Should India Take Back POK?

Thinking beyond emotional desirability and considering the wall created by 76 years of cultural history, taking back POK – a sick entity would be a strategic blunder as it would lead to unwarranted social and political problems and a plethora of administrative and security issues

By Col Rajinder Singh


These days, the Indian media is making much noise over the “POK” statement of the former Chief of the Indian Army, General VK Singh, who is also a Union Minister. He has reportedly said that POK would soon join India on its own. He has not stated “how”? Also, “soon” seems to be an ambiguous term which might have a life span of six months to six years. Whether it takes six months or six years, my point was: Should India yearn for a ‘sick’ entity? Should we not think beyond emotional desirability?

I am aware that the answer to this question would betray my nationalistic fervour. Maybe some geopolitically “illiterates” would brand me as anti-national or a traitor. But, at peril to my patriotism, I would insist that nourishing such a desire to take back POK would not only be an emotional folly but a strategic blunder.

I know that legally speaking, the whole state of J&K had acceded to India on October 27 1947, when Maharaja Hari Singh of J&K had signed the Instrument of Accession. It is noteworthy that Maharaja Hari Singh was initially reluctant to join India. It is also true that he had signed this Instrument of Accession after Pakistan attempted to annex J&K forcibly through what was called “Tribal Invasion” (Read my book, “Kashmir – A Different Perspective”).

It is no rocket science to know that Maharaja Hari Singh had desired to stay independent, as was authorised in the Indian Independence Act of the British Parliament of July 5 1947. The act had a provision that authorised some 562 Princely states of British India to choose between two newly created nations, India and Pakistan, or stay independent. But his desire for independence status was short-circuited by Pakistan.

It is no rocket science to know that Maharaja Hari Singh had desired to stay independent, as was authorised in the Indian Independence Act of the British Parliament of July 5, 1947

By the time India intervened on October 27 1947, “Tribal Raiders” of Pakistan were knocking at the doors of Srinagar. The intervention pushed the invaders beyond Uri, across the river Jhelum. However, at this stage, on wrong advice, then Prime Minister (PM) of India made two mistakes: one, not allowing the military to go across River Jhelum, and two, taking the matter to UNO under a wrong chapter to settle the dispute, instead of eviction of the aggressor.

It is believed that Sheikh Abdullah, a popular Muslim leader of the Kashmir valley in 1947, had advised Nehru not to go beyond Uri. According to him, the area beyond Uri, Muzaffarabad-Rawalkot region, was not part of Kashmir but an extension of Western Punjab, though it formed part of J&K territory of Maharaja Hari Singh. The Indian army was then in a position to take back POK.

As far as going to UNO was concerned, there is enough evidence available that India’s then Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, had asked Nehru to go to UNO to settle the dispute and, at the same time, had advised MA Jinnah to avoid intervention by his army because of the danger of “becoming an aggressor” with profound implications. His double game led to the Kashmir issue becoming a bone of contention between two new nations. The betrayal of British officers of J&K state forces led to Pakistan’s annexation of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

It is pertinent to mention here that the Skardu garrison of GB was held by J&K state forces under Lt Col Sher Jung Thapa until April 1948. India did not send any reinforcements to this garrison due to a wrong policy, deliberate or negligent; thus, the garrison had to surrender. Therefore, India gave Pakistan POK (Muzaffarabad-Rawalkot area of Western Punjab and GB) on a platter.

A Pakistani author, Tariq Ali, writes in his book “The Duel” that the Indian Military was keen to finish the job after the Bangladesh victory in 1971. Field Marshal Manekshaw is stated to have asked Mrs. Gandhi for permission to “Finish the Job.” Tariq Ali writes that Indira Gandhi was not interested, so she dismissed Field Marshal Manekshaw by saying that she would consult her cabinet. In the cabinet meeting, she found everyone enthusiastic, and she was a lone ranger. “But,” she told Tariq Ali, “by the end of the meeting, everyone dropped the idea of invasion of West Pakistan.” It may be noted that Tariq Ali had interviewed Indira Gandhi months before she was assassinated on October 31 1984. Thus, India had let go of another opportunity to go by similarly as her father had done in 1948.

And the clamour for retaking POK today, after 76 years, seems not only illogical but full of a geopolitical minefield when it has been fully immersed in Pakistani colours. The Indian part of Kashmir had just begun to breathe fresh air from decades of Pak-sponsored militancy, and adding POK to it would further take it back to the gory days of the 1990s. Its unification with India should be sought only if Pakistan ceases to exist.

The clamour for retaking POK today, after 76 years, seems illogical and full of a geopolitical minefield when it has been fully immersed in Pakistani colours

Here, it is essential to note that India’s security and integrity lie in a stable and peaceful Pakistan. Its breakup or non-existence would invite severe problems for India. One must not lose sight of the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan and the danger of it landing in the hands of “crazy religious elements.” This is the geopolitical reality of today. Whatever the degree of animosity and enmity with Pakistan, India must not allow turbulence across borders because the spill-over effect would endanger its existence.

As regards the Indian Parliament resolution of February 22, 1994, declaring the whole state of Jammu Kashmir, as it existed in October 1947, being an integral part of India, one can argue that real Kashmir was already part of India. The resolution also asked Pakistan to vacate territories occupied by it. It is essential to know that POK consisted of two entities, namely Western Extension of Punjab (Azad Kashmir by Pakistan) and GB (Federally controlled Northern Areas). The total area of POK is 13,297 Square km, which is 30% of Jammu & Kashmir State of 1947. India has been left with 60% of the original state of J&K (10% Area of Kashgam Valley and Aksai Chin is with China—ceded by Pakistan and annexed by China respectively).

Ironically speaking, the follies of 1947-49 cannot be undone now. The “Great Divide” of 1947 of British India into Pakistan and India had also, by default, led to the partition of Jammu and Kashmir. With some adjustments, the Ceasefire Line (CFL) of 1949 is the only legitimate solution, with a win-win position for both. One should be reminded of a Secret but unwritten clause of the Shimla Agreement of July 1972, which sought the Line of Control (LC) as the International Border between India and Pakistan. The logic of this clause was that Indira allowed ZA Bhutto to delink Northern Areas (GB) from Azad Kashmir in 1974 and take it directly under federal Government Control.

Any digression from the accepted agreement of Shimla-1972, verbal or written, would be strongly resisted. It would be a breach of trust. It would also invite international criticism. Moreover, India must understand that the people of POK, particularly of GB, might be up in arms against the Government of Pakistan due to poor economic conditions. The general public might be emotionally charged now, but once emotions subside, the people of POK might not like to be with India—76 years of cultural history has created a wall. India would have social and political problems and a plethora of administrative and security issues. POK is not Bangladesh; religious elements can easily infiltrate it and thus exploit the masses. What’s more, the venom may sneak into other areas. Let the evil be far away!

-An ex-NDA and Wellington Staff College graduate, Col Rajinder Singh is a renowned author and security analyst. He has authored four books, two individually and two in collaboration. His best-selling books are Kashmir – A Different Perspective and The ULFA Insurgency. The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda