August 9, 1999
Volume 51, No. 37
Indian official speaks at year's first Halle luncheon on Aug. 3
Though relations between the United States and India have been strained by nuclear tensions recently, America must understand the role of India's 50-year-old conflict with neighboring Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir, said Ram Jethmalani, India's minister of law, justice and company affairs, to a crowd of 50 gathered for the first 1999-00 Halle Institute for Global Learning luncheon Aug. 3 in the law school.
Ownership of Kashmir has been in dispute since India and Pakistan received their independence from Britain in 1947 and has resulted in two wars between the nations. Presently Kashmir is split into two regions separated by a line of control (LOC), or cease-fire line, but earlier this year Pakistani guerillas invaded the India-controlled area east of the LOC.
"India's deeds to Kashmir are legally perfect and morally perfect," said Jethmalani, who has practiced law in both India and the United States for almost 50 years. "The Pakistani have a vested interest in never letting Kashmir settle down-it creates a diversion from their frustrations at home, it binds together factions and it serves as an important exit point to the markets of Southeast Asia."
Jethmalani said the creation of Pakistan resulted from the theory that Hindus and Muslims could not live together in peace and therefore must be two separate nations. The Kashmir ruler decided not to merge with either country and instead negotiated with both. "In 1947, India told Kashmir that if they decided to join Pakistan, India would not see this as an unfriendly action," Jethmalani said.
Kashmir decided to remain independent, but in September of that year armed forces from Pakistan invaded the territory and spent two days "raping nuns in a local monastery," Jethmalani said, prompting India to take action. The war lasted 14 months, and the nascent United Nations condemned Pakistan for its "act of aggression."
Pakistani troops attacked again in 1965, Jethmalani said, resulting in the creation of the LOC that separated Kashmir into two territories. Another assault on Kashmir occurred in 1971, and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed an agreement with Pakistan under the caveat that the two nations would have to meet again to come to a final resolution, Jethmalani said.
"The Kashmir problem cannot be resolved until the acts of aggression stop," Jethmalani said. "The relationship [between the United States and India] has been like a roller coaster; what should have happened has not happened because of Kashmir. The prime minister has said that India and the U.S. are natural allies and hopes the relationship flourishes.
"On the Fourth of July, the prime minister of Pakistan met with President Bill Clinton, who gave good and sensible advice: 'Go back, withdraw your infiltrators and respect your lines of control.' President Clinton is India's biggest friend."
--Stephanie Scott and Michael Terrazas