooq Abdullah’s maximalist demands for autonomy for J&K dovetail with the KSG’s formulation of a quasi-sovereign State. The report of the State Autonomy Commission (SAC), adopted by the J&K Legislative Assembly in 2001, would leave New Delhi with no powers other than the management of defence, external affairs and communications. Fundamental rights in the Union Constitution, for example, would no longer apply to J&K if the SAC had its way. They would have to be substituted by a separate chapter on Fundamental Rights in the J&K Constitution, which now contains only directive principles. 


The BJP, too, has several enthusiastic advocates for the sundering of Jammu from Kashmir, which would achieve much the same results as those sought by the KSG. So too would calls by Buddhist-chauvinist groups for Ladakh to be made a Union Territory.


No great imagination is needed to see how these ideas dovetail with the realms of the possible in the United States and Pakistan. No politician in Pakistan would be able to accept a settlement based on granting formal status to the Line of Control.  Where a Zulfikar Ali Bhutto pleaded in the wake of the 1971 war that this would undermine his regime, so a Musharraf remains today. 


The least that any Pakistan politician can accept is a victory, however small, in the form a gain for that country beyond the existing status quo. This aspiration, of course, seems real and achievable to Pakistan because of the broad structure of official United States discourse on J&K, which has changed remarkably little over decades. That country does no accept the finality of the accession of J&K to India; nor has it ever backed efforts for the Line of Control to become a formal border. Many in the United States find the notion of at least some form of independence to Jammu and Kashmir attractive, for the reason that it would become yet another centre in South Asia from which the world’s sole superpower could project its power....


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