5 December, 2023



By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Shortly after I left the Foreign Ministry in 1989 I had an invitation to speak on the Kashmir problem by the head of a leading Muslim institution, a retired Supreme Court judge. It was to be part of a series of lectures on various topics of national interest. I declined to speak on Kashmir – choosing instead the Palestine problem – on the ground that making the Kashmir problem an issue in Sri Lanka could complicate our relations with India. That might be resented by the Sinhalese on the ground that we Muslims were giving too much priority to our Islamic identity and Islamic commonality with Pakistan over the national interest. That retired Judge showed a ready understanding of my argument. I believe that that reaction was not atypical of our Muslims who for the most part have played down the Kashmir problem in Sri Lanka. I myself have not written even one single article on Kashmir, though my output of articles has been prolific since 1989.
The Kashmir problem today is very different from what it was in 1989. International interest in it has been provoked by the rebel upsurge there since July, and there was more recently some amount even of international alarm over the possibility of war between the two nuclear weapons powers, India and Pakistan. Locally there have been excellent articles by Rajeeva Jayaweera and Lathif Farook, and an excellent updated version of scholarly material from one of G.H.Peiris’ books. It is time for me to speak out on Kashmir. In this article I want to point to its relevance for the Sri Lankan nation, and also to the question of shaping a new world order.

I won’t go into details about the genesis and evolution of the Kashmir problem as the interested reader can easily access the appropriate material through the internet. I want to emphasize two points above all. One is that India has put itself completely, blatantly, outrageously in the wrong on Kashmir. The other is that it is time for the international community to address the implications of that fact. It would be irresponsible, indeed criminally irresponsible, to fail to do so because there is obviously a prospect of an Indo-Pakistan nuclear war breaking out. Two facts must be born in mind. One is that the world came perilously close to nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis in 1961 – how perilously close is something that has been established only in recent times. The other is that Pakistan has made it clear enough that it would try to destroy India by using the bomb rather than face humiliation once again.

It must be acknowledged in favor of India that its behavior over Kashmir has been legally and technically impeccable. When irregulars from Pakistan invaded Kashmir in 1947 the Maharajah asked for Indian military intervention to repel them. Mountbatten, in the capacity of the Indian head of state, replied that that would be possible only if the Maharajah first acceded to India, which the latter proceeded to do. There followed in 1948 the UN Resolution calling for a plebiscite, to which India agreed. The Resolution was not mandatory, but advisory or recommendatory. Therefore India cannot be faulted for refusing on various grounds to hold the plebiscite. Prime Minister Nehru kept on promising over many years that the plebiscite would be held on the principle that the people of Kashmir should determine their own destiny, but that had no binding force particularly after Kashmir was Constitutionally incorporated into the Indian union.
A plausible case can therefore be made out to show that India’s position on Kashmir has been legally impeccable. But morally it has been blatantly and outrageously in the wrong. It was an accepted principle at the time of Partition that a state with a predominantly Muslim population would accede to Pakistan if it was territorially contiguous. That applied so clearly and unambiguously to Kashmir that the fact that it had a Hindu Maharaja should not have mattered in the least. It has never been clear to anyone why India was so adamant in refusing to hold a plebiscite. Krishna Menon was famous for his epic speeches at the Security Council which convinced no one. A popular theory was that Nehru’s Kashmiri Brahmin ancestry made it difficult for him to give up Kashmir. But it was Nehru himself who was most vociferous about the sacred right of the Kashmiri people to determine their own destiny. I suspect that the truth was that in refusing to hold the plebiscite India was challenging the very principle on which Pakistan was established: the successful integration of the Kashmiri Muslims into the Indian union would destroy the very rationale of Pakistan. Behind that was India’s arrogance of power towards a weaker neighbor.

An interesting question is whether Britain deliberately created Kashmir as a gigantic bone of contention so that India and Pakistan would not come together again. There were two notions that were widely current about the sub-continent until the ‘seventies. One was that India, which never was a unity historically and was a British political creation, would disintegrate after some time. The question used to be asked well into the ‘sixties, I recall particularly by Westerners, “After Nehru what?”, meaning that without a leader of his stature to hold India together it would disintegrate. The other notion was that Pakistan which was so obviously an artificial creation – with two wings widely separated by a thousand miles of alien territory – would disintegrate and rejoin India. Behind such notions there seemed to be Western fears about the emergence of an Asian great power.

The notion that the Kashmir problem was a British creation hinges partly around the role of Gurdaspur. I served in Pakistan in 1957/1958 during which time the established orthodoxy there was that Mountbatten was pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan and had therefore got the Kashmir Maharaja to accede to India, thereby starting the Kashmir problem. The Radcliff Commission was uncertain about what to do with Gurdaspur which had a slight Muslim majority but also an exceptionally important Sikh presence. By a process that is not clear to me Gurdaspur was integrated with India at the time of Partition, thereby providing India with its only territorial link with Kashmir. That was a crucial step in the evolution of the Kashmir problem, because in the words of Wikipedia Gurdaspur “offered the only viable route to Kashmir for the Indian army to take control of Kashmir after Partition”. That was taken by some Pakistanis as crucial evidence pointing to the Kashmir problem as a British creation.

What of the future? It may be that the upheaval that has been going on in Kashmir since July is a passing phenomenon. I doubt it. More probably there are factors of a structural order behind that upheaval. Factors such as the advance of mass education lead to rising expectations towards a better life, which could be the reason for the growth of identity politics and the problems caused by restive minorities all over the globe. If that structural explanation is correct, we can expect the upheaval to continue, probably in waves. But why not look for a way out? That will require a radical change of outlook on the part of India: it should stop trying to explain away the upheaval in terms of foreign-inspired terrorism. To me, the best way out would be a separate state for the Muslim majority area of Kashmir. That would certainly be better than India and Pakistan going on quarreling over Kashmir and risking nuclear war. (I will have to address separately the questions of the relevance of the Kashmir problem to the Sri Lankan nation and to the problem of shaping a new world order).

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Latest comments

  • 1

    An interesting and stimulating point of view from Mr.Hussein.

  • 1

    Mr. Hussein:

    Read the following. KAshmir was initially Hindu and buddhist. HOw muslims, 700 years ago made it muslims. Sinhale is not yet converted because Sinhale was an island.


    The Imperial history of Kashmir begins in the third century BC with the rule of Asoka. At that time, Kashmiris became famous throughout Asia as learned, cultured and humane and the intellectual contribution of writers, poets, musicians, and scientists to the rest of south Asia was comparable to that of ancient Greece to European civilization. SADR-U-DIN

    Rinchen, a Buddhist ruler, who was converted to Islam by a famous Muslim saint Bulbul shah and given the Islamic name Sadr-u-din, became the first Muslim monarch of Kashmir. He was considered to be the wise ruler, but his reign did not last for long.

    Shabab-ud-Din who came to the throne in 1354 is the first great king of Muslim period. Shahab-ud-Din devoted his attention to foreign expeditions, conquering Baltistan, Ladakh, Kishtwar and Jammu. Shahab-ud-Din loved learning and patronized art and architecture. In 1361 there was a devastating flood, but the atmosphere of general well being prevailed. On Shahab-ud-Din’s death in 1373, Qutb-ud-Din succeeded him.

    During Qutb-ud-Din’s rule, the pace of conversion to Islam increased. Muslim from west and central Asia, in search of refuge from the Mongols, arrived in Kashmir. The most influential among them was Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (RA). He came with hundreds of missionaries i.e Syeds, from Hamadan and other parts of Persia who preached Islam and made this land the land of faithful. Sir Aurel Stein writes, “Islam made its way into Kashmir not by forcible conquest, but by gradual conversion.”

  • 5

    oh dear Izeth….given up on his imaginary Tamil Racism and writing about Kashmir and Palestine?

    “Shortly after I left the Foreign Ministry in 1989 I had an invitation to speak on the Kashmir problem by the head of a leading Muslim institution, a retired Supreme Court judge.”

    to speak in his house?

    • 1

      Rajash or Rajesh,

      RE: Kashmir

      “I declined to speak on Kashmir – choosing instead the Palestine problem – on the ground that making the Kashmir problem an issue in Sri Lanka could complicate our relations with India.”

      Why not read what he was writing about, Kashmir, and make your comments on the sibject he is discussing. Is the Sun going around the Earth, or the other way, the Earth around the Sun, the argument put forward by Copernicus?

      Basically, there was no Plebiscite, as promised by the UN on Kashmir.The rest is history, and continuing history, another problem left behind by the Western European Imperialists.

      Listen to Paris 1919 Full documentary, that was history before India and Kashmir. At that time, the Imperialists wanted to keep their Imperial possessions worldwide.


      The last shots had been fired in the First World War — but peace had yet to be made. Inspired by Margaret MacMillan’s acclaimed work of popular history, Paris 1919 takes us inside the most ambitious peace talks in history, revisiting the event with a vivid sense of narrative. Evoking a pivotal moment when peace seemed possible, director Paul Cowan reflects upon the hard-learned lessons of history

    • 0

      Izeth Hussien

      RE: Rajash or Rajesh,

      “oh dear Izeth….given up on his imaginary Tamil Racism and writing about Kashmir and Palestine?”

      Izeth Hussein, HLD Mahindapala, and many others write about Tamil racism and Castism, and the “Upper” Caste Tamils do not want tio hear about it and attack the messengers.

      Caste oppression exists among Sri Lankan Tamils but is kept under wraps.


      COLOMBO: Despite the existence of a unified “Tamil” identity, Sri Lankan Tamil society is rent by caste inequalities and is dived into “Oppressing and Oppressed Castes.”

  • 3

    I have not paid much attention on the Kashmiri issue but I am curious of the contents of the article. It firstly speaks of irregulars from Pakistan attacking Kashmir way back in 1947. Is not the same thing happening many years later to a large extent when Ajmal Kasab and others attacked the city of Bombay?

    When Maharaja of Pakistan requested assistance from Lord Mountbatten was it before 15th of August 1947 (The date of independence for both India and Pakistan from Britain) or thereafter? If it is after the day it is clear that the accession was a cheap way to annexe Kashmir to India and suspicion lies whether India indirectly instigated the attacks against Kashmir in order to annexe it to India itself. We cannot forget history when India annexed Goa, Pondicherry and Sikkim into Indian Territory hook or by crook. A hypothetical question would be that if the irregulars from Pakistan were indeed representing Pakistan when they attacked Kashmir, would India have kept quiet if the entire Kashmir was annexed into Pakistan?

    Apart from Nehru’s Kashmiri origin, strategically beginning of rivers are equally important for the countries concerned and if the point of origin is in the wrong hands then the country concerned has much to loose and the other would be having the upper hand. There could be other reasons why Kashmir seems to be important to both the nations to the extent of triggering a nuclear war. Clearly the world at large allowed the Indo-Pakistan differences to grow.

  • 1

    ” To me, the best way out would be a separate state for the Muslim majority area of Kashmir. “

    izzeth,it is not very clear to me what you mean here.Is it a seperate country or a state that is part of india or pakistan.A seperate country won’t last for long i think because pakistan will swallow it up gradually.

    maybe the chenab river could be a good border to give the northern part of it to pakistan and the southern part to india,but will it ever pass the indian parliament.I think it will never do that ,just like if a proposition was given to the srilankan parliament to give eelam to the northeast minus ampara.

    so no point in talking about solutions that cannot be implemented.I agree with you that this qaurreling must stop and some compromise deal reached between pakistan and india to put this problem once and for all in the prblem solved category instead of the hard to solve category as it is now.It is not because of nuclear war that i want it solved,because if there is a nuclear war then pakistan is destroyed completely and india will be left with something at least and that will be gods way of solving the problem.I want it solved because future generations should not be burdened with historical problems of this nature which will impair their ability to come together as friends one day. Why should they be burdened by such historical unsolved problems.

    • 2


      Since you seem to admire Izeth, how did you miss this:

      “it should stop trying to explain away the upheaval in terms of foreign-inspired terrorism.”

      The answer lies here:

      Pakistan Concerned over exposure of ISI terror activity in Sri Lanka


      22 October 2016

      He types:

      “To me, the best way out would be a separate state for the Muslim majority area of Kashmir. That would certainly be better than India and Pakistan going on quarreling over Kashmir and risking nuclear war.”

      Can the solution be applied to Sri Lanka as well?

  • 0

    Any credible report of the history of Kashmir must remember and mention the forcible flight of the 500,000 Hindu Pandits (priests) who were de-housed and thrown out of their homes in the Valley. Pre-partition Kashmir is the home of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Incidentally, present day China also adds to the confusion with a dubious claim of their own in the region.

    R. Varathan

    • 0

      pandit is another name for brahmins,not priests.you can’t have so many priests.Also the figure is exagerated.it should be about 300000 i think.

      • 2

        Aiyo shanker

        “pandit is another name for brahmins,not priests.”


        a Hindu scholar learned in Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy and religion, typically also a practising priest. (“the pandit chants the marriage mantras”)

        a wise man or teacher. (“Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya”)

        a talented musician (used as a respectful title or form of address). (“Panditji played the refrain”)


      • 0


        Thank you for the comment.

        Mridu Rai of Trinity College, Dublin researching on the subject
        puts the figure at 700,000. I read, not long ago, PM Narendra Modi
        referring to 500,000 Pandits evicted from J&K. I believe under Modi/BJP a programme to resettle Pandits is already on – with GoI providing housing for 50,000 initially.

        You cannot be a Purohit (Iyer in Tamil) unless you come from the
        Pandit/Pundit geneology.

        R. Varathan

  • 0

    A very good paper by izeth. Yes indeed, it was Nehru’s hypocrisy claiming to be a Konkanny Brahmin the highest of the Brahmins born in Kashmir that still denies Pakistan of their due share in owning Pakistan costing India and Pakistan millions of dollars to keep their armies of occupation. The question is how long will this situation go on. Bensen

    • 0

      Sorry, the words: “owning Pakistan” should read “owning Kashmir”.Bensen

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