Age old Games, will they ever end?

by Khurshid Anwer

Trust PPP to hand over important ministries to turncoats like Qureshi at the cost of the country. However, this is not the first time India has stonewalled on Kashmir. Kennedy once said that every time he mentioned Kashmir to Nehru, the latter would start gazing at his shoes and would not raise his head until the subject had been changed. Musharraf of course played into India’s hands by first climbing up at Kargil and the climbing down at Khatmandu. It would be pertinent to recall the attempts made by Ayub Khan to get Nehru to agree to a compromise on Kashmir.

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A G Noorani in his column ‘Lesson’s of Murree’ in the Nation of June 17, talks about an important period in the Ayub Khan era which he says has been neglected by the historians. Chronicles of India-Pakistan relations take little note of the summit conference between Pandit Nehru and Ayub Khan on Sep 11, 1960.


Ayub Khan met Nehru twice, once at Palam Airport in new Delhi in 1959, and a second time at Murree in 1960. In 1964 Sheikh Abdullah persuaded them to meet for a third time but soon after that Nehru breathed his last.

Nehru made no effort to conceal his dislike for the head of state of a neighbouring country, an imperial self indulgence in which Indira Ghandi also reveled, in both cases at the expense of India’s national interests.

(Benazir Bhutto also reveled in her disdain for her political opponents – being ‘born to rule’)

India’s high commissioner to Pakistan Rajeshwar Dayal has recorded in his memoirs the excellent rapport he had with Ayub khan from the time they were together at Mathura where he was district manager, “The sole Indian officer, in charge of a small unit of the service corps was a young Indian captain, Mohammad Ayub Khan – – – – -, almost every evening he would be at our house”.

Ayub Khan did not pull rank when as head of state he received his old friends credentials as India’s high commissioner in Nov 1858, “all protocol forgotten and smiling profusely”.

(Talk about protocol, Dr Mobashar Hasan and others could not walk in to see Bhutto without first being announced – “has my comrade of one years struggle forgotten my name or my face” wondered Mubashir)

Rajeshwar Dayal performed brilliantly, battling against a paranoid krishna Menon and a Commonwealth Secretary, M J Desai, who had an almost pathological aversion to Pakistan, a trait that persists in some to this day.

The initiative for the first meeting had come from Manzur Qadir. Pandit Nehru and Ayub khan issued a press statement at Palam airport. Speaking to the press, Ayub khan had said, “There is need for reappraisal, for forgetting and forgiving, and for a more realistic, rational and sensible relationship with each other”. This was the language of one who wished to shed old baggage.

This brings us to the Nehruvian style of diplomacy of no negotiations. Nehru would state his position and ask for its acceptance. He offered status quo, a non-starter. Why would Pakistan accept in a bargain what it already had.

For the signing of the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, Ayub Khan said he would welcome a personal visit by Prime minister Nehru, alternately he would be glad to go to Delhi himself. Ayub Khan felt that Pandit Nehru was at the zenith of his power and popularity in India and any decision taken by him would be unquestionably accepted. While he in Pakistan also had the necessary authority to ensure acceptance.

Dayal briefed Nehru that all that Ayub khan expected at that stage was that the process of discussions on Kashmir be initiated without any preconditions. He was too much of a realist to expect early results and he realised that the process would be long drawn. “I placed these thoughts in some detail before the prime minister , just before I was to take up the stewardship of the United Nations Mission in the Congo”.

The upshot was that Nehru agreed to accompany Ayub khan to the cool heights of Murree. Dayals appointment to head the UN mission in Congo at this moment was most unfortunate. If Ayub khan persisted despite a keen perception of Nehru’s dislike of him, it was because he sought earnestly to settle Kashmir and get on with the job at home.

Dayal writes in his memoirs, “I found Ayub khan straight forward and cooperative. Quick in grasping the essentials of a problem and once convinced, quick in decision. He betrayed not a trace of religious bigotry or narrow-mindedness, and whenever he mentioned prime minister Nehru, he always did so in terms of respect". It was such a man whom Nehru had slighted.

Dayal writes that when he met Ayub khan in London at the conference of the commonwealth heads of government, “He upbraided me for leaving my post in Pakistan at such a critical juncture, remarking sarcastically that Pandit Nehru seemed to think that Congo was more important to India than Pakistan. He soundly blamed krishna Menon and M J Desai for their evil counsel and the Prime minister for listening to them”.

The talks in Murree between Pandit Nehru an Ayub khan proved to be an unmitigated disaster. Ayub khan told Dayal that when ever he tried to open a conversation about Kashmir, Nehru simply stared out of the window and shut up like a clam. From that time the relations between the two countries which had been built up brick by brick, suddenly collapsed in rubble.

The Indian version according to Nehru was, “The President began by laying stress on the importance and urgency of a full settlement of all our problems – – – – – – – – -. I replied that in dealing with kashmir we had to take a realistic view of the situation, not to do so would land us in greater difficulties. It would be most unfortunate for us to take a step which might create numerous upsets and emotional upheavals – – – – – “. that is, accept the status quo and make the ceasefire line an international boundary.

(What Nehru could not get from Ayub Khan, Indira Ghandi got from Bhutto. Would she have released 900 prisoner’s of war without getting Kashmir conceded as a bilateral issue and getting the Cease Fire Line changed to Line of Control. Bhutto signed away Kashmir at Shimla in return for showing that he had not returned empty handed).

Rebuffed by Nehru repeatedly, from 1960 to 1963, Ayub khan became more receptive to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s advice to settle the matter by recourse to force. On May 12, 1965, Bhutto wrote a letter to the president advocating this course. It began with the foolish assumption: “India is at present in no position to risk a general war of unlimited duration”. India proved the assumption wrong,


One Response to “Age old Games, will they ever end?”

  1. Ravi Says:

    The limited space available to comment is constrainting but here goes.
    1. Kashmir is the core issue whether we Indians like it or not.
    2. Talks that exclude this is a waste of time unless India can enforce its will on Pakistan, doubtful now that it has the bomb, US troops are in that theatre and need Pakistan for Afghanistan. Besides India is primarily a statist power, does not have the philosophical mind set to become a game changer despite Bangladesh.
    3. Civil soceity in Pakistan is unlikely to force the Army to bend to its will. Even Z.Bhutto after the 71 debacle tried and failed.
    4. Ayub Khan to Kayani have nurtured a military doctrine that is uni-focussed on India despite the internal fault lines within Pakistan.
    5. Unless India has the capability similar to the US-Richard Armittage’s threat of bombing Pakistan back to the stone age, these talks are a waste of time. The caveat in all this internal changes within Pakistan. See no miracle there hence go through the motions.
    6. Indus Water treaty cannot be compared to Kahmir. Pakistan has to sell the idea to its public, that there will never be a change in borders, notwithstanding Geelani and the Hurriyet.

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