This article is written by Neha Dahiya, a law student at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar National Law University. This article explains the history of the Karachi Agreement with its provisions. It also analyses the drawbacks of the agreement and how it ultimately collapsed with the beginning of the war of 1965.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
India and Pakistan have had a long history of conflict. The focal point of this conflict has been the “Kashmir issue”. Both sides have fought for years in Kashmir. The beginning dates back to the time of partition. There is no doubt that we witnessed a bloody partition. However, the violence was not just limited to the borders between Hindus and Muslims only. Kashmir was caught in a similar fire too. In order to annex Kashmir forcefully, Pakistan started what is called as the “First War” between the two newborn countries in 1947. What unfolded was a huge crisis and it finally came to a temporary halt in 1949 with the United Nation’s intervention. Thus, the Karachi Agreement was born.
Timeline of events
Background of the conflict
The British left India in a haste with a poorly executed partition. Despite the continuous efforts of our leaders, communalism disrupted the peace of India and resulted in hostile feelings between Hindus and Muslims, which led to the partition. However, the terms of the partition dictated, gave a choice to the princely states to join either of the nations. When the final transfer of power took place by the British government to India and Pakistan, Raja Hari Singh of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir decided not to join either of them. In such a situation, both countries made efforts to assimilate Kashmir towards their side but nothing seemed to work. A Hindu ruler, Raja Hari Singh, ruling over a Muslim-majority population, preferred to sit on the fence and not make a decision. He preferred independence rather than joining a democratic or a Muslim majority nation. Later on, when Pakistan attained full freedom on 14 August 1947, it made efforts to persuade Hari Singh to join. When nothing worked, it decided to do so through coercion.
Attack by Pakistan
Pakistan sent a few tribesmen called ‘Kabalis’ backed by Pakistani forces to attack Kashmir. This marked the beginning of the ‘Operation Gulmarg’ in Kashmir by Pakistan. These tribal warriors wreaked havoc in Kashmir. There were thousands of them and they were very well looked after by the Pakistani forces. They were fully armed with modern weapons and entered Kashmir either on foot or were loaded in trucks. They committed large-scale atrocities and civilians were killed brutally. In this situation, Hari Singh found himself powerless and vulnerable. He could not defend Kashmir against the invasion. He sought India’s help when the tribals had reached Srinagar and were brutally destroying anything that came in their way. This is also one of the prime reasons for conflict between both the countries on Kashmir as Pakistan alleges that Hari Singh assented to joining India under coercion and hence, the accession was not valid.
Signing of the instrument of accession
Finally, Hari Singh knocked on India’s door for help. He signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947. With this, India got limited access to Kashmir’s defence, communications, and foreign affairs. This also paved the way for the future special status given to Kashmir, which further complicated the situation, as revealed in the coming years. Indian troops landed in Kashmir on 27 October, 1947 and took control of the situation. With the Indian Army’s help, the invaders were pushed back. Indian forces had enough resources to deal with the conflict. However, the war persisted for some time.
Meanwhile, India approached the United Nations Organisation to mediate and resolve the conflict. India went to the UNO under Article 35 of the UN Charter which allowed states to bring to the notice of UNSC, those situations, which if continued, could disrupt international peace and security. After a series of protracted discussions and mediations, a ceasefire became operative from 1 January, 1949. Even though India was at the brink of winning the war, it approached the UNO for assistance, to prevent the stretching of war and bitter relations between India and Pakistan and to stop Pakistan from aiding the invaders. As per the cease-fire agreement, both the countries were asked to withdraw their militaries, followed by a plebiscite (a direct vote in which the people of a nation or region express their opinion for or against a policy or proposal) to record the will of the Kashmiris. However, none of the two things actually happened.
The UN Commission intervention
On UNO’s intervention, Pakistan rejected the claims of its involvement in invading Kashmir. However, on its visit to India in July 1948, the commission found that Pakistani forces were present in Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK). The resulting UNCIP Resolution passed in 1948, recorded Pakistan’s act of aggression, and eventually, discussions with both the governments began. After due deliberations, the resolution was adopted.
The Resolution called for a ceasefire and complete end of hostilities. It established a truce agreement and ordered a complete withdrawal of Pakistani forces and tribals from Kashmir. India was also asked to withdraw its forces and keep minimum numbers there, required for maintaining law and order. It also stated that the two countries would sit together with the Commission to decide the future course taking into consideration the people’s will. The win for India was that the resolution recognized Pakistan as the aggressor. Finally, the representatives of both nations sat down to build the Karachi agreement.
The Karachi Agreement
Constitution and purpose
The Karachi agreement was formally known as the “Agreement Between Military Representatives of India and Pakistan regarding the establishment of a Cease-fire line in the State of Jammu and Kashmir”. It was instrumental in ending the war in Kashmir resulting from the post-partition conflict. The military representatives of India sat down together with the Truce Sub-Committee of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan to deliberate upon the future course of action. Both the sides sent three members and two observers each. The Sub-committee consisted of four members consisting of a chairman. The delegation met at Karachi to mutually agree upon the cease-fire line in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting was purely for military purposes and no attention was given to political issues.
Provisions of the agreement
- An 830 km long cease-fire line was established as a complement to the suspension of hostilities as per the Resolution already passed.
- The line would run from Manawar in the south, north to Keran, and Keran east to the glacier area. A more detailed plan was agreed upon mutually by the parties.
- The cease-fire line was to be drawn on a one-inch map and then to be verified practically in the field by the local commanders on both sides with the aid of the UN Military observers. If the local commanders did not agree on common ground, then the Military adviser’s decision was to be considered final. Then a final map was to be released.
- No troops were to be stationed in the area of the Burzil Nullah from the south of Minimarg to the cease-fire line. In a situation of any dispositions, the troops might remain at least 500 yards from the line.
- Both sides were free to decide their respective defensive positions behind the line. However, neither of them could put wires or mines when new bunkers and defences were constructed. In areas where no major adjustments were involved, no increase of forces or strengthening defences were allowed.
- The United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan was to station ‘observers’ wherever it deemed fit.
- The agreement was to be ratified by the governments on both sides and then the documents were to be deposited with the UNCIP till 31 July 1949.
- A period of 30 days was given to both sides from the date of ratification to vacate the areas erstwhile occupied by them beyond the designated cease-fire line as mutually agreed. Also, neither of the sides was to move further into the areas to be taken over by either of them before the end of the 30 days period.
Outcomes of the agreement
- Despite a mutual agreement on the cease-fire line, there was no physical demarcation on the ground that could have meant a concrete solution to the issue.
- The glacial terrain near the China border was not taken into consideration for demarcation as it seemed to be inaccessible and a permanent barrier against any form of military action. Thus, it made this area a ‘no man’s land’, which otherwise turned out to be a hotly contested one.
- At the southern-most end of the cease-fire line in Jammu, there was a gap of approximately 200 km between the line and the international boundary dividing India from Pakistani Punjab. In this area, the forces on both sides were divided by a provincial line and hence, it was felt that there was no need for another line. Nevertheless, Indians have been referring to it as the international boundary and the Pakistanis on the other hand have been calling it simply as ‘the border’ or the ‘working border’.
Failure of the agreement
Broadly, the agreement had prohibited six types of military activities along the line. These were as follows:
- Crossing of the line or military advancements within 500 yards of the line.
- Firing and use of explosives within five miles of the line, without prior warning given to the UN observers.
- Installing new wiring or mines in the area.
- Strengthening defences in areas where no major adjustments were allowed by the agreement.
- Reinforcement of defence forces in Kashmir, other than for relief and maintenance.
- Flying of aircraft over the other party’s territory.
All of these restrictions in Kashmir were aimed at demilitarization of the zone and preventing any further escalation of the conflict. Though it was supposed to be a permanent solution, it did not turn out to be so. The violations occurred right from the start from both sides. However, it escalated rapidly after the 1950s. The UN Peacekeeping mission could not keep up with the huge responsibility that it had. The agreement was practically fading.
The war of 1965
The first war between India and Pakistan started in 1947. The second one occurred in 1965. The only solid source of peace agreement was the Karachi Agreement between this time period. However, this did not mean the complete cessation of hostilities between the two neighbors. There were other peace talks during this interval including two formal bilateral negotiations. But they did not yield any concrete solution. The situation deteriorated post-1962 Sino-India war. There were regular complaints of violations of the cease-fire line on both sides. The violations included the movement of civilians, setting up of military outposts and, military raids that practically defeated the purpose of the agreement. The agreement, finally collapsed when Pakistan initiated ‘Operation Gibraltar’ and sent infiltrators into Indian Kashmir. This heralded the second war between India and Pakistan in 1965.
Demand for the abolition of the Karachi Agreement by PoK Activists
The activists from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) have been protesting for the abolition of the Karachi Agreement. They argue that the agreement was biased towards the Pakistan government and it has since then ignored the region of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. The agreement gave the administration powers to Pakistan. However, the region’s development has been ignored since then. The local administration of the area was not consulted before this arrangement. This has resulted in numerous humanitarian crimes being committed in the area with no respite. These people have faced continuous discrimination and persecution. The social and economic development has been ignored largely in this area by Pakistan. Thus, the people there have been demanding the abolition of the Karachi Agreement for the sake of the development of their area.
The Siachin Glacier dispute
The last point on the map mutually agreed in the Karachi Agreement was ‘NJ 9842’. The area beyond this was merely mentioned as ‘north to the glaciers’ without going into the details as apparently it did not seem important at that time to deal with such an ‘inaccessible’ area. However, it was decided in the agreement itself that the accession of Kashmir by India was valid and any such ‘no man’s land’ should be controlled by India during the period of ceasefire and truce. However, it could be disputed by Pakistan with adequate proof. The main conflict started in 1980s when the news came that Pakistan was planning to claim the Siachin glacier. Since then, there has been a heated conflict between both the sides on Siachin glacier, all due to a lacuna left by the Karachi Agreement.
Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan since Raja Hari Singh assented to join India. The conflict has remained irresolvable till today. The efforts for peace started from the Karachi agreement with the UNO’s intervention. The events that unfolded, later on, revealed the drawbacks in the agreement and ultimately led to its complete collapse with the beginning of the war of 1965. Nevertheless, the agreement marked the beginning of the negotiations between the two nations on Kashmir and started a new era post-partition.
- Wirsing, Robert (1998), War or Peace on the Line of Control? The India-Pakistan Dispute over Kashmir Turns Fifty, University of Durham, International Boundaries Research Unit, pp. 9-11, ISBN 1-897643-31-4
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