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Sheikh’s View Of ‘Dixon Plan’

Some time back ‘The Kashmir Times’ and ‘Muslim India’ published a letter written by Late Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah to Col. Nasser of Egypt in 1965. The letter provides us an insight into Sheikh’s interpretation of Sir Owen Dixon’s proposal on a ‘possible and acceptable’ solution of Kashmir. That this view appears to be at variance with the actual proposal called as ‘Dixon Report’ makes it more intriguing. For the benefit of our readers we reproduce both the documents-Sheikh’s letter to Nasser and Dixon’s Report to judge for themselves.


The Dixon Report

Text of the summing up and concluding portion of the report of Sir Owen Dixon, UN Representative for India and Pakistan on Kashmir, submitted to the Security Council in September, 1950

It will be seen that two main lines have been pursued in the attempts which have been made to settle the dispute between the two countries about the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The attempt to find a solution by taking a plebiscite over the whole state and so decide by a majority to which country the entire state shall go has its origin in the first proceedings before the Security Council. It would be recalled that by the Resolution of 21 April 1948 the desire of both India and Pakistan that the question of accession of the state to one of them should be decided by free and impartial plebiscite was noted with satisfaction. In the agreed resolution of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, January 5, 1949 there is a recital of the acceptance by the Government of both countries of the principles that the question of the accession of the state to India or Pakistan would be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.

From the date of this resolution until the present there have been continual efforts to bring about conditions in which the preparations for taking a poll might go forward. No one has supposed that they could even begin while much of the respective territories on either side of the cease-fire line were occupied by opposed armies and their base units. There are in addition many other obstacles to the holding of a free and fair plebiscite which must be removed before the state would be ready for the organisation and machinery which the taking of a poll would make necessary. Unfortunately all this has been made to depend upon the agreement of the parties. It is enough to refer to paragraph 2, 6(a) and 10 of the Resolution of 5 January 1949 and to the provisions of the Resolution of 13 August 1948 upon which these paragraphs hang.

There is, I believe on the side of India a conception of what ought to be done to ascertain the real will of the people which is not that tacitly assumed by me. Doubtless it is a conception which Pakistan does not share. The resolution of January 1949 contains some rather general provisions in relation to the holding of the plebiscite and the antecedent steps, and about these more general provisions the parties were able to agree. But to apply propositions of this kind a programme of practical acts and physical events must be agreed on. Without that it is impossible for the Plebiscite Administrator to begin the extensive and difficult work of organising the taking of a poll. It is the practical measures which have proved the obstacle, not the mere general propositions.

Pakistan has complained of India’s failure to agree on the practical measures which must precede the preparations for the actual taking of a poll, and has maintained that this failure is the result of a deliberate policy. But the fact remains that under the resolutions the agreement of India to the course to be pursued in these matters is a condition-precedent to carrying out a plebiscite of the state, and there is no such agreement. Moreover, the United Nations Commission failed in its efforts to secure an agreement upon them; I failed in mine; neither party put-forward any other proposals and both appeared to concur in the view that the possibility of agreement has been exhausted.

The contention of Pakistan that it was incumbent on India to agree did not advance the matter practically. It was in these circumstances that I decided to turn away from a plebiscite of the whole state, an “over all” plebiscite, as a method of solving the problem of Kashmir. Partition of the whole state between the two countries is of course an obvious alternative. But unfortunately the Valley of Kashmir cannot itself be partitioned and it is an area claimed by each side. Pakistan claims it not only because it is predominantly Muslim but also because the Jhelum river flows from it and Pakistan will not readily give up her claim. India is just as insistent upon her claim and has the advantage of possession. Some method of allocating the Kashmir valley to one party or the other is, therefore, essential to any plan of partition.

I am inclined to the view that no method of allocating the Valley to one or other of the contending parties is available except a poll of the inhabitants. By the inhabitants I mean those of them who fulfil whatever may be fixed as the test of eligibility to vote. The difficulty of using the expedient of a plebiscite appears to lie entirely that the plebiscite is held in conditions which make it an effective means of ascertaining the real will of the people independently formed and freely expressed and, on the other hand, certain conceptions or preconceptions of the Indian government. These are based, in part, on what India conceives to be the origin and course of the fighting in 1947 and 1948 and part on her unwillingness to have any interference to the civil administration. In addition, it may be, as I have suggested that a different conception exists of the process of ascertaining the will of the people. Although I myself found no reconciliation of this conflict possible, it may be that with India’s help some resolution of the conflict may be discovered. She may come to realise the necessity of practical  measures which will really secure the freedom and fairness of a plebiscite  which must be paramount over these conceptions. At all events I have formed the opinion that if there is any chance of settling the dispute over Kashmir by agreement between India and Pakistan it now lies in partition and in some means of allocating the Valley rather than in an overall plebiscite. The reason for this may be shortly stated (emphasis added).

The State of Jammu and Kashmir is not really a unit geographically, demographically or economically. It is an agglomeration of territories brought under the political power of One Maharaja. That is the unity it possesses. If as a result of an overall plebiscite the state as an entirety passed to India, there would be large movements of Muslims and another refugee problem would arise for Pakistan who would be expected to receive them in very great numbers. If the result favoured Pakistan a refugee problem, although not of such dimensions, would arise of India, because of the movement of Hindus and Sikhs. Almost all this would be avoided by partition. Great areas of the state are unequivocally Muslim. Other areas are predominantly Hindu. There is a further area which is Buddhist. No one doubts the sentiment of the great majority of the  inhabitants of these areas. The interest of the people, the justice as well as the permanence of the settlement, and the imperative necessity of avoiding another refugee problem all point to the wisdom of adopting partition as the principle of settlement and of abandoning that of an overall plebiscite . But in addition the economic and geographic  considerations point in the same direction. The difficulty  in partitioning the state is to form a sound judgement where the line should be drawn.

While what I have said ideals broadly with the state as a whole, it is by no means easy to fix the limits on each side. That is because it is necessary that the territory allocated to each side should be continuous in itself and should be continugous with that country, because there are pockets of people whose faith and affiliations are different from those of people by whom they are cut off, because the changes in the distribution of population as the result of the troubles cannot be completely ignored and because geographical features remain important in fixing what may prove an international frontier.

I shall not deal with the matter with more particularly, and I say so much only in case the Security Council should be of opinion that it should take further steps to effect a settlement between the parties. But for myself I doubt whether it may not be better to leave the parties to themselves in negotiating terms for settlement of the problem how to dispose of Jammu and Kashmir between them. So far the attitude of the parties has been to throw the whole responsibility upon the Security Council or its representatives of settling the dispute notwithstanding that except by agreement between them there was no means of settling it.

When actual fighting was going on between them it was natural, if not necessary, that the Security Council and the Commission as its delegate should intervene between them and propose terms to stop the hostilities and the question came to be how to settle the rival claims to Kashmir, the initiative was still left with the Security Council and the Commission. The whole question has now been thoroughly discussed by the parties with the Security Council, the Commission and myself and the possible methods of settlement have been exhaustively investigated. It is perhaps best that the initiative should now pass back to the parties. At all events I am not myself prepared to recommend any further course of action on the part of the Security Council for the purpose of assisting the parties to settle between them how the state of Jammu and Kashmir is to be disposed of.

The continued maintenance of two armies facing one another across a ceasefire line is another matter. A danger to peace must exist while this state of things continues. Except for mutual distrust and fear, one of another, there is no reason why the two countries should go on maintaining armies separated only by the ceasefire line. It is a boundary which might be kept by check posts and the like in the same way as any frontier between countries at peace. It is hard to believe that the Indian and Pakistan chiefs of staff would have any difficulty in arranging for a concurrent reduction of forces or in effecting the necessary changes in the manner in which the ceasefire line is held, if they were instructed by their respective governments to meet for the purpose.

Before leaving the subcontinent I addressed to the Prime Minister severally a request that this should be done. It is a matter in which the Security Council is directly concerned because it involves a proximate danger to peace.

I recommended that the Security Council should press the parties to reduce the military strength holding the ceasefire to the normal protection of a peace-time frontier.

In the meantime it is my recommendation that the party of United Nations Military Observers be retained on the ceasefire line. They cannot continue their indefinitely but after a time the question of their withdrawal might be settled in consultation with the two governmentsr

Sheikh’s Letter

“The dispute between India and Pakistan with regard to the future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has strained the relations of the two countries for the last 17 years and now and again has been leading to (such) an aggravating situation that at any time its continued tension may burst into a shooting war leading to devastating consequences in that region of the world. Moreover this situation has saddled both the countries with huge military expenses which has crippled both economically. Yet another tragic aspect of this situation is the continued agony for the 5 million people of the state, whose economy and will-being is completely paralysed, due to the resultant uncertainty and insecurity.

The urgency and importance of an early settlement of this dispute cannot therefore be over-emphasised. Many statesmen and friendly countries have during the past 17 years, made a number of proposals, suggesting a peaceful settlement of the dispute. No doubt the best and most democratic solution could be through a plebiscite should this not be feasible, there are other practicable solutions, suggested in the past. One such solution was made by Sri Owen Dixon, the UN Representative appointed to negotiate a settlement between India and Pakistan. Broadly speaking, Sir Owen Dixon proposed that:

(a) The southern parts of the state comprising Kathua, Jammu and parts of Udhampur districts (now being predominantly Hindu areas) may be annexed with India.

(b) The area, now known as Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan being exclusively Muslim be annexed with Pakistan.

(c) The Valley of Kashmir along with the adjoining areas across Banihal (i.e. the district of Doda and the Niabat of Arnas, Gulab Garh) to be allowed to decide its future through a plebiscite. Leh is to follow the result of plebiscite, held in this territory (Kargil being exclusively Muslim in population to go with the Valley).

“Sir Owen Dixon took a detached view of things and considered this as the best practicable solution under the circumstances. It appears to be a fair method of resolving the present tangle. In order to avoid a number of complications, that might arise by holding a plebiscite immediately in the territory referred to in clause (c) above, a reasonable way can be found in keeping the said territory under UN Trusteeship for a specified period (i.e. 5 to 10 years). The people of the territory can be given an opportunity for the exercise of the right of self determination in a suitable way, after that period. In the interim period, it is hoped that tempers will cool down and much of the emotional factor, now surcharging the situation, will die out. Further, the interim period can be utilised for the development of these areas towards which the two countries, as well as the UNO will suitably contribute.

The above proposal can be a very good basis for discussion between India and Pakistan and Kashmir.. It is hoped that friendly countries, interested in a settlement, will take up this proposal levels, as well as the international conference.

Needless to say that as earnest effort in this direction will be the greatest service to the cause of peace in the world.




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